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Vol. 6, No. 3
(626) 350-1500 Ext 102  

Extraordinary achievements demand extraordinary leaders.

© 2008 William A. Cohen, PhD

The Table of Contents for this Month’s Edition of the Journal of Leadership Application

(All will be found below)

News for Leaders

This Month’s Topic: Creating Followship

This Month’s Thought for Leaders

Leadership Lessons from Last Month’s Book: Sun Tzu

This Month’s Free Downloadable Book: Cohesion

News for Leaders

Free Online Seminars Offered by The International Institute of Management. The International Institute of Management offers free downloads of quarterly seminars in PDF format to everyone. You can also participate on the online seminars live by joining either The CEO Club or The Management Society.  Full information is at .

Knowledge Leadership Interview conducted by Robert Morris. Well-known interviewer, reviewer, and writer Robert Morris of  Knowledge Leadership magazine,part of the Thomas Group conducted an interview which will be published soon regarding many of my thoughts on leadership, Drucker, and some of my recent books on these subjects. This can be found by clicking HERE.

A Chapter on “The Leader of the Future” to Appear in an Important Book. Frances Hesselbein, former CEO of the Girl Scouts of America, and now CEO of the world famous Leader to Leader Institute has invited me to do a write a chapter on “The Leader of the Future” for the Leader to Leader Institute’s new book The Organization of the Future 2. The Organization of the Future (1) was a best seller, as has been a number of the Institute’s books. The Institute serves leaders worldwide. As some indication of the high quality of the Institute’s work, it publishes an award-winning journal in addition to books as well as various other tools for leaders. Although the Institute focuses on the social sector, it’s helping leaders in all sectors and I highly recommend it. You can get additional information at .

Leadership Seminars and Book Signings at the Reserve Officers Association Annual Mid-Winter Conference in Washington, D.C. February 12th and 13th.This is a repeat announcement.  I’ve been invited to speak on two successive days at the annual Reserve Officers Association Annual Mid-Winter Conference in Washington, D.C.. Both sessions will be followed by book signings of two different leadership books: The New Art of the Leader: Leading with Integrity and Honor andWisdom of the Generals: From Adversity to Success and From Fear to Victory. The ROA is supplying the books at no cost to attendees of each seminar. For more information or to register, go to You may need to meet special qualifications to attend the seminars.

Latest Book Reviews of A Class with Drucker.  As promised I am posting all book reviews available — good, bad, and indifferent — as received. If you see one not posted, please send it and I will include it. Just click Drucker Book Reviews. There are two new reviews again this month.


by William A. Cohen, PhD

Followship is sometimes an unpopular subject. Yet I get many questions about it and how to create it, so I decided to expand on an earlier article I wrote some months ago and to give you a more complete story. This month I write it from the leader’s perspective, but in a future article I’ll discuss followship from the perspective of the follower, for without followers there are no leaders.

No one follows anyone else without being motivated to do so. Look at any situation where men or women follow a leader and you will discover reasons for their doing so. Luck or unusual circumstances may play a part. But mostly it is because of definite actions that the leader takes. I’m going to give you four actions that you must take to motivate others to follow you.

The Most Powerful Motivator Of Human Behavior

Everyone wants to feel important, from the youngest child, to the oldest grandmother or grandfather. After basic survival, it is one of the most important of human needs. It is frequently the real reason behind both a child’s tantrum and an adult’s rudeness. A television special sought the reason that some children became school-ground bullies. Why do some children insist on dominating and threatening their playmates? Why do some children torment and persecute other children? Sociologists thought that bullies would be less intelligent. They thought that these would be the kids that couldn’t do well in class. In most cases, this just wasn’t true.

What they did discover was that bullies got a sense of importance by lording it over others.  As one former bully, now grown up, told television viewers: “The more I was able to make weaker kids do what I wanted, the more important I felt.”

But this same motivator can have a tremendously powerful effect in other areas. Toward the end of the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee faced a force of 100,000 Union troops with only 30,000 of his own. Just as he was about to be overrun, the Texas Brigade commanded by General John Gregg showed up.

As related by Alf J. Mapp, Jr., in his book Frock Coats and Epaulets, “Lee rode up to the front of the brigade, stood in his stirrups, raised his hat from his head and boomed above the martial din, ‘Texans always move them.’

An ear-splitting yell rose from the brigade. One of Gregg’s couriers, with tears running down his cheeks , shouted, ‘I would charge hell itself for that old man!'”[1]

Making one feel important is more powerful as a motivator than money, promotion, working conditions, or almost anything else. So you just know that we do everything possible to make others feel important. Right? Wrong.

