Leadership skills and Decision Making. The following is the opening chapter of a book I just acquired. I've no intention to violate copyright or cheat the author, but since this book is quite hard to find, out of print (and expensive if you can find it), I've taken the liberty of reproducing the first chapter here since I believe this has useful advice for everyone, not just those in the military.
It would sadden me greatly to think that people who hear of this book will try to say that it shows that I am a violent man. Throughout my life, both in the Army and out, I have wished for and worked for a humane, just and reasoned world. There is no doubt that when I served this country as a soldier and officer I killed enemy soldiers and I would do so again if called upon to serve in battle. There is equally no doubt that I never killed or tortured civilians, women, children, unarmed enemy soldiers or prisoners of war. Moreover, I never condoned such acts and constantly struggled to prevent the commission and cover-up of such crimes. My efforts to prevent such crimes led to the ending of my Army career. I have always believed that such acts are intolerable and I will continue to speak out against them as long as I have breath to do so.
War involves killing, and those who say otherwise are unrealistic at best. No war, however, need involve more than killing the armed enemy who will otherwise kill you. We need to understand this and be prepared to defend ourselves if and when the need arises. I want this book to increase understanding of those survival needs and truths. And no more. Compassion, respect for life and human dignity and, above all, honor, must distinguish us if we are worthy of surviving. I trust and hope that we will prove to be worthy of survival.
The information compiled in this text has been gleaned from terrorists' papers and pamphlets, U.S. Government printing office publications, special CIA manuals and memoranda, black books, FBI Gray papers, and Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard manuals.
It is presented: (1) as a source, for fighters everywhere, which is compact enough to have with you, under even the most austere conditions, for instant reference, and (2) to make accessible to all who care, what has previously been the property of only those who have so many times used such information and skills to our disadvantage - in order that good men may have an equal Opportunity at survival.
The text will undoubtedly be criticized, by the ignorant, as a manual for terrorists. But, terrorists don't need it; they already have the information. It will likely be criticized as grist for the young. But, anyone who can pay the price is not "young" by any stretch of the imagination. And, it will be criticized as "too expensive". But, even the most cursory scanning of its contents belies that fact.
Knowledge is neither good nor evil. It is truth. How it is utilized, for good or evil, is the responsibility of man. This specific information can only be used, much like a surgeon's scalpel, to go after very special isolated targets. Let those who advocate the use of atomic, nuclear and neutron bombs look to themselves for what and who is good or evil. And let each look to his own judgments as revelations of what is his own character and personality.
Our military, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, are at very best inadequately trained and improperly conditioned for their primary mission - war. Ours are taught to spit-shine boots and starch uniforms, while the enemies' learn to utilize camouflage. Ours are taught to hold their rifles at present arms at embassies while theirs are taught to shoot. Ours are trained to march in parades and to stand as honor guards for dignitaries' dinners, while theirs are trained how to trot overland cross country fifty miles in a night arriving not winded and ready to ambush. Ours are conditioned to slop down some 4,000 calories a day chugalugged with coke and beer, while theirs train their bodies to cut down from their present l000 a day to 800, and to drink swamp water. We are taught to send ours out to die by politicians who couldn't care less, as long as it requires no personal sacrifice from them or theirs, while theirs are trained, conditioned and sent forth - to Win.
This text has been prepared with one overriding purpose - to give to ours those same understandings, skills and confidence, which will permit ours, with their physical and mental advantages, to reverse that trend.
Leadership is explained, by the giants or big dragons of industry, psychology, and the senior military command, as some strange and wonderful mystical something which enables one individual to lead others, which is nonsense. There's nothing strange, wonderful or mystical about leadership. One man leads only because other men follow - either willingly or out of fear. Willingly is preferred. Men follow another man willingly when the rewards for following him are greater than the rewards to be gained by going it without him leading. Therefore, the key of getting other men to follow willingly is to be capable of providing a benefit or benefits they feel less sure of attaining should they not follow.
