Character is Crumbling in Leadership

Ebctnb5Dale R. Wilson, who publishes Command Performance Leadership, is one of my oldest blogfriends. He doesn’t publish as often as he used to, which is a shame, but when he does, his posts are always incisive, and important. This is no exception.

In military and civilian academic institutions around the world, above and beyond their core curriculum, character is taught and inspired.  In each of the military academies in the United States, as well as college Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs, the purpose and responsibility is to produce leaders of character.  To accomplish this, they incorporate the values of integrity, respect, responsibility, compassion, and gratitude into the daily life of cadets and midshipmen who aspire to become tomorrow’s leaders. […]

At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point character development strategy promotes living honorably and building trust.  West Point believes that their approach not only develops character, but modifies behavior over the course of the 47-month cadet experience.  Ultimately, the desire is for cadets and rotating faculty members to depart West Point with the character, competence, and commitment to build and lead resilient teams that thrive in complex security environments.  Most importantly, everyone commits to living honorably and building trust, on and off duty.

The Cadet Honor Code at West Point:

A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.[iv]

Recommended Reading: Duty, Honor, Country [Go there, if you haven’t read this lately you owe it to yourself, to see what built our country! Neo] […]

No matter what our challenges happen to be, either driven by stress or human urges, we must strive to reach deep within ourselves to overcome the temptation to make poor decisions; no matter if we are in uniform downrange, or in daily life with our family or friends.  Our country, society, superiors, peers, subordinates, family, and friends are relying on our steady and consistent moral courage to translate into professional decorum and behavior; always.

Many respected military leaders of the past espoused the vitally important qualities of a leader.  Lieutenant General John A. Lejeune, the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps said, “Leadership is the sum of those qualities of intellect, human understanding, and moral character that enables a person to inspire and control a group of people successfully.”  Among General Douglas MacArthur’s 17 Principles of Leadership, which essentially acts as a leader’s self-assessment questionnaire, there is this question: “Am I a constant example to my subordinates in character, dress, deportment and courtesy?”

via Character is Crumbling in Leadership | Command Performance Leadership

Well, are you? Frankly this isn’t something just for the military, nor is it just something for Americans. This is the essence of leadership, and servant leadership, at that. It is the ideal,the pinnacle of leadership. None of us succeed all the time, but if we wish to have a free society, we must try, and even more to the point, so must those we appoint to lead us.

Frankly, I learned this early, my dad, showed this, almost as strongly as General Marshal did, but even so, ROTC codified it for me in the saying.

First: the Mission

Second: the Men

Last: yourself

That is what I’ve always strived for, and in whatever measure I’ve been successful, it is that striving that is responsible. But, in business today, like our military, I see little of this. What I see is a selfish, uncaring of anybody but oneself attitude, that assumes that everybody is looking out for themselves. They may be right, to a point, but they (and their companies) will not find long term success, using this rubric, nor will America. Because much too often they’ll not lead, but manage, and bring that down to the level of the next quarterly bottom line. In every case that I have seen, that has led to losing the best people, and the ruination of the reputation of the brand, and often the demise of the company.

Not a good recommendation, for our companies, nor, especially, for our churches, and our military, and, emphatically not for our country.

Myths,legends and facts


“This is the West, sir, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” One of my favourite quotations from any film, and it is what the newpaper editor, Scott, says to Jimmy Stewart’s character, Ransom Stoddard at the end of The Man who shot Liberty Vallance. Even for the great John Ford, that’s some line. Stoddard, a Washington grandee, former Ambassador to the UK and likely Presidential nominee, has come back to the town of Shinbone for the funeral of a local rancher, a nobody called Tom Doniphon, and the local press want to know why: Jimmy Stewart’s character tells them a story which is not just about how the West was won, but how it became civilized.