Unfortunately, we frequently do the exact opposite. When we meet a surly clerk, we don’t think, “This person needs to feel important, and I’m going to make him or her feel that way.” Oh no, not us! We think, “How dare this person talk that way to me. I’ll show him how really unimportant he is compared with me.”

So, we play a game of one up-man-ship in rudeness. The results are perfectly predictable. We have what is sometimes referred to in the military as a “pissing contest.”

If we have more power than the other person, we will probably get our way. The object of our wrath will put up with our tirade, and probably won’t argue with us. But at what cost? Analysts term this style of misleadership, “manager disrespect.”  Professor Jack Mendleson at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana says, “Preliminary research findings show that manager disrespect has reached an epidemic level in the U.S.”[2] So many leaders don’t lead. They confront and dominate with manager disrespect.

When you lead with manager disrespect, you may or may not succeed. One thing, however is certain. The person you are doing this to will not appreciate it. You may not be able to trust that person to follow your lead or your intentions if you aren’t around in the future. In fact, if I had to bet some money, I would bet on the exact opposite. I’m not saying that there aren’t times when you must let someone know you are dissatisfied about something done or left undone. But don’t belittle that person’s importance so that they lose their self-respect – not if you want to lead and influence them.

A Navy Attack Pilot Skipper Lays It on the Line

Fast forward ahead a hundred and thirty years from the Civil War and Robert E. Lee. We are at war with Iraq and Saddam Hussein’s minions. On the aircraft carrier USS Midway in the Persian Gulf, the attack squadron commander, who is also the lead pilot for the evening’s mission, is briefing. The attack pilots have the mission of destroying a munitions dump near Basra, Iraq. But to accomplish this, the enemy’s deadly Surface to Air Missiles, or SAMs must be dealt with. This is the job of the EA-6B Prowler aircraft.

“When the strike package enters the SAM envelope here,” he says as he points to a set of overlapping rings connoting the SAM threat, “we will be counting on the Prowlers to eliminate the associated acquisition radars of SAM systems so that we can ingress and egress safely.”

Lieutenant Sherman Baldwin, call sign “Ironclaw” is the pilot of a “Prowler.” These are aircraft that are especially designed to deal with enemy electronic defenses. “I nodded to the Eagle skipper, acknowledging our responsibility, and realized that if we did not do our job some of these A-6 crews might not come back.”

The A-6 leader continued, “Once again, the Prowlers are a go-no-go criteria for the strike.” No Prowler means no strike,” he emphasized.

Writes Ironclaw “I swelled with pride on the outside at this comment . . .” Ironclaw was an important and vital part of this mission, even though he would not be dropping the bombs that destroyed the target, and he knew it.[3]


The Woman Who Gave Away Pink Cadillacs

Experienced leaders know that making others feel important is crucial. Mary Kay Ash, the founder and CEO of Mary Kay Cosmetics built a $1 billion dollar company starting with a $ 5000 investment using this concept. If you aren’t involved with cosmetics, you may not know of Mary Kay by name. But you may have heard of the woman who gave out pink Cadillacs to her most successful saleswomen. She passed away several years ago, although her company still maintains the philosophy behind her unusual gifts to her most successful employees.

Some years ago, I was fortunate to be selected by the Direct Selling Association as one of a group of about twenty professors from all over the country to visit Mary Kay and her company. In 1985, we attended one of her annual sales meetings in Dallas, Texas. About 30,000 women attend these meetings each year, and it was a tremendous, motivating, and exciting experience.

To lead several hundred thousand saleswomen successfully, you have to be one heck of leader. Mary Kay fit that category. She knew that making others feel important was so critical to the success of her business that she crafted a special technique to help her do this. What was Mary Kay’s secret? Simply this. She imagined that every person she saw had a sign on his or her head. The sign read: “Make me feel important.” Mary Kay did everything she could to obey the sign’s request.


How A General Made An Entire Air Force Feel Important

Do you think only women in the cosmetics business need to feel important? Listen to this. Four star General Bill Creech became the commander of Tactical Air Command in the Air Force in 1978. Tactical Air Command, more familiarly known as TAC, included over 100,000 “tigers.” These are men and women who must be super aggressive in their work and ready to go to war at all times. Tom Peters and Nancy Austin reported what happened to TAC in their book A Passion for Excellence.[4]

When General Creech took over TAC, the sortie rate had been falling over a ten year period at a compound rate of 7.8 percent. A sortie is a flight mission by a single aircraft. So the fact that the number of sorties that TAC launched every year was going down was not good. Further, when Creech arrived on the scene it took four hours for a spare part to get from inventory to the aircraft where it was needed.