You can learn to be capable of providing those benefits. The idea is to be able to provide what the others lack - courage, decision making skills and knowledge or expertise in the area of importance.
None of these are abstract traits; they are all concrete, exact, measurable skills, which can be learned.
Courage, stripped away from the poetry, is no more than performance in a situation or environment in a way others within that same situation or environment admire, because they feel it to have been beyond their own capabilities. Sometimes, it means no more than just "keeping cool", when others can't. Sometimes it means a little more, like staying in control of your and their environment, when they have lead themselves to believe that same environment is in control and they are now in effect its victims. Environments or situations span the spectrum from the battlefield to the office - from fighting as a member of a team or facing certain death alone, from having to stand by unable to help while loved ones die, having to accept the responsibility for everything and anything which occurs within your environment.
No one is ever solely a victim. In the worst of most damaging of situations each man has a variety of ways in which he can act or go. The outcomes therefore are the result of actions and not the result of being forced by the situation to react in the only way still possible. Where one man drowns, another man enjoys a swim, because he has learned a skill. Learn, then, those skills which are important to your survival. Courage is. And courage can be learned.
Right now stop. Convince yourself of a truth we banter about so lightly without ever really taking the time to understand. Take the time now. Really consider and think about this next sentence. "Everyone has to die." It's true. It's really so. Everyone of us are truly, without question, going to die. Get it into your head. Convince yourself. Take the time, now, and actually convince yourself of that one most important fact of your life - You Are Going To Die. The only questions remaining are "When" and How
When? No one knows. It could occur at any time. How? It can be with courage or in fear. You can not control the "When". But you' can the "How". Just make sure you're not caught unaware. Don't get caught dying a coward when you can go with even less difficulty as a hero. So don't put off being brave. Teach yourself now. Begin to be courageous now, and continue to be, each time, as if it is the last chance you're ever going to get to go out in a blaze of glory. Try it. It doesn't take long. And, before long, it'll become habit. If you're going to die, and you are, then why the hell not take advantage of the situation and play out the "How" as your choice, instead of as if it were someone else's. Make up your mind to die when the time comes like a man and, you'll begin to live like a man, right then.
In the words of Omar Khayyam:
While the Rose blows along the River Brink, With old Khayyam the Ruby Vintage drink: And when the Angel with his darker Draught Draws up to Thee-take that, and do not shrink. And that inverted Bowl we call the Sky Where under crawling coop't we live and die, Lift not thy hand to It for help-for It Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.
Besides, you as a soldier have it made, even more so. The odds of dying on the battlefield are minimal. Few fighters ever get hit in a firefight. Of those who do, less than 1 in 4 die as a result of these wounds.
Of more than 30 million U.S. who served in our recent wars to include World War I, World War 11, Korea, and Vietnam, representing in excess of 480 million man years, some 450,000 died. Subtract those who were killed in accidents, by our own so called "friendly fire", etc. and it would reduce this number to an even more significantly smaller figure. Even without doing so, however, it means that the odds of getting killed on the battlefield in war are less than 1 in a 1000 per year as compared to the standard death rate in the U.S. of 1 in 16.
Be bold and you can reduce these odds even more significantly. Bold aggressive action puts the enemy on the defense. Attack. He ceases firing, gets his head down or else bugs out. Either one, it ends up with less rounds coming your way and your chances for survival increasing. In Vietnam, I took my unit in on "birds" right on top of both the Vietcong and the North Viet Regulars. My COs, General John Barnes and Colonel Joseph Ross Franklin considered it stupid. Against the Russians or Chinese, it might prove to be so. Each decision has to be made in the light of a particular time and place, And, in Vietnam we were not fighting Russians or Chinese. In Vietnam, we held all the marbles, except leadership and guts at the highest levels. At the level I operated, we had more than enough for both.
I had seen that if the "birds landed on an LZ short of the objective, our troops had to cross minefields and booby trapped yardage, while being cut down by a dug-in enemy, holed up in a village, who then had time to pack-up and move-out, before we could close in and destroy them.
