Leadership is making Good People Better

By | April 17, 2019

[April 17, 2019]  The 10-man squad of recruits was crawling through mud and under barbed wire while being continuously screamed at by U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Bryant.  If the recruit failed to complete the obstacle course within the allotted 20 minutes, he had to start over.  Sergeant Bryant was politely telling everyone that his job was to make us good people better.

I’ll never forget him saying that to make good people better, required him to put us through the most rigorous (some say brutal) training he could muster.  U.S. Army Basic Combat Training was no treat, and all of us suffered at the hands of the brown-shoe leather Vietnam veterans.  And, we all hated Sergeant Bryant’s guts.

“Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” – John D. Rockefeller, American oil industry business magnate and industrialist

By the time our class of recruits graduated eight weeks later – those who made it anyway – we were tougher, meaner, more resilient than we had ever been in our previous civilian life.  I kept in touch with three of my classmates during my long military career.  We often compared notes and spoke about what we learned; most often what we learned the hard way.

Sergeant Bryant was a typical hard-nosed, no-nonsense NCO of the old school of doing the Army’s business.  He took no crap off anybody.  Once, a recruit from my class challenged Sergeant Bryant to a fight.  I saw the whole thing take place in slow motion as the recruit-soldier hit the pavement with one massive blow from Sergeant Bryant.  So much for challenging these NCOs.

Most of us were soon in combat; a few to Vietnam (it was winding down) and others to smaller skirmishes across the world.  The Gulf of Sidra encounter, the Lebanese Civil War, Grenada, Panama, the first Gulf War, and so on, were just a few that were made public.  I remember thinking back to Sergeant Bryant during my first combat assignment and only then did I appreciate what he did.

Drill Sergeant Bryant treated us fairly.  He was hard, but he was fair.  His job was to make good people better than they were when they came into the U.S. Army.  It should come as no surprise that NCOs like him are considered the backbone of the military.  That is what makes our military stronger than all the others.


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 “Leadership is making Good People Better

  1. Eric Coda

    Making good people better. Wow, couldn’t have said it better.

  2. AutisticTechie

    This is all about the things great leaders do and what poor leaders don’t do. I like your website for this very reason. I don’t always agree but you make your point fast and hard. 🙂

  3. lydia truman

    Another great article. Several special good ones. Making my day, one day at a time.

  4. JT Patterson

    As a teenager, I had a run-in with the cops. Fortunately for me, the senior police officer on the scene decided it was a good idea to make a lesson at of me and I got the max penalty. Minor stuff but stealing is still a crime. I learned the hard way what not to do but also that this was for my own good. I didn’t like the cop but he did me a favor.

    1. Roger Yellowmule

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I too had a rough time with the police but I got off lightly. I too learned from it.

    2. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      Yes, thanks for sharing your experience. Leaders (like cops) help us sometimes in ways we don’t appreciate until later in life.

  5. Eddie Ray Anderson, Jr.

    There are several takeaways from this article today.
    1. To be a better person requires overcoming serious barriers and obstacles.
    2. Leaders do make people better (the technique, however, does matter a great deal).
    3. We often don’t recognize that those making us better are doing it for us and not for themselves.

    1. Wilson Cox

      Great observations Eddie. Well said. I would add that while our parents do the same, it’s others in key leadership positions that really have an impact once we reach adulthood. I know I was stupid at 21 years old. Only now after many years have I improved.

  6. Max Foster

    I have a dentist appointment this morning and am not looking forward to it. But I will be reading more of Gen Satterfield’s articles to pass the time and actually learn something along the way. Message to all … don’t waste your life playing stupid computer games. Get on with things and learn to make others better.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      Thanks, Max. Well said. I always look forward to your comments.

  7. Army Captain

    Good points! Thanks for sharing your story about DrilL Sergeant Bryant. He must have been a good man.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      I’m happy to see you on-line again, Army Captian. You are usually the first to post so I assume you are up very early. That is sometimes what it takes to be a success. The early bird gets the worm.

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