What was the situation when Creech left TAC in 1984? The sortie rate rose each year of Creech’s tenure at a compound annual rate of 11.2 percent. Getting a part from inventory to the aircraft was no longer measured in hours. When Creech left, the average time was only eight minutes!

Now you may think that much of this was due to increased military budgets. Not so. The budget for spare parts actually decreased during this period.

How did Creech do it? Certainly Creech’s success as a leader was due to many things that he did. But making his people feel important was a major part.

He gave his support troops the importance they deserved: the same as he gave his pilots. He improved their housing, decorated their offices, and rewarded those who did well.

On one inspection tour in the west, he saw a supply sergeant’s regulation Air Force chair that had a torn back, and only three casters. Instead of the fourth caster, there was a brick. Electrical tape held the torn material in the back together.[5]

“Why don’t you get a decent chair,” asked Creech. “General there aren’t any available for supply sergeants right now.”

“Sergeant, let me have your chair. I’ll get a new one for you.”

General Creech ordered his aide to fly the chair back to his headquarters at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. He called in his three star General in charge of logistics.

“General, I have a little present for you. It’s a regulation Air Force chair, but its pretty beat up. It’s yours until you get our logistic mess straightened out. And, oh yes…I need your old chair for a supply sergeant out west.”

Supply sergeants were very important to the operations of TAC. By these actions, General Creech made this supply sergeant, and all supply sergeants feel this importance. General Creech also showed his general in charge of logistics that he was very important…and in a very imaginative way.

So rule number one is this: if you want people to follow you, make them feel important.


How To Promote Your Vision

Leaders are not caretakers. They must have some idea as to where they want to go. It doesn’t make any difference whether you are leader of a large Air Force Command of thousands of people, a softball team, or a small informal group. If you don’t have any idea of where you are going, you can’t get there. And neither can anyone else. As the Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs. XXIX. 18).

There is a strange insect called the Processionary Caterpillar. This insect bears this unusual name because of its unusual method of navigation. A number of Processionary Caterpillars will attach themselves front to back in a single line. The leader seeks the mulberry leaf, the main food of this caterpillar. Wherever the leader goes, the other Processionary Caterpillars are sure to follow. And off they go in this way, one continuous line of five or more caterpillars looking for mulberry leaves.

Several years ago a scientist who studies such things conducted an experiment. He took a line of Processionary Caterpillars and formed them into a circle. What had been the leader was attached to what had been the last caterpillar in the line. Now there was no leader and no follower caterpillars. In the center of the circle of caterpillars he placed a bowl of mulberry leaves. The scientist wanted to know how long they would maintain the circle with no leader, and no objective. He knew that eventually they must break the circle to eat the mulberry leaves or starve.

The result of this experiment surprised him. The caterpillars continued in a circle until they were so weak that they couldn’t reach the mulberry leaves. Though food was only inches away, they continued to follow the caterpillar in front. They continued to go forward with no objective at all.

Men and women are not Processionary Caterpillars. If you have no vision of where you want to go, no one will follow you. Instead your group will follow someone else who does know where he or she wants the group to go.

Professors Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus of the University of Southern California interviewed ninety leaders, including sixty successful CEOs and thirty outstanding leaders from the public sector. All ninety leaders had a well thought through vision of where they wanted their organizations to go. Bennis and Nanus termed the concern that these leaders had for their visions “unparalleled.” Said Bennis and Nanus in their book, Leaders: “Their visions or intentions are compelling and pull people toward them.”[6]

Four-star General Andrew J. Goodpaster, a confidant of Presidents as well as former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe puts what he called: “Be clear about purpose,” as his starting point for good leadership.[7]

William G. McGowan, founder and former CEO of the billion dollar MCI Communications Corporation was the man who cracked the long-distance monopoly of American Telephone and Telegraph Company. McGowan maintained, “People don’t come to MCI for security. They come to be challenged, to be part of something new.”[8]

Business Week calls Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft Corporation,  the “Visionary-in-Chief.” In an interview with Business Week editors, Gates articulated a new vision for Microsoft: “Giving people the people the power to do what they want, where and when they want, on any device.”[9]

People are attracted to a leader’s vision and future goals because they recognize that through them, they and the organization can become permanently better.

Major General Perry M. Smith former Commandant of the National War College in Washington D.C. found that, “A leader can permanently affect an organization by establishing a strategic vision and setting long-term goals.[10] Four-star General Edward C. Meyer former Chief-of-Staff of the Army, a man who helped to permanently change the organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs, and the youngest, ever Army Chief of Staff says that without vision, organizations will fail.