If we came in on top of them, then there were no mine fields to cross. Nor was there any time for them to move under command control. Each of them was suddenly on his own and faced with a very fact to be decided and irreversible decision. He could drop his rifle, and surrender. He could drop it and run. Or he could stand and fight, and die. And, surprisingly, despite what we are so erroneously forced fed, Orientals aren't any more anxious to die than we are. My unit killed and captured more than the 4 other battalions combined, within our same brigade. My battalion lost 2 men; the smallest casualty rate in Vietnam. It was considered by commanders who never personally ever dropped an enemy or led men into a firefight, as "luck". They were wrong.
'Boldness, guts, audacity, wins battles, while at the same time reducing our own counts of dead and wounded. It enhances your own survival opportunities, immensely'.
Force the odds. But force them in your favor. Be bold. Be extremely aggressive. Be courageous. Remember that most times what those around me considered courage was no more than my putting into actions decisions based on prior planning, I was prepared for what others around me were not prepared for. When I analyzed it later, it came down to the fact that I had confidence in my skills and in me. If there were room for me to maneuver, I could win. And I knew it.
What this means to you, the leader in action, is, don't give up your greatest asset on the battlefield - the room to fire and maneuver. If you preplan too much, for anything, it holds you and your men to a scheme which is too tight. Eliminate long, detailed, attack orders, defense orders and patrol orders, which even you, because you can't remember them, had to write down, but which you expect privates to recall by rote, under fire. It's ridiculous. Use your head. Quit listening to bullshit laid down by fake leaders.
The 5 paragraph field order of the Patrol Order Card have become a list of rules instead of aids. It's an aid. It's not a dictum. You are the leader, not a piece of paper. Lead.
The Patrol Order Card covers the 5 paragraph field order - how to move, shoot, and to communicate. It can be used by everyone from the private to the 5 star general. Get one. Carry one. But make use of it; don't let it use you.
Battles are won, or lost, by men. Nowhere has this been more convincingly proven than in Vietnam where we had "everything" but what we needed - leaders. We had "leaders" who had been trained by our schools "to win", but who had been conditioned in those same schools "to lose".
You and I have repeatedly been to class after class where some clown of an instructor had decided the way to get our attention was to shock us into listening through the use of fear. "If you don't learn", He starts off his class by saying, "and remember what is taught here today it may cost you, not only your life but the lives of your entire command. While in truth the psychological facts are, that even if you did listen and learn you still will due to the proactive and retroactive inhibition, motivated forgetting and trace decay, forget it all within a very few months. Or two years later you'll be lucky if you can recall as little as 2% of it. So, since you have to be, according to him, able to recall it all to survive in battle - you're dead. So you hide like a rabbit, since you have forgotten what you needed to be a tiger. "The night belongs to the VC", you say. And you believe it. He assured you. You are a loser.
Or the jackass that introduces his class by pointing out that we are all products of a sports-car- TV-society, which needs lights to even get to the bathroom. "But", he informs us, "the enemy spends more than 2/3rds of his life in total darkness. He moves around his scenery without benefit of even candles. "Today's class, he lets us know, will teach us to "use the starlight scope", and make us "equal" to the tasks ahead in night combat." He continues. He demonstrates the wonders and the technology of the starlight scope. But when you go into battle, two years later, there are no such scopes available. In the deep recesses of your being you are now no longer "equal at night". In your guts you remember the instructors comments about the enemy at night and the pitch he gave you about being a product of a sports-car- TV society. You "know" you are not only not superior to the enemy, you are "not equal". "The night belongs to the VC". Bullshit.
The truth is that the night belongs to the best soldiers. It belongs to those who understand it and can best make use of it. It belongs to those with the knowledge and skills for operating most effectively in the dark. It belongs to you. If you are smart and have guts.
