[December 16, 2021] There’s a saying in the designer world that “you can’t fake fashion.” They are referring to the quality of design, materials, and construction of clothing and accompanying accessories. The same is true of being a leader. You can’t fake it.
There is no denying that some people can be fooled when distinguishing good leaders from bad. Most folks, however, can see through a fake leader quickly. The reason is that it is difficult to fake sincerity, commitment, and passion. That is why I often write about having “heart” in what you do. People will see through you and reject what you say if you don’t.
I knew a young man many years ago when I was a First Lieutenant. He was intelligent, educated at the finest institutions, loved the military, but did not want to be an Infantry Officer. In all its wisdom, the Army had placed him where he did not want to be. This smart young man wanted to be in the Intelligence field since he was a kid. The Soldiers under his supervision did not like him at all.
The problem was that his heart was not into being an Infantry Officer. He tried to hide it, and I give him a lot of credit for trying to make a go of it. His men were not deterred. They figured him out the same day he arrived at our unit. We were preparing for a large field training exercise, and everyone was working long hours getting ready. This young man didn’t want to go, and we could all see it in his face. He was gone from our unit the following week.
I knew that trying to fake it with these men, many of them combat veterans from the Vietnam War, would not work. Either you were committed and loyal to them, or you were out. These were men who had gone through hell and back. They knew people like no one knows people. They understood the human condition and practiced like a well-oiled machine. They were tough; they were some of the best Soldiers we ever had in the U.S. military. They could not be fooled.
I enjoyed my time serving as their Platoon Leader for a year. They taught me those things that cannot be taught in the Officer Courses that I attended. They showed me how to be successful on the battlefield – leading men into battle, taking care of Soldiers, and accomplishing any mission. I’m proud to have served with them.
By the way, the young man who left our unit eventually transferred to another unit where he was re-branched into the Intelligence field, sent to Fort Huachuca, AZ, to attend the Intelligence school where he graduated with honors.
Lesson learned … you can’t fake it.
Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).