Thursday, November 13, 2003

Leadership Lessons from Iraq II 
Leaders, take the time to let your people know exactly where you stand, even on small things.

I took a stand recently against the common usage of the term “Haji.” I called the senior NCOs and platoon/section leaders together for a ‘power breakfast’and told them that I thought it was demeaning, degrading, and dehumanizing. That a lot of these people were risking their lives alongside us and I thought it was time to treat them with respect. Indeed, that I thought we couldn’t succeed in our mission until we did so.

I was wayyy outside the fat part of the bell curve on this one. This is something I don’t think anyone was expecting an officer to do. I expected to take some ribbing—maybe even ridicule. I half expected to fall flat on my face, and expend a bunch of moral capital to no avail. So I was a little cautious. I didn’t order people not to use the word “Haji.” I told them I was going to eliminate the term from my own vocabulary, and challenged them and invited them to do the same.

I did take some ribbing. But by the end of the day the Battalion commander had heard about it, too, and was correcting his own staff on the use of the word “Haji.” It’s catching on around the company. And when I slip—and I do--my troops even correct me. It’s encouraging.


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