In addition, night vision depends upon health. It does not correspond to day-light vision. And, you are from the singularly most healthy population on this earth. You can see better at night than any potential enemy in the world. You're bigger. You're healthier. You've got more skills. The problem is, you have been conned by instructors who don't understand the psychological principle of conditioning. It's up to you to reverse the procedure. Train your troops differently. Train your troops to win. Condition them to be winners.
Point out facts. Point out the truth. Tell it like it is. Starlight scopes are a super battlefield edge to have, but it's unlikely that you'll have it. And, more importantly, you don't need it. Your Soldiers can make it without it. They can do it by learning the few simple techniques of night fighting that give an even more important edge, techniques, that can't be left behind. Teach your troops the proper techniques of superior night combat. And teach them yourself.
Point out that mistakes on the battlefield do not necessarily, and in fact rarely ever do, result in disaster. We've all made mistakes in combat.
I remember my first time ambushed. I came back and reported that everyone else had been axed but me. Then later, every other mother reported in, also as the only survivor. Everybody made it. Tell your troops the truth. The odds of getting totally whacked are nearly impossible. They'll make mistakes. We all did. And still do. We learned, and we continue to learn. They'll learn in combat, too. It's called experience.
Train and condition your troops to be fighters and winners, to go in confident as well as competent. Courage is many times no more than a description for self confidence.
There are other places besides on the battlefield where courage can be and should be displayed. The military refers to it as "courage of conviction", which is supposed to mean it's, a different kind of courage. They are incorrect, again. There is only one kind of courage - guts. If it can't be seen and/or identified then "it ain't guts" and "it ain't courage", i.e., beliefs mean nothing, unless for those same beliefs you are willing to lay your life on the line.
Nothing short of laying your life out is truly a risk. There are no real risks at all, when equated to risking your life. Yet, even merely the loss of a position or of a job dazzles most folks. It amazes the hell out of me when I observe that merely risking a job is considered courage in our society. I say "a job" not "your job" or "the job" because there are other jobs at which you can work. There are other careers available, for you. There are even other places in which you can practice your present skills. People back down in job-risk types of confrontations because they fail to understand exactly what is at stake, and their options i.e., the subjective probabilities of -possible outcomes. They fail to assess either the situation or the "enemy" (the boss in this case) or both, accurately.
What's at "stake" in effect is your total worth to yourself as a person - your self respect. Back down, and you won't like yourself. Furthermore, anyone else who learns about it will also lose some, if not all of what respect they had for you. And, one of them who loses that respect for you will be the exact guy from whom you just backed down. In bottom lines as, back down and you lose; face the fire and you win. You win, the respect of your subordinates, your contemporaries, and most importantly, your own respect for yourself.
This means more to you than you might, at first reading, be ready to admit. So, take a few moments to review it in your mind's eye. Consider just exactly how many times you've reported to your wife, your girlfriend, your parents, or your friends accurately what "I told the boss when he said. . . . ." What you more than likely reported was not what you had said, but what you wished you would have said if you had had the courage to have said it.
Well, if you wished you had said it, next time begin making your wishes come true. Next time, be assertive (not aggressive). Say in clear, not angry, tones, what you will later feel good about reporting to those around you, you had said. It helps, sometimes, when it gets shaky, to picture those whose respect you want, to be sitting there listening as you talk. Then present yourself in a way that would gain the type of respect you'd like to have from them.
