2008 – Harper – ISBN: 978-0-06-114-776-0
Memorial Day is a time to commemorate those we have lost in war… The Vietnam war was one of the most expensive in terms of lives both before and after it ended. It was a war where tactics would begin to change from hand to hand to artilery and yet so many of our brave soldiers found themselves fighting in ways that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.
It also became a time when America was divided against herself. Honorable men were wrecked on the shores of a distant country and found themselves alone when they came home. They were spit upon and left to fend for themselves when the nightmares came.
Lt. General Hal Moore (USA RET.) and Joey Galloway are two heroes who have tried to bring closure to themselves and others like them who have seen a lifetime of war. The book, We are Soldiers Still, details trips back to the battlefields that made them the soldiers they were. While recounting the trip, each man was able to find some sense of closure and friendship with the men who they had tried hard to kill. This is an amazing story of peace and restoration. Below are some of Hal’s leadership lessons he passes on to future generations of leaders in the last chapters.
Hal Moore’s Principles
There are a number of other principles – some mine, some drawn from men I admire, like Gen. Colin Powell – that will help anyone be a better, more effective leader:
- Be dead honest and totally candid with those above and below you.
- There must be total loyalty, up and down the chain of command.
- If you have to take a subordinate to the woodshed do it in private. Praise someone in public; correct or counsel him privately. Never take a subordinate’s pride and self-respect away.
- Treat everyone fair and square, without favorites. If you discover subordinates with extraordinary talent give them the toughest jobs, not the easiest ones, and mentor them.
- Stay away from higher headquarters or corporate headquarters unless summoned. No good can come from wandering aimlessly around corridors filled with bosses alert any sign someone is underemployed.
- As you push power and decision-making authority you must also push subsequent praise and recognition for outstanding unit performance down as well. Don’t hog the glory for yourself if you want to build a superb team.
- Good leaders don’t wait for official permission to try out a new idea. In any organization if you go looking for permission you will inevitably find the one person who thinks his job is to say “NO!” It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.
- The leader in the field is always right and the rear echelon wrong, unless proved otherwise. Shift power and accountability to the people who are bringing in the beans, not the ones who are counting and analyzing them.
There are two books and a movie I would recommend this Memorial Day. The prequel to this book was amazing. If you are a military history buff, I would highly recommend reading We were Soldiers Once…and Young. Not suprisingly, it ends differently than the movie does. I would suggest viewing We were Soldiers. Between Mel Gibson, Randall Wallace, and Sam Elliot, I cannot imagine a better movie.
The second book I recommend is In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. Robert McNamara was the Secretary of Defense during two presidencies and presided over the War in Vietnam. This book really showed me some of the fallacies of thinking prevalent in American thinking about war that still exists even today. It is not for the faint of heart but for those who do not want to be doomed to repeat the lessons we have seen happen over and over again.