The Rule of Doubt … for Leaders

By | March 11, 2019

[March 11, 2018] Leadership is about solving problems. A common reason for leadership failure to solve problems can be traced back to unprepared leaders who are either too overconfident or they don’t care. Hal Moore addressed this in his latest book, Winning When Outgunned and Outmanned. He called it his Rule of Doubt.

“The troops can smell BS from a mile away.” – U.S. Army Lieutenant General Hal Moore

Hal Moore, like many leaders I’ve worked with closely, believes in gut instinct. If there is any doubt in a leader’s mind about what to do, then don’t do it. Action and words can backfire easily if a person doesn’t have a firm grasp of the situation (the culture, people, and organization).

The worse thing a leader can do (other than doing something illegally, immorally, or unethically) is to fake their way out of a situation. A good military friend of mine was to teach a class on the new Bradley Fighting Vehicle when the personnel carrier was initially fielded. He wasn’t knowledgeable about the new BFV but decided he could just bluster his way through the day. We were truly embarrassed for him as technical questions arose that only an amateur could not answer.

Usually, it’s the junior-most leaders who learned about trying to fake out their troops. Who doesn’t want to appear skilled and intelligent? That same pride that can motivate us, can also lead to serious problems and it rarely ends well.

Never try to deceive or fool the people under you. Not only is it wrong to do so but people seem to have a sixth-sense about it. Many will call you out. If it were only embarrassing, we could leave it at that. At issue when leaders have doubt is that many forge ahead into unknown territory. This puts themselves and their followers into a risky environment.

The Rule of Doubt is about is something every leader should have wired into their brain. By keeping this in mind, a leader and his followers will be better off.


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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.

16 thoughts on “The Rule of Doubt … for Leaders

  1. Max Foster

    If we were to look at a profession that discourages its adherents to ignore the “rule of doubt”, just look at Journalist. They are big-time in the news today. Nick Sandman (remember him, the one that CNN, the WaPo, etc tried to destroy) has his lawyer file a multi-100 million dollar suit against WaPo and maybe later today CNN. They had credible evidence that what they reported was false. They ignored it. Someone should have said, WAIT, this doesn’t smell right. Now they are in big trouble. I hope this bankrupts them.

    1. Dennis Mathes

      It takes something of this magnitude to get their attention. They’ve been hiding their lies behind the First Amendment for too long. All their reporters should be fired. Then hire random people from any phone book list. They will do a much better job than those trained and experienced in journalism.

    2. Scotty Bush

      Fake News CNN is about to get hammered. Please come to my house. I have plenty of popcorn.

    3. Tomas C. Clooney

      Great comment, Max. I can’t wait to see the outcome. Very sloppy work for a major news organization.

  2. Eric Coda

    Well written. Thanks for exposes us to a new idea.

    1. Albert Ayer

      Eric, this is one of the reasons I come to this website. New ideas galore! 🙂

  3. Lynn Pitts

    The rule of doubt may be new to many of you but those of us who have served in the military have occasionally run across leaders who talk it. Once you get one of the really great leaders to discuss how it made a difference in their life, then you can get a better feel for how ‘instinct’ and the absence of instinct has transformed their careers.

      1. Lynn Pitts

        Always good to see you back on Gen. Satterfield’s blog. Have a great week, Yusaf.
        I like it that you are from Texas (my adopted state).

  4. Watson Bell

    I never heard of this before but believe it to be tied to “instinct”. Thanks for another graet post.

    1. JT Patterson

      I think so too. It is probably tied in with Gen. Hal Moore’s book.

    2. Dale Paul Fox

      If your instincts are telling you there might be a problem/issue, then listen to it then pause. Wait to think it through. That is the rule of doubt.

    1. lydia truman

      Thanks for your service, Army Captain. I always look forward to seeing you on this leadership forum.

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