Earn your respect. You'll feel a hell of a lot better about yourself. Your boss also has a boss. This gives you options. In the military, as in any business, the boss's boss is always a viable option, of which you can make use. In other words, your boss doesn't want his boss to have to get into the act. It's damaging to your boss's reputation. First, even if his boss backs him up, it means to his boss that your boss couldn't handle it on his own. No boss or commander can afford to have his superiors feel that he couldn't cut the mustard in his own command. (Senior commanders don't like waves and every subordinate commander knows it). Secondly, the senior commander may, for his own welfare, have to over-rule your immediate boss. This results in extreme embarrassment for both of them. Senior commanders don't appreciate that either. Third, your immediate superior generally has a lot more at stake than you, to lose. If your boss is a Captain and you're a Lieutenant or Sergeant, you may have to sacrifice a year or more of investment, but he has extra years-plus at stake, and he's well aware of it. Remember, too, that if he is as strong a leader as he should be, or thinks he is, then there probably wouldn't have been a flap in the first place. He likely can't tolerate stress too well. So, don't be a fool. Don't let him bluff you. If you feel you are in the right, call his hand. Be prepared to lay everything on the line. He more than likely isn't. If you don't feel you are in the right, though, and aren't ready to go the entire route, then don't make an issue in the first place. Fold. Just keep in mind that you do have the option of going over your immediate superior's head. Don't make excuses for yourself that in your particular case you can't go all the way to the top, if it's worth it. If it's not, I say again, don't take up the cudgel in the first place. Get back in ranks and shut up, because you're not a leader, you're a follower. And, a fool.
He wins and you lose is the most expected but highly unlikely outcome. If you stick to your guns.
He wins, you lose is extremely unlikely, if you don't falter, because if you are prepared to go all the way to his superior, he never wins. You may not win either, but then it's both lose. He knows this. So let's say it does occur, at least from your vantage point. So what? What have you lost? His respect? You never had it in the first place or he would have backed you; and trusted in your judgment. Your job? Not likely. Prestige? Not that either. Think about it.
The probabilities of winning against a senior are better than most sergeants, lieutenants, and other subordinates realize. This is so for some of the preceding reasons, such as your senior not wanting it to go over his head and out of his control, etc. But it is also so, because the strong senior is generally an individual with a confidence based on his own accomplishments and is willing to hear you and to let you make errors - because he knows damn well from past experience that he has the power to absorb your errors without his command falling to pieces. He knows he can handle the damages. This means, also, that if you're competent, you can permit your subordinates to make errors, too, because you can handle them; you can then turn them into teaching points for future improvements within your command.
Not to use them for "I told you so" comments but rather as a basis for teaching a better way. Don't make the mistake ever of using the errors of subordinates to get a point across at the cost of their dignity and their self-respect.
In fact, to never strip a subordinate of his dignity and self respect is a fundamental principle which should be incorporated into the basis of our entire combat training schools system, such as in the Ranger Department, Advanced Infantry Schools, Artillery Schools, Basic Training, Parachute Training, etc.
The present system doesn't hack it. The way it goes now, we teach a few fundamentals, verbally, and send the troops out to commit a bundle of errors. Then we critique the hell out of them, pointing out their errors and how it should have been done. Then we turn them loose. We also, then, move on to other problems.
Those individuals critiqued never get the opportunity to put into practice the "correct" way. This is akin to telling someone how to drive, letting him smash the car, then telling him how he should have done it, and giving him a license. The system fails.
There are better ways to teach. Teach the techniques. Then let the individuals practice them under the supervision of the instructor, who corrects their errors on the spot. Until everyone is proficient in the techniques. Then let them solo.
In Ranger School, or in your own command, this would be done by walking the individuals through a night patrol or attack in daylight under complete supervision. Then calling attention to errors on the spot. Then, rerunning that part of the patrol over correctly again on the spot. Then walking it through at night doing the same. And finally, letting them try it under simulated combat conditions, critiquing and rerunning until they have it down pat. After all, the object is to train troops, not to make jackasses out of them, in order to enhance ourselves as leaders, as is presently the case. The object of training is to teach the way to win, to show them how to do it. In training, prove to them that they can succeed, and, on tomorrow's battlefields, they will. In any war. Against any enemy whomsoever.
In "battles" with seniors, possible outcomes of any confrontation are: he wins and you lose, you win and he loses, you both lose, or you both win.
You win and he loses is not a preferred outcome, either. If you win, he'll want revenge and you'll be under the gun from that point on. If it occurs, transfer immediately. Don't gloat. Don't hang around. Get out of that unit and go - no matter how he says he accepts it.
