Hold the Line:  Famous Leader Commands

By | July 18, 2020

[July 18, 2020]  Among the opening scenes in the movie Gladiator (2000), Roman general Maximus is readying his cavalry to charge into the rear of a large barbarian army.  To motivate his men, he encourages them to show strength and honor in the face of the enemy.  Maximus, played by Russell Crowe, tells his cavalrymen in their attack to hold the line.  The scene can be found here in a YouTube video (2:59 minutes).

Watching this opening scene still gives me chills.  It’s a dramatic beginning that provides us with a small glimpse through a window into leadership in combat.  Hold the line is a famous leader command known throughout the world.

This leadership article is the first of many that addresses those commands and what they mean.

The main task of a commander in combat, regardless of level, is to impose his will on the enemy.  Fundamentals of offense come directly into play.  Surprise, concentration (of forces), tempo, and audacity are the hallmarks of successful offensive operations.  Historically, these efforts are at the very front of all human behavior that quickly achieves a victory over a vanquished enemy.

“Line. The line formation provides maximum firepower forward. It is used when the platoon crosses danger areas and is provided with overwatch by another element, or when the platoon assaults through the enemy positions.” – U.S. Army Techniques and Procedures “Tank Platoon” 3-20.15, page 3.-12

 Hold the line is not just a U.S. Army armor and Infantry tactic but exists in all military services in some form, as well as in commercial and sports competitions.  We’ve all seen professional sports teams as they align their tactical formations to win games.  The line formation is the most basic in many sports and has specific psychological effects on both the offensive and defense team members.

Imagine, if you will, being the barbarians in their attack upon the Roman formations (which are coming at them from their front).  From behind, they are surprised to find Roman general Maximus in their rear coming at them with a line of armored men on horseback.  The speed at which the attack develops overwhelms the barbarians rapidly with the Romans to both their front and rear, a classic envelopment.

There is a clear lesson for the leader.  Hold the line is part of the tactical tools that great leaders possess.  It creates effects that are beyond the standard capabilities of his force, team, community, or nation.  Using it requires talent, determination, experience, and strength of will.

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.

22 thoughts on “Hold the Line:  Famous Leader Commands

  1. Billy Kenningston

    Really a great article. Please continue your mini-series, if that is your plan. I know that I certainly would like to read more.

  2. Army Captain

    As usual, an excellent article for the weekend. Thanks Gen. Satterfield. I liked this one and would also like to see you continue the series. Might I suggest on that you wrote about long ago. “Follow Me” which is the slogan of the US Infantry.

  3. Danny Burkholder

    Well researched article. Thank you Gen. Satterfield, I think this is one of your best short articles. Please feel free to elaborate more in the future on this same topic and, yes, please also continue your series. I forwarded this to my cousin who is in the US Navy and he liked it too.

    1. Eric Coda

      Hey Danny, yeah thanks. Me too … loved it. As well as the video on Youtube.

    2. Benny

      Good one, this is why I keep coming back to Gen. Satterfield and his blog. Keeps me informed and on my feet intellectually. I can also ask questions and many in the forum here will answer.

      1. Dennis Mathes

        That’s why we all keep coming back Benny. I know you’ve not been on this site very long but you will discover over time that the articles and the comments about them are extremely informative. Hang in there to gain an understanding of leadership you will not get anywhere else.

  4. Jonathan B.

    I clicked on the link and watched the opening scene. Wow, it’s been a while since I saw it but has the best impact when the sound is turned up really loud. Gives me a small peek into what a battle might be like. Four thumbs up for Gen. Satterfield on this blog post today.

  5. old warrior

    A real “kick butt” movie. Action, suspense, and lots of courage. My wife doesn’t like these types of movies yet I still watch them when she goes to bed early.

    1. Greg Heyman

      Hey, great to see you back on Gen. Satterfield’s pages, old warrior. How have things been with you? I have gone to watch some of Dr. Jordan Peterson’s YouTube videos as recommended by Gen. S. The videos are extremely useful and the man is very humble. Take a look sometime and let me know what you think.

  6. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    Excellent article. I hope to bring everyone here another article soon as well.

  7. Ronny Fisher

    Best quote and the main theme of this article. I just want everyone to make sure they “get it” after reading the article.
    ” It creates effects that are beyond the standard capabilities of his force, team, community, or nation. “

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      I would ask if this is really a tool used by those in the military? I see it on tv and in movies but in real life, does it exist?

      1. Lynn Pitts

        Yes it does Yusaf. As a military member, I can say for sure it is used but not the exact way as in the movie Gladiator. Good to hear from you again, Yusaf, hope you are well.

      2. Lady Hawk

        Of course, yes it is. Yusaf, good for us to have some military men and women on this site.

  8. Doug Smith

    Great entertaining movie. The opening scene is one of the most exciting I’ve ever seen. Russell Crowe is a great actor as well.

    1. JT Patterson

      Yes, I agree. Saw it years ago when it came out. I have watched it too on television whenever it comes around. Now I see it “on demand” with my cable. I recommend the movie, but it is the beginning that is the best in my opinion. It gives you a bit of a thrill to watch. 😊

      1. The Kid 1945

        Yes, JT. I agree with you about the movie. Gen. Satterfield used it to reinforce his theme and I like it. I hope he continues this new series.

    2. Wilson Cox

      I can’t watch this movie enough. A bit long but sometimes I just watch the first 30 minutes or so which is the best part.


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