[May 15, 2019] The phrase “lock and load” has been around a long time. Veterans of military service know it well; whether on a weapon qualification range or preparing for combat, lock and load literally means to chamber a round in your weapon. It also means to be ready for anything.
Being ready for whatever comes is what leadership is about. Being prepared is one of the hallmarks of good leadership. I remember my first time on the M16 Rifle qualification range at Fort Polk, Louisiana back in 1974. I was nervous, not because I didn’t know how to shoot but because I worried about embarrassing myself in front of my peers and Drill Sergeants.
In the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, lock and load is a euphemism for a less polite way of saying ‘be ready to kill the enemy.’ My first trip outside the wire into Indian Country during my first wartime experience was an eyeopener. My buddies and I were actually going into a possible firefight with some really bad actors in Sadr City, Iraq.1 No action occurred but our pucker factor was high.
To be locked and loaded is true leadership in action. It means that the leader’s team is fully prepared and about to take on their mission. Whether that mission is to kill the nation’s enemies or to build a new car at the Ford factory, it’s still the essence of real leadership. My leadership blog often reinforces the idea that leadership traits are common across all types of leadership. Styles may differ but leadership is still about getting the job done and taking care of people.
As a leader throughout my military career, I always had two simple priorities; get the job done and care for my soldiers. My soldiers often used the well-used phrase to get ‘er done to signify that they were focused and ready to take on any mission.
Our first year in combat we conducted over 50 major offensive operations and none of my men were killed. We all came home and accomplished our mission objectives.
Success is always dependent on drive and persistence. This is where good leadership separates the wannabe leaders from the great ones.