Leaders are NOT Neutral

By | October 10, 2020

[October 10, 2020]  Last night at our weekly Boy Scout meeting, the boys held an election to determine who would be their next Senior Patrol Leader.  The Scoutmaster, an experienced and fine gentleman, explained how the Scout election process worked and how to judge the candidates properly.  He made several important points.  First, among his points was that leaders are not neutral.

Leaders have opinions, they make judgments, and they favor those who closely adhere to Scout values.  The Scoutmaster gave several examples.  He said that the Scout should have a better opinion of those candidates who are present at all their meetings, who go on campouts, help them obtain merit badges, mentor younger Scouts, and answer their questions respectfully.  They should not be neutral, and the leader they will elect should not either.

“The U.S. Constitution is not neutral.  It was designed to take the government off the backs of people.” – William O. Douglas, American jurist and politician, best known for his defense of civil liberties

Some of the younger Scouts were confused.  They had been told in school that only by being neutral could they be respectful, fair, unbiased, and happy.  Their confusion was the result of misunderstanding the difference in neutrality and impartiality.

On the one hand, impartiality is a good thing; it is to be active.  On the other hand, neutrality is a passive concept.  Impartiality keeps away bias, while neutrality keeps success away.  Neutrality abandons, isolates, disengages, and demotivates.1  Neutrality forces us to reject our values, opinions, and judgments.  And, by being neutral, we must reject everything that makes us human.

Our best leaders are those who personally engage us with care and inspiration.  Leaders motivate, coach, teach and push us to be better than we are today.  They see our weaknesses and have the experience to help us if we chose to improve.  Those same leaders recognize they can judge others, maximize their use of essential thinking skills, and simultaneously encourage others to achieve excellence in everything they do.

Neutrality is silence.  It indeed is not respectful, fair, unbiased, or the path to happiness.  By telling the truth, adopting reasonable responsibilities, and training one’s self to make proper judgments, can we be a true leader.

Only then will others see us as someone who can be relied upon to stand with us in times of tragedy.  Only by the careful rejection of neutrality can the real leader emerge to do what is moral and what is right.  Leaders certainly are not neutral.


  1. https://katenasser.com/leadership-fairness-is-not-neutrality-people-skills-engagement/
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.

21 thoughts on “Leaders are NOT Neutral

  1. Randy Goodman

    Excellent article. Also, today (as I write this comment) is Columbus Day. Columbus was certainly not “neutral”. He went the extra distance to get ships together and travel in dangerous waters with a high risk of never returning to his homeland.

  2. Army Captain

    Excellent article, Gen. Satterfield. Thank you. Keep these kind of articles coming.

    1. Lynn Pitts

      Yes, leaders are never neutral about what is going on in the world or at home. They have VALUES, and those values are not negotiable and they don’t change when the wind direction changes either.

  3. Mr. T.J. Asper

    Interesting comment about how the schools had taught the boys that “only by being neutral could they be respectful, fair, unbiased, and happy. ” Their teachers are clearly a bunch of nitwits.

    1. Jerome Smith

      Yes, and we should not be surprised that kids are being indoctrinated and not taught the basics.

  4. José Luis Rodriguez

    I would add, in my own humble opinion, that leaders should be very very careful when using their own insights into what is right and wrong, especially if it deviates significantly with what has historically been accepted. For example, the USA has been extremely successful in pulling people out of poverty but now there is a movement that says the entire nation is against Blacks. So, how can that be possible – this systematic racism they say is holding blacks back – that everyone is doing so well compared to every other country in the world? Answer? There is no systemic racism because it’s a figment of their imagination to get attention as a victim.

  5. Nick Lighthouse

    Another spot-on article. Thank you Gen. Satterfield. I would also like to humbly suggest a future topic. Please give us a “profile” of both VP candidates Harris and Pence. I think we would welcome your observations.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      Good recommendations Nick. I know I would like to read them. My thinking is that Pence is calm and cool and thoughtful. Harris is hot-headed, emotional, and cannot think on her feet. She also smirks a lot – a bad trait that lets your opponent know where you stand without saying anything and thus giving them an advantage over you.

  6. Willie Shrumburger

    Leaders are not only not just neutral but they are advocates of the right way. Anything else is not worth pursuing.

  7. Kenny Foster

    Great commentary. I liked the article but I think it left out something vitally important. That is, leaders must know they are right – at least morally right and preferably legally right as well – otherwise, they will be going down to the primrose garden and discover they went the wrong way. Too many people chose the wrong path and now cannot back up.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Yeah, like Nancy Pelosi the crazy woman in Congress who keeps disgracing herself every time she opens her mouth.

    2. Doug Smith

      Well said, Kenny. So how do we know we are right. Either others that we respect give us feedback and we have shaped our moral sense before hand OR we use our brain to figure it out (the latter is not so easy and prone to error).

  8. ARay Pittman

    Excellent. That’s why leaders are made. To make good judgments, devise a plan, and communicate that plan and vision to others. Being neutral means you will die quickly.

  9. old warrior

    … and then that leader needs to kick butt when necessary to show folks THE WAY along the PATH of life. Do so, and you will never be neutral and all the better.

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      Ha Ha — good comment, made me laugh out loud this morning while reading Gen. Satterfield’s wonderful blog on leaders. Thanks old warrior. Keep those great comments coming our way. We have no doubt where you stand on the issues.

    2. Linux Man

      Yes, well said old warrior. Weekends are great for me. Why? I get to read all I want without interference. This is the first place I stop each morning to drink my coffee, eat my toast, and relax with my dog at my feet. Oh, and read this leadership blog. Thank you old warrior for reminding me.

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