[December 30, 2014] A powerful debate has been ongoing whether the sense of duty in leaders has been on the decline … or not. Recently I was involved in a lengthy conversation with senior military officers and business leaders on this topic. The common thinking is that our sense of duty is indeed slipping. Our military and business leaders worry about the long-term effects.
A recent Associated Press-GfK poll confirms a similar trend among the youth in the United States.1 It notes a “generational slippage” that translates into citizenship not being what it used to be. The obligations of citizenship and sense of duty are falling to the wayside. “There are a lot of arguments about how our society has shifted toward a rights-focus instead of an obligation-focus,” said Scott Keeter of the Pew Research Center. In 2014 about a fourth of adults less than 30 years of age said there is no duty to keep informed, volunteer, or speak English. This nation-wide trend is certainly reflected in our leaders.
“All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood.” – General George S. Patton
A sense of duty is a core principle for successful military life and winning the nation’s wars. It means the difference between victory and defeat, between life and death. This sense of duty is so important, the U.S. Army has duty as one of its core values and selfless service as another. I believe that the military problem is partially self inflicted – we are doing little to encourage those values. Some values, it seems, are more important than others; for example, there is an emphasis on the value of respect. All core values should be promoted not a few cherry picked.
We are also starting to see more senior leaders involved in unethical behavior, usually self-centered. If there were a greater sense of duty, I believe some of these problems would not come about. The sad part of this leader trend is that there is no indication its getter better.
[Don’t forget to “Like” the Leader Maker at our Facebook Page.]