The story began quarter of a century before, when what is now the State was a Territory – with men who wanted it to stay that way. The young Stoddard is held up by a notorious outlaw, Liberty Valance, and pistol-whipped. Doniphon, a tough local rancher, takes him back to town and sets him up with the family who run the local canteen – his love interest, Hallie helps the wounded lawyer recover, and he helps out at the canteen – eventually falling foul of Vallance – played by Lee Marvin at his brilliant best. In a scene packed with tension, Doniphon tells Valance to pick up the food that’s been spilled by him tripping ‘Ranse’ Stoddard up: it looks like there will be a shoot out – but Vallance backs away – Doniphon’s that sort of a guy.

So, we have there the old West, men are men and all that. It;s rough and tough, and if you haven’t got a gun – or don’t know how to use it – you’re not going to get far – or even live long. But Stoddard is the new order’s forerunner. He believes in the law, sets up an office in Shinbone and works with the local editor as the Territory moves towards statehood.

Doniphon tries to help Stoddard adapt to the ways of the West, but an attempt to teach him how to use a gun is a failure. But Valance and his type are not to be stopped by the law. They beat up the editor and burn down the newspaper offices, and Valance challenges Stoddard to fight him. The first two shots see ‘Ranse’ injured, and he drops his gun – Valance, wanting to rub it in tells him to pick it up – sure the next shot will be right between the eyes – but to everyone’s surprise, the next shot kills Valance. Hallie runs to help the wounded Ranse. Doniphon, who actually fired the shot, sees that he has, in saving Stoddard, lost Hallie – he goes back home, drinks himself into a rage and burns his house down – being saved by his faithful retainer.

At the convention where the vote for who should represent the Territory in Washington is to be taken, Stoddard is challenged by a rival, who says that he should not be trusted because he shot a man. Soddard hesitates, wondering if that is actually the case – should a gun fighter be a politician. Doniphon removes his doubts by telling him the truth about the man who shot Liberty Valance. The rest is history, Stoddard becomes Governor, Senator and Ambassador, marries Hallie and has the career which opened up to men of his type as the United States moved towards its manifest destiny. Now Doniphon is dead, it is time to tell the truth – but the press don’t want the truth – the legend does them just fine.

So Doniphon, who had saved Stoddard’s life and made his career possible, dies alone and unheralded – but not quite, Hallie and Ranse have not forgotten him, or who he was, and who he was was more important than what he did. He did what he did because of who he was. He was the sort of man who did the right thing because it never occurred to him to do the other thing.

This is Ford’s world at its best – there’s no one does the old world making way for the new better. He admires the values of the old West, and he sees them re-embodied in a different form in the new. Doniphon and Stoddard are two sides of the same coin. Their integrity shines through – and Doniphon is all the more believable for not behaving like a plaster saint when he knows he has lost Hallie. Plaster saints neither won, nor will the hold, the West. And now, as then, the media prefer the legend to the facts!

It only encourages them?

God-Bless-AmericaNeo is not the only one among us who, contemplating the political scene, wonders whether there’s a point blogging about it. The rhetoric on all sides has become as toxic as the feelings which seem to prompt it. We seem to have forgotten that of all the things which make life worthwhile, and of all the things which add to the sum of human happiness, politics is among the least; it is meant to be a means to an end – not an end in itself. When you have professional politicians, you must expect them to disagree – to them it is their life. But there is no use our protesting ‘attack ads’ when we cheer those from ‘our side’ whilst condemning those from the ‘other side’. If you forget you are all Americans, you risk forgetting what matters most.

For a Brit, watching American political ads is an odd experience. UK law does not allow you to make stuff up for the purpose of smearing your opponents and then to broadcast it 24/7. It may be a restriction on free speech, but it is also a bulwark against cheap speech. Lest we forget, words are the coin in which politicians pay their tribute to ‘we the people’; we could do so much more by way of ensuring that those words were worth the paper they often, nowadays, were never written on in the same place. Decent people should be ashamed of politicians who need to talk about the size of their male organs in public; they should be ashamed of those who brazenly lie and call it ‘misspeaking’ – but if ‘we the people’ applaud like fans at a ball game, then the politicos will carry on doing it. They are not stupid, nor are they advised by stupid people – they do these things because the pollsters tell them it is worth spending millions of dollars lying; then we wonder why, once in office, we find we cannot trust them? We have shown we can be bought cheap, so we shall be sold cheap, too.

