Leadership and Man Management

By Colonel J.A. Dextraze, DSO, OBE, Commandant of the Royal Canadian School of Infantry, Camp Borden, Ontario
Canadian Army Journal, Vol. XIV, No. 5, January 1960

Let us have a look at some of the qualities a leader must possess. … loyalty, knowledge, integrity and courage.

[This is the text of a lecture delivered by Colonel Dextraze to the 1959 graduating class (Regular Officers Training Plan) on completion of their Phase 3 training at the Royal Canadian School of Infantry. – Editor.]

I have read many papers on Leadership and Man Management. I have heard many people talk on this all-important subject and, frankly, I must say that some of those I have heard knew what they were talking about, but a great number knew very little about it.

The concept of Man Management or, if you prefer, Leadership is probably one of the most abused ideas, both in the Armed Forces and in the field of business enterprise. Too often those charged with the responsibility of leading or managing men give lip-service to the idea without understanding its meaning. Frequently when attending high level policy discussions both in business and the Service, I have realized that man management was the key to the problems under discussion. It has been considered by much better men than I: they have talked about it at great length but rarely have they succeeded in distilling their ideas to produce a formula or a specific set of rules for its most effective application.

I am sure, Gentlemen, that during the three years you have been training here at the School of Infantry you have noticed that we are applying ourselves to developing this allimportant quality in you. I do not profess to have found the ultimate solution to the problem of developing this quality in each potential officer who passes through my command. Nevertheless, I have come to certain conclusions with regard to developing leadership ability in those who attend courses at this School. The training sequence I have developed exposes the future Officers of the Regular Army to problems and situations where they must make the best use of their own inner capabilities in order to solve them. You certainly could not help but notice that we do not teach leadership only through the medium of lectures and that we have come to the conclusion that leadership is instinctive and can be reduced to a list of "do's" and "don'ts". I will come back to these in the last part of my talk.

We cannot touch the heart of this talk without defining the word "LEADERSHIP". What does it mean? Personally, I believe that Leadership is the art of influencing others to do willingly what is required in order to achieve an aim or goal.

Of course this definition is quite broad and general. It can include what may be described as autocratic or democratic leadership; as intellectual, artistic, scientific, religious or military leadership or a face-to-face relationship in which one man directs, guides and inspires the activities of others in some special way towards the attainment of a set goal. True military leadership exists when one man imposes his will upon a group of men in such a manner as to command their immediate obedience, their confidence, their respect and loyal co-operation to a point where these men will work instinctively as a team to achieve the desired objective. I am convinced that the ultimate in leadership in peace-time or in battle is the domination of the mass by the personality of the leader.

It is therefore obvious that to succeed, the would-be leader must possess certain qualities. An individual does not become a leader merely by virtue of the rank or appointment he may hold—far from it. Real determination and constant application to the fulfilment of one's duty are required.

I believe it is important for you to remember that in any field of endeavour, the leader must never forget the position he occupies and what he in fact represents. He must be worthy of the qualification with its attendant responsibilities. For instance, you, as officers of the Regular Army, by virtue of your commission, represent the Queen and the Government of Canada. Therefore, to be a true military leader you must possess certain basic qualities. Some of these must be highly developed, others may only be required to a lesser degree but they are all needed and if practised, will make you the leader your country needs.

Let us have a look at some of the qualities a leader must possess. To begin with, I think that the most important of these are loyalty, knowledge, integrity and courage.

Loyalty

You must be loyal in two ways. First, you must be loyal to your Sovereign and Government through the Army which is an instrument of the Government, and maintain this loyalty regardless of the individuals who hold office. Secondly, you must be loyal to your subordinates—and do not forget that they will be loyal to you to the same degree to which you display your loyalty to them and your own immediate superiors. Loyalty demands that you forsake personal pleasures if they conflict in any way with the performance of your duties. You have no right to take time off for amusement tonight if you should use this time to prepare for tomorrow's task. In the immediate future you will be given a platoon of men to look after, and look after them you must in every way. The demands on you will be great. The greatest task will be to maintain a delicate balance between satisfying the demands made on your loyalty to your superior and at the same time that which you owe to your platoon.

