Respect for Subordinates: Leadership (2)

What happened between me and the 43 men who worked for me in Saigon during the last days of the Vietnam war was the result of my having learned, early in my career, that leadership works far better than management. Leadership means serving one’s subordinates, supporting and uplifting the followers, encouraging them to be the best they can be; management means keeping them under control. Leadership promotes respect and even love; management incites dislike and hostility. Leadership assumes burgeoning competence in subordinates; management presupposes ineptitude. Leadership is for people; managements is for things.

Leadership demands humility, the recognition that the leader’s job is to attend to the needs of the followers. His job is to serve.

The men working for me in Saigon were seasoned experts. Sixteen of them were communicators who maintained links between us and the rest of the world. The rest were mostly analysts that carried out our signals intelligence mission. All of them were topnotch in their discipline. They worked harder and longer hours than I had any right to expect. My job was not to control them but to support them in every way I could.

And that’s what I did. I made a point of asking them what I could do to make their jobs easier. I spent my time trying to improve their transportation and housing. I did the best I could to establish good working conditions at the office. I encouraged them and rewarded them. I left the fulfillment of our mission to them. My mission was to take care of them.

In short, I treated them with the respect they deserved.

More tomorrow.

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