It has always been the case that in making a speech, politicians think that they have solved a problem when, at best, they have drawn attention to it. We have had much soaring rhetoric – and too little by way of delivery. But then we are an impatient and fickle people. Of course politicians will not admit to failure, because they know they will be attacked; so they get their retaliation in first. They over-promise because, it they don’t, the other guy will – and we’ll buy what the other guy is selling – even if it is a nine dollar bill in reality. If we act like magpies in the presence of shiny things when politicians promise them to us, they will continue to do so – and the more they do it, the more devalued the word becomes. If ‘my word is my bond’, then there are a lot of junk bonds out there peddled by junk politicians to junk voters.

Sure, we are angry. Sure, when politicians are so ready to claim they can solve all our ills, we are equally ready to blame them for their failure. We condemn the growth of a ‘victim culture’ – and play the victim ourselves. It isn’t, we say, our fault that we have politicians who devalue the currency of words and treat us like idiots – well, since ‘we the people’ are the electorate, it is hard to see who else could be to blame. These spin doctors respond to what their focus groups tell them will work; clearly no focus group says honesty will work. Yet, and I say this as a non-partisan, surely at least part of the reason that ‘the Donald’ and ‘the Bern’ have pulled in votes is that there is one authentic and honest thing in what they say – that is the authentic note of anger felt by an America which feels betrayed, which feels it is getting lost and left behind. Well, if y’all really are mad as hell and won’t take it any more – prove it – stop voting for these people, it clearly only encourages them. What would they do then? Who knows, but it might be interesting to see.

We have, said a very great President, nothing to fear but fear itself. We can all blame the other lot for the state of the nation’s politics – it sure is easier than blaming the people who vote for them. If we will not be true to our values and the things that matter, or if we don’t think that ‘we the people’ have enough in common in terms of values, then that union which was established on these shores to defend life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, will dissolve – and it might be that we lose so much more than we can see.

Nancy Reagan RIP, and a bit from Jim deMint

Official White House photograph of Nancy Reaga...

Official White House photograph of Nancy Reagan, wife to then-President of the United States Ronald Reagan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before we start, word has come that Nancy Reagan died yesterday morning, this is how an era ends. made me think of a bit of T.S. Elliot from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled

She’ll be missed! RIP and enjoy being with Ronnie again.

The Reagans knew as much as anyone about building a conservative movement, and so it may be fitting to add this here because Jim deMint know a fair amount about it himself. Genevieve Wood tells us:

Candidates for federal and state office are running successfully on conservative ideas—cutting government spending, protecting religious liberty, repealing Obamacare—that have taken hold over the past five years, Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint says.

Common Sense, Nebraska Style

D7idMyaSThe other day, my junior Senator, Ben Sasse, had a few things to say about Donald’s Trump’s candidacy. he was plain spoken and right, I think.


***No, I’m not a career politician. (I had never run for anything until being elected to the U.S. Senate fifteen months ago, and I ran precisely because I actually want to make America great again.)
***No, I’m not a lawyer who has never created a job. (I was a business guy before becoming a college president in my hometown.)
***No, I’m not part of the Establishment. (Sheesh, I had attack ads by the lobbyist class run against me while I was on a bus tour doing 16 months of townhalls across Nebraska. Why? Precisely because I was not the preferred candidate of Washington.)
***No, I’m not concerned about political job security. (The very first thing I did upon being sworn in in January 2015 was to introduce a constitutional amendment for term limits – this didn’t exactly endear me to my new colleagues.)
***No, I’m not for open borders. (The very first official trip I took in the Senate was to observe and condemn how laughably porous the Texas/Mexican border is. See 70 tweets from @bensasse in February 2015.)
***No, I’m not a “squishy,” feel-good, grow-government moderate. (I have the 4th most-conservative voting record in the Senate:…/member/S001197)

In my very first speech to the Senate, I told my colleagues that “The people despise us all.” This institution needs to get to work, not on the lobbyists’ priorities, but on the people’s:

Now, to the question at hand: Will I pledge to vote for just any “Republican” nominee over Hillary Clinton?

