[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