Thursday, October 13, 2005


Leadership is elusive and many individuals want to be leaders but few have the proper qualifications or the qualities that come with being a leader. Two men have dug deep into this subject and come up with a few startling discoveries.
IF YOU have wondered in the past what it takes to be a leader and what are
the ways to adopt in becoming one, wonder no more. This book has all the
answers to all the questions that you have ever wanted to ask.
Understandably, the military features rather prominently in the 10 well
organised chapters. Townsend and Gebhardt have ventured into the halls of
the Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force to study in depth
the methods by which leaders are made.
It is their belief that leadership is not a right bestowed at birth. It
is a trait that most of us can acquire, if the inclination exists. Thus,
at the beginning of the book, it is impressed upon the reader that
`leadership is a behaviour, not a position'.
The US Coast Guard has its own Ten Commandments for its midshipmen. The
first five are:
1. Demonstrate understanding and usage of leadership theories when
serving in a leadership position.
2. Demonstrate moral and ethical judgement.
3. Demonstrate the ability to direct and develop others.
4. Demonstrate the facility in functioning up, down and across a chain
of command.
5. Demonstrate the ability to function as an effective team member.
Most of us constantly entertain the idea that a leader is the one giving
the orders. Inadvertently, the misconception prevails that a leader is
perceived as the person who has an ability to talk and others listen.
Nothing could be further than the truth. A good leader, it is said,
begins as a good follower.
Many years ago, a very senior and exceptionally talented journalist
bellowed across the room to a bunch of wide-eyed recruits. He practically
shouted and his resounding advice lingered to this day. `You chaps will
one day give orders but before you learn to give orders, you must first
learn to take them.' Now, two decades later, some of us who still plod
along in the profession are finally realising the wisdom of those words.
A Marine Corps manual propounds that `every follower is potentially a
leader and every leader is also a follower'. This leads to the next stage
where `the most effective follower is that individual who has proven
leadership abilities and who is loyal, dependable, obedient and dedicated
to upholding his responsibilities and performing his duties to the best of
his ability, as well as exerting positive influence upon his comrades'.
There may be some of us out there who think that leadership is a no-
nonsense thing. Townsend and Gebhardt have smashed this myth to
smithereens, too.
In their exhaustive study of leaders and leadership qualities, this pair
of authors found to their great delight that tact and a sense of humour
are almost imperative in the making of a leader.
According to General George C Marshall in an Air Force leadership
manual, `a decent regard for the rights and feelings of others is
essential to leadership'.
The tale informally told as a lesson in tact goes that a senior officer
directed the sergeant to convey the sad news to a soldier that his mother
had passed away. The sergeant quickly called for the whole unit to
assemble. At the gathering, the sergeant announced loudly: `Private Jones,
your mother kicked the bucket.'
On hearing of this incident, the senior officer ticked off the sergeant
and delivered some sound advice on tact. Weeks later, Private Rodriquez's
father also passed away. The senior officer ordered the same sergeant to
inform Rodriquez of the bad news, but not before reminding him of the
previous incident.
The sergeant then called for a formation of the unit and said in front
of his men: `All those troops whose father is alive, take one step forward
... not so fast, Rodriquez.'
Patrick Townsend and Joan Gebhardt have produced a book that opens
vistas that are normally closed to non-combative citizens of the peaceful
kind. Leadership is a fascinating subject to say the least.
Now from the halls of the numerous armed forces who swore to defend the
nation and its honour come these sacred scrolls of invaluable advice. The
authors' aim is simple: We the ordinary folk, the pen-pushers or may be
just plain workers at the bottom of the professional totem pole, can also
learn to be leaders. From the point of this book, we are all equal, that
is, until some of us aspire to better ourselves and steadfastly strive to
become leaders.

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