What if you both lose? If either of the above outcomes occur, this is generally the true outcome - the possibility of a solid senior subordinate relationship has been destroyed.
The ideal outcome - for both of you - is that both win. Both of you win when you hold to your values and keep your cool, and yet are sensitive to his position as well as your own and are assertive, but not belligerent. State your case and your convictions, but be willing to hear his. Never back him into a corner. There is no way out of a corner for him but over you. Always leave him a way out, without his having to lose face. When the two of you part, the feeling should be, for you, that you didn't permit yourself to be put down, which will lead to your wanting revenge, nor, that you put him down, which will lead to your loss of respect for him, with the certain knowledge that he will retaliate in some way against you. The confrontation should terminate with both feeling that the entire negotiations have ended satisfactorily for both.
Both win, however, is not always possible. If it's not, then the next best outcome, for your self-image, is you win and he loses. But keep in mind - you transfer out immediately. And also, before you do, make a written record of what occurred. Include that you feel he will seek revenge. (He will.) Get the statement notarized. Mail it to yourself by registered mail. Then file it for future use. Don't open the envelope's seal. Put it in a safety deposit box or with a lawyer. Now you -have a valid court document - dated.
If he does win, and you lose, however, don't flee. Hang in there and perform. Don't bad mouth him, and don't try to even the score. In the end, you'll both be winners again. He'll likely learn to respect you, if he didn't. Besides, he was senior; it was expected, he would win. What's unexpected is your acceptance of it - like a man. Take your lumps; they're part of learning, also. More experience.
Decision - making skills can be learned even more easily. They are extremely less complicated, than most have believed until very recently. As late as only two or three years ago though certain individuals could make decisions quite readily, yet no one had been able to get a specific handle on their processes, or was able to translate them into a teachable technique, which could serve for all decision-making processes for us as for them under any type of circumstances.
However, recently, psychologists, have overcome that short-coming in a grand style that should go down as one of the greatest achievements in modern psychology, if not in all of history.
Competency and confidence in decision-making skills is what differentiates the top-notch leaders from the others, the successful from the failures. It is also, a technique which, like courage, can be learned. Easily.
Most texts, speakers, social scientists, etc., would lead us to believe there are varied decision-making processes; one for business management, one for life and death situations, one for computer programming, etc. Not so. There is only a single decision-making process.
Most writers seem to imply that decision-makers should act in a cool, detached, and totally objective manner, while in the process of making a decision. Crap. Adrenalin pumps on the battlefield. And, I wouldn't want it any other way. It's our bodies physically preparing themselves for fight and/or flight. It's a gift to us from evolution. We are not cool, detached, and calculating, as a Doctor Strangelove in a computer room. We're hot. Decision-making on the battlefield, in a fire-fight, or under any type of pressure is a hot process. Much as one is faced with in a crisis such as being caught in a burning night club.
As one becomes more and more aware of having to measure up to a decision and the risks involved, serious conflict becomes evident. The individual who has just had such a responsibility loaded onto him suddenly becomes extremely apprehensive. He begins to look for ways out from under the responsibility. He starts to mentally kick himself in the ass for having let himself get boxed in to having to make the decision in the first place. Many of those confronted with such decision-making responsibilities after short periods of time develop ulcers. The magnitude of the stress they're under appears to depend on the extent of the losses foreseeable should the decision be an incorrect one.
But such stress doesn't have to interfere with the process of decision-making. It can facilitate the process. It can give it impetus. It can get you started. It can, when the walls start closing in on you, keep you going. It's energy. It can be utilized. If you have a plan - a step-by-step formula leading constructively towards a decision - it can work for you. It also can be a long, drawn-out process. Or in some cases, it can occur in a flash. Either way, the formula for consistently good decision-making remains unchanged.
In every decision, the decision maker is faced with answering only five basic questions. Most require a simple "yes" or "no" in order to arrive at a decision which will work. Or, at least to get you moving in the correct direction.
