Monday, January 14, 2008

Plebe Poop #1

At the United States Military Academy at West Point, we were required to commit several things to memory during freshman, or plebe, year. While they seemed like nothing more than an attempt to "haze" new cadets, much of this knowledge has stayed with me and helped shape my thoughts on leadership. Occasionally I'd like to share a few key pieces of "plebe poop" with you and see what you think. Keep in mind that not all "poop" is created equal. Some is for leader development. And some is valuable only in humoring my kids. Here is one of each:

Schofield's Definition of Discipline

The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and to give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or the other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.
-- Major General John M. Schofield Address to the Corps of Cadets August 11, 1879

What is the Definition of Leather?

If the fresh skin of an animal, cleaned and divested of all hair, fat, and other extraneous matter, be immersed in a dilute solution of tannic acid, a chemical combination ensues; the gelatinous tissue of the skin is converted into a nonputresible substance, impervious to and insoluble in water; this is leather.

The first one says a lot about how we should treat subordinates. There is still nothing to be gained by "harsh and tyrannical treatment." The second, well...I still don't think it makes any sense...but my kids love it! Hooah!

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