Leaders Establish Standards for Success

By | August 23, 2019

[August 23, 2019]  I was in for a shock.  I’d just taken over battalion command in the U.S. Army and thought that I had reached the pinnacle of my career and that I was thus finished with working hard to get ahead.  Wow, was I wrong.  My boss, the brigade commander, had a few “suggestions” for us; in our first meeting, he was about to establish standards for success.

When you have a room full of battalion commanders, there is plenty of testosterone where there is a verbal arm-wrestling competition to see who comes out on top.  By their very nature of their personality, commanders are competitive folks and they are used to winning.  Often, many don’t like being told what to do (other than to advance their career) or how to do it.

Our boss was about to crush our perception of ourselves and destroy our day.  He began by outlining a few facts for us.  On a side note, most brigade commanders are selected because they are judged as having the potential to become a General Officer.  Their command is a test to confirm that line of thinking and they know it.  This means they must ensure their battalion commanders are not just successful but better than anyone else.

I was told things I never heard about in the Army.  He said we would all immediately apply for the U.S. Army War College, attend, and graduate (with some level of honor).  After he laid out a list of things he wanted our units to do, he said these metrics would determine if we could stay on as commander beyond a year.  And then it got interesting.

We were required to host and attend a long list of social events, participate in all local military functions and community events, be a guest speaker for on least 10 occasions (one had to be a college graduation), our wives were also required to be active, and our kids had to stay out of trouble.  Being a battalion commander was tough enough and now we just got added a difficult list of achievements.  Good bye to the easy life.

Part of being a great leader is being there for others and our commander was making sure we were fully engaged.  The “old man” (as we called him) was getting us ready for war.  At the time, the September 11th attacks had not occurred but were only months away.  His push to get us war ready was to be a godsend.  We were ready when the U.S. President George Bush ordered us into Afghanistan and later into Iraq.  We were ready because he had established his vision of success and pushed us to achieve them.

Today, as I volunteer for a local Boy Scout troop, I help establish standards for success for each boy.  It gives them something to work towards.  This appears to be paying off.  Several of the older boys have thanked me (and other adult scout leaders) for teaching them practical things about leadership.  But we are not overly aggressive like my previous brigade commander.

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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.

20 thoughts on “Leaders Establish Standards for Success

  1. Jerry C. Jones

    Good article from PowerLineBlog this morning on the hypocrisy of the many ‘elites’ who tell us what to do (standards) but don’t follow those same standards. A charade and why it takes real leadership in this world not fake leadership like so many politicians possess.

    1. José Luis Rodriguez

      Thank you Jerry. I’m now reading more from PowerLine and liking what they write. I appreciate you putting me onto this site.

  2. Joe Omerrod

    I only wish more folks had the sense to know what Gen. Satterfield has written here. Leaders do establish and enforce standards. How else could the world exist? This is a really simple idea but one that has been lost in a time of great wealth.

    1. Gil Johnson

      Tracey, I think everyone knows this but they are too afraid to jump off the bandwagon for fear of getting run over. Just like others have said, this is a clear lack of courage and not for lack of intelligence. Sad how far our teachers and school administrators have fallen.

    2. Bryan Lee

      “Schools should raise the bar instead of lower it.” Nuff said.

  3. Roger Yellowmule

    I had a history teacher long ago that made it very clear what it would take to make a good grade in his class. I paid close attention and followed his guidance. At the end of the semester, I was the only one with an “A” grade. The rest did poorly because they failed to do as told. Gee were they surprised?

  4. Big Al

    Will the political correctness mob ever be satiated? Will the give up their moral “high ground” for common sense? Will they do what is right for us all? Personally, i doubt it. They are just too emotionally involved in a feel-good cause.

  5. Max Foster

    Great article on standards. I’m afraid that too many schools these days are seriously and consciously lowering standards for PC reasons. They don’t want to be seen as “discriminating” against minorities. Funny how that works. You have standards and some cannot achieve them; then you are called racist and then lower the standard. Now everyone loses. Imagine that.

      1. Eric Coda

        I liked the article. In the first paragraph the author notes that the school had over 200 valedictorians. There is only one but the school wanted to be “inclusive” and then they repeated what they sowed.

      2. Harry Donner

        Thank you Willie. I learned a lot about how schools have fallen from this article and others. Gen. Satterfield has written about failing colleges for a while now. There are many reasons but we can point to one character flaw in those who run schools; a lack of moral courage.

    1. Andrew Dooley

      Well said Max. Schools are not the only area. Just look at any workplace today (of a large size) and you will see employees, mostly young, just standing around. They think they are owed a wage because they just show up.

  6. Army Captain

    Of course they do. Leaders must establish them, else they are not a leader. Simple. But communicating and enforcing standards is another matter and very difficult.

    1. JT Patterson

      Yes, but not so obvious to many people in the business of teaching kids. They now train young people in college who want to be teachers that their most important task is to advocate for ‘moral justice’ and that is more important than teaching kids how to think and act.

    2. Greg Heyman

      Army Captain, you are again spot-on with your comments. I’m glad you are here to reinforce what this blog is about. LEADERSHIP matters a great deal and pandering to people does NOT work.

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