Today is Memorial Day, which should be one of the most sacred and reflective days for all Americans, but especially those who lead others. On Memorial Day, we remember those who sacrificed their lives for our country. They gave all they could give.
One of my own uncles, Alton Mowery, died in the Philippines during WWII. He was in the infamous “Bataan Death March” and died later in a prison camp. If you’ve read the book Ghost Soldiers, you’ve read his story, although he’s not mentioned by name.
My grandmother, Alton’s mother, never visited his grave in the Philippines, but every Memorial Day—and I do mean EVERY Memorial Day—she led her family to solemnly honor his sacrifice. It made an impression on me as a young boy, although it wasn’t all that exciting, as I recall.
That’s why today seems like a great time to look at leadership from the military’s perspective. The U.S. Army has a clear leadership philosophy that forms the foundation for how they train, develop, and guide their leaders. They define leadership as “influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization.”
This philosophy is expressed through what’s referred to as: “Be, Know, Do!”
- BE – refers to one’s character. It is inner strength which gives a person the courage to do what is right regardless of the situation. This character energizes a leader to develop the right attributes until they become habits. Leaders show subordinates through their actions how important character is.
- KNOW – refers to the technical skills, the ability to operate equipment, and conceptual skills. It also refers to the ability to make good decisions, as well as the interpersonal skills it requires to work well with people. Leaders are learners, and if you ever stop learning, it won’t be long until you’re no longer leading.
- DO – refers to the execution component of a leader’s responsibilities. It’s not enough for a leader to be and to know. At the end of the day: Leaders Do! They execute the mission. They communicate. They improve the organization. Things won’t improve in your city just because you have good character or just because you have an increasing base of knowledge. You have to execute.
Today we enjoy the privilege of freedom because of the sacrifice of tens of thousands of people through the years. One of the best ways to honor them is to continue to make this a country worth sacrificing for. Let’s take the time to honor their sacrifice. And then, let’s make the most of the opportunities that their sacrifices provided by becoming the best leaders we can possibly be.