Leadership Thought: Learning Leadership

You must be able to underwrite the honest mistakes of your subordinates if you wish to develop their initiative and experience.

General Bruce Clarke

Thought: Leadership is not taught, but rather is learned.

I’m not saying that there is no value in reading leadership books. I’ve read many. However, every person is different and it is learning from trying the things you read about that help you become a better leader. As a cadet I spent a summer with the 101st Airborne Division as part of a training program West Point runs. The battalion commander, Dave Ohle, who would go on to retire as a Lieutenant General (3 stars), told the leaders of the unit that I was assigned that he wanted me to be placed in charge of a platoon that was going through an evaluation. I was rather arrogant and during one evaluation I lost site of the squad in front of me as we moved through a heavily wooded area. I didn’t say anything and kept moving. The Platoon Sergeant, Ken Price, came up behind me and said “Hey LT, do you know where the lead squad is?” I admitted I did not and what had happened. He simply replied, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re walking point.” What the last statement meant was that I was at the head of the platoon and as a result would not be in a good position to lead the unit if it were attacked. I had read many times of the value of asking questions, but it was this experience that drove it home and made me the leader I am today. That said, I would not have had that experience if Dave had not given me the chance to learn by making mistakes.

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