The first question the decision-maker asks himself, whether leading a frontal assault against a dug-in enemy a mite tougher than anticipated, or sitting in that night club that has just caught fire, is "are the risks too great to keep on the way I'm headed?" If the answer is "no", then no sweat. Go after the machine guns and other automatic weapons first and over run the position. If you're in the bar at the night club, order another cool one and sip up, while they or the fire company takes care of the heat.
But if the answer to your question is "yes", or "baby, there's gotta be a better way", then it's time to progress to question two. "Are there risks in the most readily available alternative, i.e., retreat, or in the case of the fire, making a break for it." If the answer is "no", i.e., that there are no risks, then do it. There's no problem.
But if the answer to question Two is "yes", then it's time to move on to question Three - "What other alternatives are possibly available?"
It works best for me at this time, if I ask myself question Four along with Three, i.e., "Do I have enough time, or how much time do I have to explore other possible alternatives?" It's key. Because if I have time, then I can gather information, facts, etc., which will let me better weigh the other alternatives available, leading me towards a better decision. When there's no time, I have to make the best of what is a somewhat "snap judgment". Some people, when there's "no time", panic, They grab at the first alternative. They charge blindly ahead, into the enemy, and get a lot of men dead along with themselves. Or in a fire, they head to where everyone else is headed. They go along with the crowd. And are later found stacked up, with the others, dead at one exit, while virtually every other exit from the building remained untried.
So if there are other alternatives, and there is time to plan, study those alternatives and select one. Then once selected, put every last damn bit of your muscle and brain into making it work. It will work. Even if it wasn't the best alternative available, it'll work. A second-rate decision, with all you have put into it to make it work, will work. A first-class decision, too late, or not backed with all you have, generally will fail. Make the alternative you select work. You can. It will.
There are pitfalls, in questions three and four combined, for entrapment. If you're not careful. But the beauty of knowing these possibilities are, that when you see others in the chain of command demonstrating anyone of them, you'll know exactly at what point they are in the process of making a decision and can act accordingly.
One of the major pitfalls is "procrastinating". Sometimes when a decision maker has too much time in which to decide, or no deadline for announcing a decision, he procrastinates. When you find yourself doing it, recognize why, - you're running, trying to avoid tension by putting off the decision-making requirement until "later". When you recognize a senior doing it, realize he's unsure of himself and prepare for the worst - work out a solution of your own for the problem. Because, as the deadline approaches, he will begin to panic, or to grasp for any solution to be announced and for which you may be held accountable for making work. If it's a subordinate procrastinating, recognize it for what it is, and offer help.
And always remember, the way to eliminate procrastinating is to set a deadline date. "I want it done by tomorrow afternoon at three o'clock," etc.
The second major pitfall is "buck-passing". One way to escape the tension-packed world of having to make decisions is to pawn the responsibility for making them off onto someone else's shoulders. Leaders do this with major problems, when they lack guts. Don't pawn off, just because you can't handle it. Delegate authority; but remain responsible. The responsibility is yours for self and subordinates. When a senior passes the buck to you and you understand, you at least know who is the better man. Accept it.
Do the best you can. He couldn't do it at all, or he wouldn't have passed the buck. You can't lose. So enjoy yourself and make the best decision you can.
A third possible pitfall is "bolstering". Bolstering is what someone does when they dwell on the positive aspects of something while neglecting or downplaying the negatives of other alternatives in order to convince themselves that they had made the best choice. It's a kind of over-sell. It doesn't do much harm, if it's necessary just to keep your head up and moving forward. But it can be dangerous when it interferes with reality testing. Then, again, either, or who needs it? Make a choice. Commit yourself. If it fails, then start over at question one and test it out again, and join the crowd of the rest of us who are supposed to be such elite leaders and are. I've made thousands of errors in judgments. I'll likely make thousands more. But I succeed. I've pushed a lot of second rate decisions into major successes. Because one thing, I maintain in my head, I know every other successful leader has done the same. I, also, know I'm better. I can only guess at what made or makes them tick; I know what makes me tick. So, I choose to go with what I know, me. You be smart - go with you. You can do it.