Let’s begin by rejecting naïve purists: Politics has no angels. Politics is not about creating heaven on earth. Politics is simply about preserving a framework for ordered liberty – so that free people can find meaning and happiness not in politics but in their families, their neighborhoods, their work.


Now, let’s talk about political parties: parties are just tools to enact the things that we believe. Political parties are not families; they are not religions; they are not nations – they are often not even on the level of sports loyalties. They are just tools. I was not born Republican. I chose this party, for as long as it is useful.

If our Party is no longer working for the things we believe in – like defending the sanctity of life, stopping ObamaCare, protecting the Second Amendment, etc. – then people of good conscience should stop supporting that party until it is reformed.


Now, let’s talk about voting: Voting is usually just about choosing the lesser evil of the most viable candidates.

“Usually…” But not always. Certain moments are larger. They cause us to explicitly ask: Who are we as a people? What does the way we vote here say about our shared identity? What is actually the president’s job?


The president’s job is not about just mindlessly shouting the word “strong” – as if Vladimir Putin, who has been strongly bombing civilian populations in Syria the last month, is somehow a model for the American presidency. No, the president’s core calling is to “Preserve, Protect, and Defend the Constitution.”

Before we ever get into any technical policy fights – about pipelines, or marginal tax rates, or term limits, or Medicare reimbursement codes – America is first and fundamentally about a shared Constitutional creed. America is exceptional, because she is at her heart a big, bold truth claim about human dignity, natural rights, and self-control – and therefore necessarily about limited rather than limitless government.


America is the most exceptional nation in the history of the world because our Constitution is the best political document that’s ever been written. It said something different than almost any other government had said before: Most governments before said that might makes right, that government decides what our rights are and that the people are just dependent subjects. Our Founders said that God gives us rights by nature, and that government is not the author or source of our rights. Government is just our shared project to secure those rights.

Government exists only because the world is fallen, and some people want to take your property, your liberty, and your life. Government is tasked with securing a framework for ordered liberty where “we the people” can in our communities voluntarily build something great together for our kids and grandkids. That’s America. Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of association, freedom of speech – the First Amendment is the heartbeat of the American Constitution, of the American idea itself.


So let me ask you: Do you believe the beating heart of Mr. Trump’s candidacy has been a defense of the Constitution? Do you believe it’s been an impassioned defense of the First Amendment – or an attack on it?

Which of the following quotes give you great comfort that he’s in love with the First Amendment, that he is committed to defending the Constitution, that he believes in executive restraint, that he understands servant leadership?

Statements from Trump:
***“We’re going to open up libel laws and we’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before.”
***“When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. They were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak…”
***Putin, who has killed journalists and is pillaging Ukraine, is a great leader.
***The editor of National Review “should not be allowed on TV and the FCC should fine him.”
***On whether he will use executive orders to end-run Congress, as President Obama has illegally done: “I won’t refuse it. I’m going to do a lot of things.” “I mean, he’s led the way, to be honest with you.”
***“Sixty-eight percent would not leave under any circumstance. I think that means murder. It think it means anything.”
***On the internet: “I would certainly be open to closing areas” of it.
***His lawyers to people selling anti-Trump t-shirts: “Mr. Trump considers this to be a very serious matter and has authorized our legal team to take all necessary and appropriate actions to bring an immediate halt…”
***Similar threatening legal letters to competing campaigns running ads about his record.

And on it goes…


Given what we know about him today, here’s where I’m at: If Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee, my expectation is that I will look for some third candidate – a conservative option, a Constitutionalist.