Vision is clearly pretty important. But having an objective of where you want the organization to go is only half the action you must take. The other half is to insure that others know what your vision is. By communicating your vision you get a consensus among those you lead.

President John Young of Hewlett-Packard said: “Successful companies have a consensus from top to bottom on a set of overall goals. The most brilliant management strategy will fail if that consensus is missing.”[11]

James E. Buerger, publisher of Travelhost National magazine set up his own printing plant by following this principle. He had just 45 days after ordering a press to raise $100,000, set up his equipment, get trained operators, and find a building to put everything in to. He did it by communicating his goals effectively after setting them. According to Buerger, “A secret goal cannot benefit from the participation and force of others. A well-defined goal, shared with others and sparked with enthusiasm, will draw energy and forces that cannot be measured or suppressed.”[12]

If you have a vision and communicate effectively it to others, you can succeed though all the odds are against you.


You Can Promote Your Vision Anywhere

Colonel Julian Ewell commanding the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment reached Bastogne, Belgium on the night of December 18, 1944. Two days earlier, the Germans had begun their Ardennes campaign. This was the Germans last major offensive of World War II, and history tells us it was a very close thing. Ewell arrived with only one battalion of less than a thousand men. Higher headquarters couldn’t tell him the enemy’s situation and much about anything else.    But Ewell had a vision and he communicated it to his men. “We’re going to attack the Germans.” They did. In so doing, they stopped the German 27th Panzer Corps of more than 30,000 troops dead in its tracks. It forced Hitler to change his Ardennes plan and may have altered the course of World War II.[13]

Roger Ailes, a communications consultant who consulted for a number of CEOs and presidential candidates said that,”…the essence of charisma is showing your commitment to an idea or goal.”[14] Of course showing commitment to an idea or goal is the same as vision. And behavioral scientists have found a close correlation between communicating vision and being perceived as charismatic.

Martin Luther King one of the most charismatic leaders of our time said simply, “I have a vision.” And his words and actions influence moved and influenced tens of millions of people.

If you want others to follow you, you must have a vision too…and you must communicate it to others.


Treat Others As You Would Be Treated Yourself And They Will Follow Your Lead

Both the Old and New Testaments tell us to treat others as we want to be treated ourselves. You may have thought this concept has application only in religion or the practice of ethical conduct. The truth is it also has a great deal to do with good leadership. Why? Because people do not willingly follow leaders who are unconcerned with how they are treated.

Mary Kay Ash calls this her “Golden Rule System of Management.” She not only practices it herself, but recommends it to everyone who leads.

After all, what makes you so special? Do you think that you are so much better than others that you are to be treated differently? If you do, better change your way of thinking, or you may never get people to follow you.


Move Over Scrooge, Your day is Done

Charles Dickens’ famous story, “A Christmas Carol,” featured Scrooge, who cared little for the personal problems of his employees, specifically one Bob Crachett. By Scrooge calculations, he was paying good money Crachett, right? Thus ended his responsibilities according to Scrooge.


    Those days are gone. Many corporate leaders today have discovered that it is just good leadership to treat family issues as strategic business issues, and to give the welfare of their employee’s families a major priority. At First Tennessee National Corporation, CEO Ralph Horn did just that. Horn dumped the old work rules and let employees figure out which schedules worked best from a family viewpoint. Then, he added a host of new programs to help the families of his employees. He sent his 1000 managers to three and a half days of training to educate them and get them on board Results? Productivity and customer service soared. According to First Tennessee, high retention rates contributed to a 55% profit gain in two years.[15]


What We Learned From The Largest Leadership Study Ever Done

During World War II, the U.S. Army gathered together sixty-one of the greatest authorities in the field of psychology to prepare and publish a special study. They came from some of the most prestigious universities in the country. Harvard, Yale, Brown, the University of Pennsylvania and many others were represented. When they were done, their research was published under the title of Psychology for the Fighting Man.

One of their studies was especially unique. For the first time in the history of armies, enlisted soldiers were interviewed about what they thought about good leadership. Want to know what these thousands of soldiers thought made good leaders? The number one factor by frequency of response was “competence.” The good officer was expected to know his stuff.  In a study I did some years ago, this was one of eight  universal laws of leadership.

