If You Call, I’ll Be There

[May 10, 2018]  Leadership, in its most fundamental capacity, is not that different from a deep friendship.  If a good friend calls upon you to help, then most of us would go to them as quickly as possible.  In my first tour of combat in the Iraq War, I had a friend tell me, If you call, I’ll be there.

This was, of course, immensely reassuring that I could count on another peer for help (irrespective of the rules and chain of command) if things went bad in a gunfight with the enemy.  He said it mattered not what he was doing or where his unit was, they would come riding in like the cavalry in old Western movies.

Friendship is made up of trust, loyalty, respect, selflessness, and openness.  The same can be said for great leadership.  If we were to go back to the beginnings of humankind, we would see these very qualities in all surviving relationships.  Social scientists have looked across modern cultures and cannot dispute these facts.

I’ve come to also realize that in either a close friendship or in quality leadership, support is unconditional.  It’s true that friends sometimes have different values and interests but true friends still offer support to each other.  If you need someone, you know they will be there for you.

In a good article by Amy Clites on her blog ZeitClites.com, she writes that there are seven essential elements of a successful friendship.1  Her article could have been written about successful leadership.  In particular, I like her number two, “A good friend gives you their best self.”  This means more than getting along, it means they are there regardless how bad things are for you.

Fortunately, I never had to call upon my friend to send in the cavalry but it was always in the back of my mind.  I too, in later combat tours in Iraq would say the same of those I knew.  We would be there if needed.  That is, in any culture, loyalty and is highly valued over all other traits of leadership.


  1. http://zeitclites.com/7-essential-elements-of-successful-friendships/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

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

39 thoughts on “If You Call, I’ll Be There

  1. Army Captain

    This is a concept that Brig Gen Satterfield has presented to us that is a crucial part of being in the US Army and the rest of the military service. I cannot be underestimated how it gives you confidence when in combat. I was in Afghanistan and Iraq fighting the bad guys. Doing this alone undercuts your ability to perform your profession but with the knowledge others have your back, few missions will go awry. Interestingly, the combat arms folks are the one’s where this message resonates most.

  2. José Luis Rodriguez

    When I was growing up this was an important part of the loyalty of any group or gang. You always went to the defense of your friends and it didn’t matter if they were in the wrong or not, you were there. This is what being a good friend or companion is about. Let’s not forget it … ever!

    1. Drew Dill

      Same here Jose. We grew up with the same idea. I cannot remember where I learned it but our friends were always ready to help other close friends. If you weren’t in the “group” then you were on the outside without protection or hope of getting any.

  3. Doug Smith

    This is one of your keystone articles on leadership because it points out one of the fundamental principles of leadership. One that is not often talked about much.

  4. Andrew Dooley

    This idea (or philosophy) has been around since before recorded history, I’m sure. Reading the Bible, which is one of the oldest collection of very old writings, is filled with reference to this very idea. I will argue it is fundamental to Christianity in general and not just a leadership issue.

  5. Jerry Jones

    Wow Army Captain, you are usually the first to post. How do you do it?

    1. Army Captain

      I get up early in the morning and usually the post are there.

  6. Danny Burkholder

    One of your better articles. Thanks Gen Satterfield.

  7. Max Foster

    I think you will find this leader philosophy throughout any organization or close group of people who are tasked with difficult or dangerous jobs to do. This also separates the real leaders from those who are there simply for the paycheck and title.

  8. Wilson Cox

    How very appropriate and the essence of good leadership. I won’t forget. Thank you.

  9. Jerome Smith

    The same is true in the military but also in business. If you need help, just ask and you will be surprised at the number of people who will come out of the woodwork to help (at no charge, of course).

  10. Tony B. Custer

    In the Avengers movie, Steve Rogers says “I know you’re doing what you believe in, and that’s all any of us can do. That’s all any of us should… So no matter what, I promise you, if you need us – if you need me – I’ll be there.” Sorry, but I don’t read much history but I do watch movies.

  11. Greg Heyman

    I read this very thing somewhere in a history book. I think it might have been about the US Civil War where one of the famous commanding generals told this to his friend (also a general). My point is that this is an important, but overlooked, an aspect of great leadership. People need to know they can depend upon you.

  12. Mr. T.J. Asper

    I tell my High School students this all the time. Great post. Thank you.

  13. Bryan Lee

    I found this post most close to my heart as I have always held leadership positions and have done everything reasonable to help the people who worked for me.

  14. Ronny Fisher

    General Satterfield, thanks for another good post. In the future, I would recommend a post on the different military services. This would help bring home the point that all our “American heroes” are important; firefighters, police, ambulance personnel, and a host of first responders. Leadership is found at all levels.

  15. Georgie M.

    It is always a pleasure to read this blog each morning as I either learn something new or reinforce what I already knew. I highly recommend it. Please readers, let your friends and up-and-coming leaders know about this site.

  16. Shawn C Stolarz

    Mark has a good point about his “triangle of humanness.” Well written Mark.

  17. Martin Shiell

    Not that long ago, people of everyday walks of life knew this kind of stuff. It was just part of growing up in a family that cared about you. Now too many people think they can do everything on their own and that they owe no one anything. This is driven by the media that likes to divide us up into groups and then tie our hands if we try to move out of those little boxes.

  18. Mark Evans

    I will add that there is another comparison to make and that is to a successful, happy family. So, leadership-friendship-family is the triangle of humanness and displays our best in being a good person.

  19. Lynn Pitts

    Your stories from wartime experiences help bring home key messages for leaders. I would only hope that young leaders are reading this blog. This are very worthwhile and applicable to everyday situations.

  20. Janna Faulkner

    Interesting post today, Gen Satterfield. Well done in the comparison betw/ leadership and friendship; especially on the key characteristic of going to someone’s aid.

  21. Army Captain

    This says it all. Real leaders take care of people. End of story.

    1. Anita

      Yes, Army Captain. That is what leadership is all about.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.