Leader Conformism, Corruption, and Coercion

By | March 3, 2019

[March 3, 2019] The 3 Cs of danger for leaders are conformism, corruption, and coercion. I first learned about these from Sergeant Darryl Johnson, Vietnam Vet, and my first team leader. When we met, it was just after 2 am on a cold December morning in West Germany; arriving at his barracks after riding in the back of a ¾ ton Army truck for hours.

Discipline,” he told the small group of newbie Privates, “is the key to getting along in the Army.” But, then Sergeant Johnson said something that made us all look at each other like this guy was crazy. He said that there are “3 Cs of danger in this man’s army.”

All we wanted was to get to sleep as quickly as possible; we were to be up by 0500 hours (5 am). I didn’t listen to what Sergeant Johnson was telling us, but later that day he repeated his warning to us. We were now stationed at a small U.S. Army base in rural West Germany. Our unit had the job of protecting the nuclear weapons stored in old World War II bunkers.

It turns out that Sergeant Johnson would later become one of a few Command Sergeant Majors; the highest rank among the enlisted personnel. He was smart, quick-witted, a jokester, and always trying to outdo those above him. He was also a genuinely pleasant fellow who you could rely on in a pinch.

He said that the biggest problem with the Army was conformism, corruption, and coercion. Explaining to us that the Army was in bad shape (Vietnam was ending but not yet over) and the leadership was destroyed. He believed that the destruction of the U.S. Army’s ability to fight a war effectively was a moral one.

Conformism drives away the requirement to think; creativeness and freedom are the first casualties when we conform rather than using our heads. Corruption was the natural affinity of man to take the easiest way out and to throw honesty to the winds. Coercion was our use of improper ways for us to get our team onto and complete our mission.

We only hear about politicians being corrupted by the system. The stereotypical politician is a liar, charlatan, and someone you had better not trust. But we all are subject to those same failings. Intellectually lazy leaders have met the 3 Cs of danger and have been defeated. They are not trustworthy, and trustworthiness is the grease that oils the gears of greatness.

“Beware of the 3 Cs of danger.” – Darryl Johnson, U.S. Army Sergeant 1974

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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.

17 thoughts on “Leader Conformism, Corruption, and Coercion

  1. Doug Smith

    The new frontier in the “West” will be rights for babies. Why and how we came to this point is a mystery to me. I think it might be an outgrowth of no morals from the 1960s.

    1. Eric Coda

      It has always been of interest to me how the Civil Rights Movement (a good thing) came about in an era of the degradation of human life thru abortion, mild-altering drug use, promiscuous sex, etc. And to make it weirder, these same people believe they are the enlightened ones; that they are smarter, more sophisticated, better looking (yes, that too), and of much higher morality than the rest of the population.

  2. Kenny Foster

    The corruption of our value system is what really scares the s*** out of me. We now have senior political leaders that not only openly push for post-birth abortion (ie., murder) but those who think the same cheer the on. I saw it on television and was disgusted that ABC and CBS would carry such trash. How can anyone justify killing born-alive babies? Only by corrupting our values of life.

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      “Disgusting” is a mild word to describe those who believe this is a good thing.

  3. Bill Sanders, Jr.

    I have found that people are subject to straying off the path of goodness (whatever goodness really means) in any society. That is why it is so important to have clear standards of behavior. Despite that, there will still people who want to take the shortcut and do harm/evil to others. Will this ever change in a free country, perhaps not but that doesn’t mean we have to accept it as normal.

  4. Forrest Gump

    Let’s not forget the coercion side of this. If you are a powerful leader and someone gets in your way, most of those same leaders will do what they can to slam you to the ground (figuratively) and destroy your reputation and put you in jail (oh, that’s mostly third-world banana republics). Nice Sunday to all.

  5. Dennis Mathes

    I remained amazed at how far a good leader can fall when they are tempted by money, greed, power, etc. What was US PRes Trump’s lawyer’s name? Cohen? Hahahahaha

    1. AutisticTechie

      Yes, Cohen is a ratfink and a slimeball combined into one.

  6. Max Foster

    “Conformism, corruption, and coercion” … well, I must add that this is a new twist on the old idea that leaders can stray from their mission. How very true this is. Just look at the many CEOs who’ve been arrested for a variety of crimes, or look at the lawyers and politicians who are properly excoriated for the same. Too bad the US doesn’t have a system of justice that equally applies to all.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      If you are Hillary Clinton there is one set of justice standards for you and another set for the rest of us. Don’t get me started on how unequal our system of justice is; the shroud came off that two years ago when the US Dept of Justice gave up its facade of impartiality.

    2. Scotty Bush

      Good comments. We in the USA need to get our systems back in place. We also need to begin teaching about morality again and not denigrate those who attend religious services for their personal betterment.

  7. Maureen S. Sullivan

    Very interesting article. Thank you.

    1. José Luis Rodriguez

      That is why I keep reading this website every day… well just about every day.

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