Actually, that response was pretty much expected. What was not expected had to do with the next fourteen most frequently cited factors. Listen to this. Of the next fourteen most frequent responses to the question what makes a good leader, the second, fourth, sixth, and seventh all had to do with treatment. These were:

n  Interest in the welfare of the soldier  (second)

n  Patience and ability to make things clear (fourth)

n  Doesn’t boss you around without reason (sixth)

n  Tells you when you did a good job (seventh)

The soldiers interviewed gave these responses more frequently than “physical strength” (eighth), “good education” (ninth), or even “guts” (eleventh).[16]

The Armed Forces Officer, a book on leadership written for officers in all of our armed services says:

“Though it has been said before, even so, it can be said again: It is a paramount and overriding responsibility of every officer to take care of his men before caring for himself….It is a cardinal principle!…If an officer is on a tour with an enlisted man, he takes care that the man is accommodated as to food, shelter, medical treatment or other prime needs, before satisfying his own wants; if that means that the last meal or the last bed is gone, his duty is to get along the hard way.”[17]

We had a saying at West Point that a leader should be “hard, but fair.” So if you want others to follow you, treat them fairly. Treat them as you would like to be treated yourself, and put the welfare of those you lead before your own welfare.


Take Responsibility for Your Actions And Admit Your Mistakes

As a leader, you will be taking the responsibility for attaining an objective. That objective may be one set by a higher organization than the one you are in. It could be an objective set by the followers you lead. Or it could be an objective you set. Who sets the objective is unimportant.

The size of the group isn’t important either. It could be a group of hundreds of thousands, or it could be you and one other person. Once you take on the leadership of a group, you and you alone are responsible for reaching the objective.

You can delegate authority to do certain tasks to others that you lead. There is no way that you can delegate responsibility. It doesn’t even make any difference whether those that follow you perform well or perform poorly, or even carry out instructions you have given them.

Of course, you should take responsibility and admit your mistakes. It’s the right thing to do. Beyond being the right thing, it is the only thing to do if you want to be a leader. Do, and those you lead will give you their trust and follow you anywhere. Fail to do this and you will not be a leader for very long.

Andrew S. Grove is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Intel Corporation. This company built largely through the efforts of Grove is not only a “Fortune 500” company. Intel Corporation is listed in The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America. Yet, Fortune magazine called Andy Grove one of the ten toughest bosses in America to work for. What did Grove say about taking responsibility and admitting mistakes? Let’s listen to him.

“All of us in management (and in teaching, government, even parenting) – men and women, young or old – worry about losing hard-won respect by admitting our mistakes. Yet, in reality, admitting mistakes is a sign of strength, maturity, and fairness.”[18]

    In war, mistakes are deadly. But even in war, or maybe especially in war, mistakes are inevitable. Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, that extraordinary and uncompromising leader who is known as “the father of the nuclear submarine” said in testifying before Congress in April 1964: “In war we are always doing something for the first time. It would be a miracle if what we improvised under the stress of war would be perfect.” And General Bruce C. Clarke who rose to command he Continental Army Command said, “You must be able to underwrite the honest mistakes of your subordinates if you wish to develop their initiative and experience.”


A Man Doesn’t Get Hired Because He Has Made No Mistakes

In the early days of the Dow Chemical Company, a man approached founder Herbert H. Dow to ask for a job he had heard about. He went over his qualifications in some detail. He had one big selling point that he stressed again and again. This was that he had never, under any circumstances, ever made a mistake at work.

    Dow finally interrupted his presentation. “We have three thousand people working here, and on the average, they make three thousand mistakes each and every day. I couldn’t insult them by hiring somebody perfect.”[19]


Why Did Men Follow Robert E. Lee?

Robert E. Lee is probably the most beloved military leader in U.S. history. Not only to the day of his death, but until years afterward, those who knew him or served under him revered his name. Even his former enemies honored him and flocked to visit him after the Civil War. Here he was, the most notorious defeated enemy general of the Confederacy. And yet company presidents from New York offered him hundreds of thousands of dollars if he would associate with their companies. He turned them all down. Instead he accepted a job that paid a lot less as president of a small college in Virginia. The college had only 40 students.

Lee had not won the war. He had been forced to surrender his Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant. The best chance that the Confederacy had to win the Civil War was the Battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863. Lee planned and lost that decisive battle.

Sure, Lee had plenty of opportunities for excuses, plenty of bad luck, lack of resources, and poor performance by some of his subordinate generals on which to blame his loss.

Lee’s famous “strong right arm”, “Stonewall” Jackson had been killed at the Battle of Chancellorsville a few months earlier. His brilliant young cavalry leader, Jeb Stuart went off on his own and didn’t appear on the battlefield until the last day of the battle. As a result, Lee had very little intelligence about the Union forces he faced. Lieutenant General Ewell who commanded part of Jackson’s old corps could have won the battle for Lee the first day. All he had to do was to occupy a deserted, but strategically important hill. He failed to do so.