It leads to the fifth question - "Is it over?" If your answer is "yes", then you're finished. But the answer must always, for the leader, be "no", Decision-making is a continuous process. The successful leader faces decision after decision. The risks change with every step of ground covered. It's continuous. Yet, it's easy.
On a patrol, a leader remains in a total state of vigilance as the patrol moves. The leader who can face up to the challenge cuts risks by planning as he goes. The patrol rounds a curve and there's a knoll, forward about a quarter of a mile and on the right or north side of the trail. What if the enemy opens up from there? Does the patrol hit the ground? Maybe that's what the enemy figured? Or possibly they'd expect us to jump off to the south of the trail away from the fire? That's what I'd expect if I were the enemy. And, I'd have that side booby trapped or covered by a barrage. What would he least expect? To move off to the north? Move off deep enough and he'd at least be partially flanked? It might panic some of them also as we'd be, in effect, closing in on them. Sun would be at our back and in his eyes. Unexpected? You watch. You give the word everyone ready, to move off to the right side of the trail on order.
If you're hit; you are ready. There's no hesitation - and later you're considered a tactical genius - a hero. If so, fine; then around the next bend or over the next knoll, there's a different set of circumstances. But, keep up the good work. Hell, I can't even walk a golf course without going through the exercise from both rI1Y point of view out on the fairway, if war should ever occur and I have to move over that same scenery, and from the enemy's point of view, as well, who would be defending against me. Tactics become second nature - as does decision-making. Both are like muscles exercise them both and be ready. It's all it takes to be a leader, and a hero - courage and decision making skills. Add a few special techniques, or specialties to your repertoire and you're as the saying goes "in like Flynn".
College professors have for years been preaching the adage that knowledge is truth and truth is courage. Many of them read it or were taught it straight out of their books of philosophy and couldn't explain it if their lives depended on it. Or maybe they could. I base my conclusions on the fact that in my 12 years of college, none of them ever did, and on questioning of many of my friends to whom it was never explained either but suddenly I think, by George, a couple of years ago I got it. And it deserves repeating. I believe the first individual who made it up did understand it.
Knowledge gives us a greater understanding of what is - i.e.,the truth. The more one understands, i.e., the truth, the more adept one is at dealing with those facts. These are the same facts which dazzle others and leave them frozen in fear. They fear "snakes". The learned are only "wary" of "poisonous snakes". The learned handle blue racer snakes as friends. Those who fear "snakes" are dazzled at the blue racer's handlers "courage". Thus knowledge is truth and the truth is then seen as courage, although no actual overcoming of fear was involved. Or as one leader has said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself".
If you are in a command position, study and learn. Sometimes the most seemingly insignificant bit of knowledge may later come in handy. For myself, and you, I have tried to list those bit of info or techniques, if you will, which have been helpful to me in my military career. If they can be of benefit to you - so be it. If they are a waste, forget them. If you know a better way, let me in on it. I'll try to pass it on. We can be a team. We can spread the word and get done the job of training each other adequately, a duty our military has failed to accomplish.
The above was taken from Soldier's Handbook (Cloverleaf Press, 1979) by Lt Col Anthony B. Herbert
Anthony B. Herbert was the most decorated American Soldier of the Korean conflict earning four Silver Stars out of Korea , three Bronze Stars with a V, six battle stars, four Purple Hearts and the highest military award Turkey has (because he was fighting alongside Turks at the time). He was wounded 14 times10 by bullets, 3 by bayonet, and once by white phosphorus.
As a Lt Colonel he commanded a very highly rated battalion in Vietnam, but refused to turn a blind eye to atrocities he saw being committed. He was forced to retire from the army at the age of 41. He later earned a doctorate in psychology and become a police and clinical psychologist.