I do not claim to speak for a movement, but I suspect I am far from alone. After listening to Nebraskans in recent weeks, and talking to a great many people who take oaths seriously, I think many are in the same place. I believe a sizable share of Christians – who regard threats against religious liberty as arguably the greatest crisis of our time – are unwilling to support any candidate who does not make a full-throated defense of the First Amendment a first commitment of their candidacy.

Conservatives understand that all men are created equal and made in the image of God, but also that government must be limited so that fallen men do not wield too much power. A presidential candidate who boasts about what he’ll do during his “reign” and refuses to condemn the KKK cannot lead a conservative movement in America.


Thank you for listening. While I recognize that we disagree about how to make America great again, we agree that this should be our goal. We need more people engaged in the civic life of our country—not fewer. I genuinely appreciate how much many of you care about this country, and that you are demanding something different from Washington. I’m going to keep doing the same thing.

But I can’t support Donald Trump.


Ben Sasse

An impressive guy, I think, and I’m quite proud that he’s my senator. He’s also very correct.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that it is St. David’s Day, the patron Saint of Wales. My Welsh-born colleague here would tear a strip off like you wouldn’t believe. So, while Wales may not be for most of us our native country. I think we all should join in to respond to Jessica, “Cymru am byth” For if there is one thing Americans know about, it that longing for home that is best-called hiraeth. Poets, and warriors, not to mention beautiful women, an enviable bunch, the Welsh.


A sense of betrayal?

Ketchup Kerry

Churchill said that democracy was the worst possible form of government – except for all the others. Democracy is, when you think about it, an odd form of government – it operates on the assumption that the majority is right, which is, to say the least, a debatable proposition. It is always mediated through some system of government designed to iron out the dangers of what Mill called the ‘tyranny of the majority’. From Robespierre to Lenin, Stalin and Mao, many of the major atrocities of the last couple of centuries were carried out in ‘the name of the people’; a politician who invokes that mantra seems to feel himself dispensed from the moral imperatives which are supposed to guard us against tyranny.

Yet, in our own times, it is not that danger which stalks our politics, but rather the other, and less appreciated one of interest groups. Democratic politics is expensive (though there is no intrinsic reason it should be) and politicians need to garner great ‘war chests’ even to get a chance of high office. In the UK we have restrictions on what can be spent during an election period, but there are no restrictions between times – except that large donations have to be declared. If an MP gets a ‘safe’ seat – that is one where his party holds a considerable majority – he can stay in the Commons for decades. In the USA, except for the President, there are no term limits, and a Senator or Congressman can build himself an impregnable fortress. But all of this takes money, and for many of us, it seems as though our politicians are somewhat in hock to big business. The appeal of Mr Trump (quite lost on me, as on most Europeans) seems to rest in part on the fact that he’s at least spending his own money and can’t ‘be bought’.

Politics is, if you think about it, an odd business. What sort of person wants to hold high public office, to take the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and all for what? Politicians will say they want to do good for the public, but there are many ways of doing that which don’t involve leaving home, living in the nation’s capital for a large part of the year, and listening to mind numbing ‘debates’ (which are seldom anything of the sort). My old College politics tutor used to say that such people were ‘megalomaniac narcissists, verging on the sociopathic’, which, while a bit on the harsh side in some cases, has much to be said for it. He used to say their hobbies were ‘adultery, booze and ambition’. We hear much of the need for our politicians to be representative of us – perhaps in these senses they are.

Politicians are a necessary evil in a democracy. We need them, and if we are not inclined that way ourselves, we are not in a strong position to complain about the type of person who takes it up as a career. We’re told sometimes it would be better if politics was not a career, and myself, I think term-limits a good idea, but there is no getting away from the fact that only certain types of people will want to get into politics for the long-term.

The real criticism is, I think, that our politicians give the impression of caring more about their corporate sponsors than they do the electorate. That may, of course, have always been the case, but at least they used to pretend it wasn’t; there might, after all, be something to be said for having actors in political life – at least they know how to deliver the script.

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