Lee’s second in command, General Longstreet, strongly opposed a charge ordered by Lee to be made by one of his divisions commanded by Major General George Pickett. As a result he failed to give Pickett positive orders. Preparations took longer than they should have. The charge was not coordinated with a diversionary attack as previously planned.

Pickett’s troops were fully exposed to the murderous effect of enemy guns and direct fire. Only a few hundred of his troops even managed to reach Union lines. Of the 13,000 Confederates who made the charge, more than 7,000 were left dead or wounded in “no man’s land” between the two lines.

With the battle clearly lost, and the remnants of Pickett’s men returning to the Confederate lines, it was Lee that went out to meet the survivors.

“It was all my fault and no one else’s,” he said. “You did your best, but it was I who failed you.”

In tears, these battle weary soldiers shouted: “No! No! You didn’t fail, general. It was us.” And these tired, demoralized survivors of this disastrous attack actually pleaded with him on the spot, “Send us to attack again, we’ll show you that we won’t fail this time!”

Robert E. Lee always took responsibility for his actions. And his men loved him for it and fought all the harder. Remember, the Battle of Gettysburg was in early July of 1863. Lee wasn’t forced to surrender his army at Appomattox Court House until April of 1865…almost two years later.


Why A Squadron Commander Who Was Never There Was Reported For Being Drunk

As a leader, you and you alone are responsible for everything that those who follow you do, or fail to do. Hap Arnold, who was the five-star Commanding General of the Army Air Force during World War II illustrates this in his book Army Flyer.[20] A new squadron commander received a message from his group commander.

“You drank too much at the Officer’s Club last night. Don’t let it happen again.”

Now the problem was, this young officer had never been at the Officer’s Club on the night in question. Shrugging it off, he decided it was a mistake and to do nothing.

Several days later, he received another message. “You drank too much again. This is your final warning.”

Now this new squadron commander was really puzzled, because he hadn’t been at the club on that night either. This time however, he called the deputy group commander to talk it over with him.

The deputy group commander understood the situation perfectly. “Major, you’re not responsible for just yourself anymore. You’re now responsible for the actions of everyone in your squadron. You personally weren’t drinking too much at the Officer’s Club. But one of the members of your squadron was. You’re responsible!”


Two Unwanted Outcomes That Are Easily Avoided

Now I know that you may think this a bit strong. How can you be responsible for everything that someone who happens to be in your organization does? In the military, you are responsible because you have a twenty-four hour a day job and have authority over those you lead twenty-four hours a day.

The problem is that many leaders of non-military organizations simply don’t take responsibility for the actions of their charges under any circumstances. You can always find excuses for failing to reach an objective or some other problem. But if you do, this will have two undesirable results.

First, those that follow you will not want you to be their leader. Would you if you were they? After all, the contract is leadership in exchange for responsibility. When you don’t take responsibility for the group you lead, you violate this contract.

The second unwanted result will come from whomever you report to. Your boss wants to know that he or she can rely on you. If you aren’t responsible for your organization, than who is? Who is it that your boss can rely on?

General Bill Creech, after retiring from the Air Force, a consultant for many leading corporations, stated that leaders can and must be taught “ . . . to acceptpersonal responsibility for building common purpose and organizational success.”[21] The italicization of the words personal responsibility is General Creech’s.

You can’t delegate responsibility, so don’t try. You can only delegate authority to perform a certain task or to supervise the action of others. The responsibility, however, is still yours. When things go wrong, think of General Lee and say, “It was all my fault and no one else’s.”


Four Action Steps To Get People To Follow You

1. Make others feel important. People will follow you when you make them feel important, not when you make you feel important.

2. Promote your vision. No one will follow you simply because you decide you want to lead. You have to have a clear idea of where you want to take the group … than you must promote it to your group and convince them that your goal is worthwhile.

3. Treat others as you would be treated yourself. This is so basic, why don’t we do it more often? After all, would you want to follow someone who treated you poorly? Don’t you prefer to follow leaders who have concern for you and your feelings and treat you well? So do those who would follow you.

4. Take responsibility for your actions and those of your group. Admit your mistakes. You are responsible for everything the members of your group do or fail to do. So when things go wrong, don’t forget to accept this responsibility. If you try to foist this responsibility off on others, you are no longer the leader.

Take the time to digest these four ways to get people to follow you. Than proceed to put them into action!



* From The New Art of the Leader ( Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall Press, 2000),

[1] Alf J. Mapp, Jr. Frock Coats and Epaulets (Hamilton Press: New York, 1987) p. 203.

