High-Maintenance Leaders

By | April 5, 2019

[April 5, 2019] There’s an old stereotype about high-ranking politicians; they cannot function without an entourage of hangers-on, large staffs, and a litany of helpers and attention seekers. It would seem our political leaders are out of touch with the world because they exist in a bubble, dependent upon others. In the military, we call any such person a high-maintenance leader.

High-maintenance leaders are common. I would propose that of the leaders who have achieved positions of importance, the majority consciously surround themselves with people to make their jobs easier. Of course, who would not accept help when the possibility exists to use it? To resist the urge is difficult.

Politicians are not the only occupation that has its share of high-maintenance leaders. The U.S. military has a number of them. Little is done to change the situation as long as these officers do not abuse their power in other ways.1 Leaders who need an excessive number of people to assist them directly are doing so, in most cases, out of an attitude of self-importance.

As a Flag officer myself, I was assigned a First Lieutenant as an Aide.2 These junior officers carry out basic administrative and logistical duties for the Flag officer such as scheduling appointments, making flight reservations, carrying heavy documents, etc. They are prohibited from covering up any wrongdoing or from doing menial tasks such as purchasing and delivering flowers to the officer’s wife (or mistress?).

“The day the soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” – U.S. Army General Colin Powell

I made my coffee. During my tenure as a senior officer, I prided myself on being low-maintenance. Rarely would you find anyone doing administrative tasks for me; that way I was able to communicate, by example, that the time of other soldiers was no more valuable than my time. Doing so created an open, honest environment where soldiers were not afraid to approach me and ask questions, for help, or to talk through a problem.

We had all witnessed, during the performance of our duties, high-maintenance officers; military, political, and those in business. Such behavior was a sign that you were more important than the “lowly” junior officers assigned. Certainly, our soldiers did not fail to notice. Low-maintenance Army Generals were the most respected.


  1. In the U.S. Army, the Inspector General keeps track of reports and findings of senior officers who have gotten themselves into some form of trouble. It could be alcoholism, sexual promiscuity, creating a toxic work environment, etc. These do occur, but abuse of power is by far the most common problem. Using one’s position of power to disobey the law, rules, and regulations, or to influence others to do the same is not unusual.
  2. Not all Flag Officers (Generals and Admirals) are assigned an Aide. It depends upon their position and the military’s need.
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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “High-Maintenance Leaders

  1. JT Patterson

    Good article today, Gen. Satterfield. I enjoyed it as I do every day I read your leadership blog. Keep up the great work.

  2. Tony B. Custer

    I had a boss once when I worked in Manhattan, New York who wanted everything given to him. His reasoning was that this made it possible for him to make better decisions. No one disagreed to his face but no one either had respect for him. The company did poorly under his ‘leadership’ and thank God the Board of Trustees finally got rid of him. He was simply too high maintenance and not a good leader at that.

    1. Shawn C. Stolarz

      This is what happens in a rich country like the US. In others, like Eastern Europe, I don’t think you will find such problems with the leadership. Those EU leaders have their issues, but being high-maint is not one of them.

    2. Eric Coda

      This is, I think, a common story. The high-maintenance leader justifies their “need” for “support.”

  3. Max Foster

    There’s a rumor out that US Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris is super high maintenance. We know that Hillary Clinton was also very high maintenance. Word is out that those are the same people who throw their power around and have absolutely no respect for the common voter. Just take Clinton’s quote about “flyover country”. Nuff said.

    1. Dale Paul Fox

      Exceptional observation. The question being raised in many smart circles these days is what will be the outcome as more women obtain power. They never really had it in the past (Queens are a nonissue). There are many like Mazie Hirono who are truly nuts. They want to politically dominate men and “kill” white men. These folks need to be driven from office.

      1. Anita

        Another example of women making women look bad. If I were a man, I wouldn’t trust any woman based on what I’m seeing.

        1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

          You got that right. Now politicians are saying if you are a man and want to have sex with a woman, you should get a signed agreement first. How nuts? Plenty nuts!

      2. Andrew Dooley

        Evil is best exposed by the disinfectant of sunshine. That is why the more we show their idiocy, the faster we can get back to reality.

        1. Maureen S. Sullivan

          Andrew, there’s a bit of danger in that method. There also needs to be sane people speaking out at the same time and denouncing her acidic language.

    2. Georgie M.

      Senator Mazie H is an example of why men think women are idiots.

    3. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      Max, I don’t think it was Kamala Harris. Regardless, your observation is correct, in my opinion, and part of the reason I wrote this article. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Army Captain

    I’ve had to deal with plenty of ‘high-maintenance’ officers in the past; not fun but plenty of extra work.

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