[2]Jack L. Mendleson, “Manager Disrespect,” Business Forum (Winter/Spring  1998) p.20.

[3] Sherman Baldwin, Ironclaw, (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1996)  pp.201-202.

[4] Tom Peters and Nancy Austin, A Passion for Excellence (New York: Random House, 1985) p.48

[5] Ibid. p.275

[6] Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders (New York: Harper and Row, 1985). p.28.

[7] From a presentation to students of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at Ft. McNair, Washington, D.C. on November 8, 1988.

[8] John Wilke, “McGowan: The Man Who Cracked AT&T,” Business Week (January 21, 1985) p.69

[9] Michael Moeller and Kathy Rebello, “Visionary-in-Chief: A Talk with Chairman Bill Gates on the World Beyond Windows,” Business Week (May 17, 1999) pp. 114, 116.

[10] Perry M. Smith, Taking Charge (National Defense University Press: Washington, D.C., 1986) p.xvii

[11] Jonathan Carr, “Success as a State of Mind,” Financial Times (February 13, 1984).

[12] Charles Garfield, Peak Performers (Avon: New York, 1986) pp. 121-122.

[13] The Armed Forces Officer, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950). pp. 136-137.

[14] Roger Ailes, “The Secret of Charisma,” Success (July/August 1988) p.14

[15] Kith H. Hammonds, “Balancing Work and Family,” Business Week (September 16, 1996)p.74.

[16] Committee of the National Research Council with the collaboration of Science Service, Psychology for the Fighting Man, (Washington,D.C./New York: Infantry Journal/Penguin Books, 1944) pp.306-307.

[17] The Armed Forces Officer (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950)pp.28-29

[18] Andrew S. Grove, One-On-One With Andy Grove (G.P. Putnam’s Sons: New York, 1987) p. 60.

[19] Peter Fay, The Book of  Business Anecdotes (New York: Facts on File, 1988) p. 166.

[20] Henry H. Arnold and Ira Eaker, Army Flyer, (New York: Harper, 1942).

[21] Bill Creech, The Five Pillars of TQM, (New York: Dutton, 1994) p. 301/



“A leader is someone you would follow to a place you would not go to by yourself.” – Joel Barker


There have been many translations of Sun Tzu, but only in the last fifty years or so have western military theorists recognized its worth and begun to read it and study it in earnest. Over the last twenty years other organizational leaders climbed aboard. And even then, it’s value was not immediately appreciated. For example, when I studied the great military thinkers at West Point, Sun Tzu was not included.


It wasn’t until Samuel B. Griffith, a Marine Corps Brigadier General translated Sun Tzu in 1963 (Oxford University Press), that the U.S. military began widespread reading of the text. This edition was helped along because the British writer B.H. Liddell Hart, one of the greatest military thinkers and strategists of our time, wrote the foreword.


This translation was followed by numerous others, including by James Clavell author of such popular books as Shogun and Tai-Pan and several translations into English from modern Chinese, interpreted originally by officers of the Peoples Liberation Army. Today, there are dozens of translations, and a few individuals have based their entire careers on teaching Sun Tzu’s concepts of leadership and strategy. With all this, the text translation provided through the hyperlink by the Gutenberg Project, done in 1910, was one of the first in modern times, and it may well be the best.


Sun Tzu is recognized primarily for his insights into strategy. Nevertheless, there is much regarding leadership from which any student wishing to use improve his or her ability to lead can gain.


On War is a short book divided in to thirteen chapters. The translator has included his own commentary in these thirteen chapters, but afterwards provides a translation of the pure text without comment. I recommend reading it in exactly the order presented. I promise that you will gain many insights if you will immerse yourself in Sun Tzu’s thoughts and reasoning. At times this will be a challenge, for Sun Tzu speaks to you not only from a different cultures, but across two thousand years of history.


1.  Followers must be led with civility. Sun Tzu wrote that the most importance factor in success was the effect of moral influence, which he defined essentially as harmonious followship. To obtain this he recommended treating people with benovolence, justice, and righteousness. This is in line with this month’s discussion on how to attract followship. In modern times, Peter Drucker taught that all employees had to be treated as if they were volunteers because unlike times past, the modern worker has options: he can always go elsewhere. So in fact, employees are volunteers. Sun Tzu’s teaching especially underlines this principle since in his time and culture Sun Tzu had the power of instantaneous life and death decisions over all his followers.


2. However, if a leader used kindness exclusively as a leadership tactic, the leader would be unable to employ his people effectively. In Sun Tzu’s words, they would be like “spoiled children” and would be useless. Although the leader needs to treat his subordinates with kindness, the watchword is fairness. So, as in raising children, a wise parent does what is right rather than always what the child wants, an effective leader has to do the same.


One of the stories related in Sun Tzu is one in which he was asked by the Emperor if court women, having no experience in war and were undisciplined, could be taught to be effective in army formations and to obey orders. Sun Tzu assured him that they could. Sun Tzu got them in formation and explained a command such as “right face” and demonstrated what to do. He then gave the command. The women just giggled and did not do it. Sun Tzu stopped them and said that perhaps he did not explain clearly and if so this was his fault. He explained and demonstrated the action desired again. He then gave a command. Again they laughed. Sun Tzu then ordered several beheaded. He gave the command again. They obeyed. Even in Sun Tzu’s time, this story may not be true. But the point should be understood. Being a “good guy” or laise faire leader will result in chaos. There must always be someone in charge and though followers should always be treated with kindness, it needs to be understood that the leader is in fact, the leader.


3. Interestingly, Sun Tzu believed that to lead many was no different then leading a few — it was simply a matter of organization and delegation of authority. Two millennia later this is the idea of the modern concept of span of control; that is the number of followers you can directly supervise. If you are a first line supervisor, you may be leading only a handful of men or women directly; if you are a CEO of a major corporation you may have responsibility for the actions of thousands. Yet, you have direct supervisory responsibility over only a few. The lesson here is that the same principles apply and moreover that if you can lead a handful of individuals you have the capability of leading quite a few more.


4. Every situation has both strong and weak points, but it is the primary factor in the situation that should govern your decisions. Few situations are clear-cut. There are always positives and negatives on either side. To seek an alternative in which there are only positives and no negatives usually means that the positives are not that strong. What the leader needs to seek is the strongest positive of the primary factor. Drucker used to say: “There are many wrong reasons for not taking a certain action, but only one right one. President Abraham Lincoln knew this and practiced this leadership principle successfully. During the American Civil War he sought unsuccessfully to find an overall commander who could successfully counter the South’s famous general Robert E. Lee. General after general failed and was replaced. Finally Ulysses Grant who had been successfully against Confederate leaders in the West was promoted to General-in-Chief of the Union Army and was ultimately successful against General Lee. However this wasn’t and easy task, it took more than a year and Grant was opposed by many of Lincoln’s advisers. General “Brains” Halleck, a brilliant staff officer and once Grant’s commander thought Grant a poor strategists who relied on his subordinates for success. Others thought the situation in the West entirely different from fighting in the east against Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Finally, the most fierce attack against Grant’s appointment was thrown at Lincoln. “General Grant has a drinking problem!” Lincoln looked at Grant’s detractor and replied: “Find out General Grant’s brand of liquor so that I may send a case to all my generals.” Lincoln knew that Grant’s one major strong point, the ability to win victories, was the primary factors. He was made general-in-chief for this reason and not because of his weaknesses.


5.  Do what is right above what is customary. Although a leader must follow the instructions of his leader, there are times when the normal rules must be violated because it is the right thing to do at the time. Of course this doesn’t absolve the leader of responsibility, and he could be punished for his actions.


Admiral Lord Nelson, the most successful of British naval commanders during the Napoleonic Wars had earlier been severely wounded and lost both an eye and an arm. Later while engaged in one action, the Fleet Admiral Commanding hoisted a signal flag to all ships ordering a retreat. When informed of this signal by a subordinate, he raised a telescope to his blind eye. Pointing the telescope in the general direction of signal flag he said, “I see no signal to withdraw. Continue the attack.”


Although few know it today, one of the most successful and beloved leaders during the Civil War on the Union side was Major General George Armstrong Custer who at age 26 was the youngest major general in the Union Army. Frustrated by his inability to reward those in his command on a timely basis, and contrary to Army regulations he established his own “Gold Medal for Heroism,” (known as “The Custer Medal”) and presented it to deserving soldiers in his command.


I first read this book in 1989 when I was a student at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, part of National Defense University. If you are not in the military, please do not be turned off by the title. An army colonel at the time the book was written, the author, William Darryl Henderson also held the PhD degree. The introduction to the book, is written by Charles Moskos, one of the foremost sociologists in the world. This is a scholarly work which analyzes leadership and societal influences and compares it in the armies of four different countries: the U.S., the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and Israel. Although written more than 25 years ago, the book has lessons which if applied could have saved us much grief in the Iraq War. The lessons of cohesion and what it can do as well as its limits, for ANY organization, be it military, business, or non-profit can be of immense value to any leader. Through the courtesy of National Defense University, here is the link to Cohesion: The Human Element in Combat:


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