Knowledge

You must possess knowledge if you are to be efficient. If you have knowledge you will command respect not only from your subordinates but from your superiors. You must never stop learning and you must never pretend to anyone that you know something when in fact you do not. On the contrary, it is often best to admit your ignorance on a certain point under discussion and encourage whoever is speaking to you to clarify this particular subject further. In so doing you will be learning something new and making yourself more acceptable to those near you.

As you progress in rank, there will be a tendency to neglect certain matters but you must always set aside time to study them. This tendency will come naturally, as with rank you will have more privileges and more assistants to do things for you. Do not be fooled by this set of circumstances and excuse your laziness to come to grips with the detail of problems by saying, as we often hear: "I am far too busy to deal with these details", "Why should I bark when I have dogs that can bark for me", "I cannot let myself get emotionally involved in this matter", and so on. Instead, remember that to lead you must know what you are talking about and in order to do so, you must study a problem with every means at hand.

Too many people believe that setting aside time to study as one did as a student at school is old fashioned. Military leadership without knowledge never has been and never will be truly successful. In the Second World War, Adolf Hitler decided to take personal command of his General Staff and autocratically direct the course of military operations. His ego was such that he believed he had the capabilities and the knowledge to successfully plan and direct the war. He thought that because of his high position he knew all the answers, forgetting that he had never set aside time to study the art of warfare. Hence, the German Army was defeated by following the plans of an amateur.

Do not be under the impression, Gentlemen, that as you grow in rank, a piece of grey matter proportionate in size to the star put on your shoulder is automatically inserted in your head. This just doesn't happen. You may be given more authority by promotion, but you are not by the same act given additional knowledge or ability. These you acquire yourself through study and application, and this is not easy nowadays.

Integrity

Integrity means the refusal to deceive others in any way, shape or form no matter what the circumstances. The leader must take decisions and accept their results. He is the one responsible for the success or failure of his own actions. He must admit his mistakes to himself, at least, and profit by them. The leader does not try to bluff his way through or shake his responsibility off onto others. Never be afraid or ashamed to recognize your errors. You will not truly lose face by so doing. On the contrary, your subordinates will conclude that you have acted as an honest human being who has confidence in his own ability.

Courage

I would define true courage in battle as the complete awareness of the degree of danger that exists and the desire or at least the willingness to face it. I have heard many people claim that the man who is courageous suffers no fears. I believe that if this were true one could hardly be called courageous. I believe rather that courage is a quality of the mind which makes one refuse to be swayed from his aim by danger or difficulty. To me it is a quality which forces a man to marshal all his abilities and powers to overcome the hardships standing in his path. I am positive that perseverance is the heart of courage. To sum up what I have said, I believe that the courageous man is one who has succeeded in mastering his emotions and weaknesses.

The courageous leader may consider the result of his action but that must not stop him or allow it to sway him in his judgement in doing what he thinks must be done. Our modern civilized way of living affords the soldier very few opportunities to test his courage. However, in peace-time as well as in war, opportunities exist for the development of a strong personality. These strong personalities, much needed in war, should not in peace-time be stifled; rather, they should be moulded, developed and allowed to mature. You may often be accused, when you believe that you are acting in the best interests of the Service, of "rocking the boat", of acting rashly through inexperience. To some degree, this may be true as your enthusiasm will disturb the somnolence of others; however, it is better to act if you feel you are in the right than to sit back and leave a situation unsolved. Some time ago I had occasion to talk with a number of businessmen who remarked that "Indecision" at the top level of management was the most serious sickness now affecting the business world. The remark had a serious effect on me and after some considerable thought, I resolved that this "malady" was not peculiar to the field of business. In fact, this lack of decision at the required level, which in the final analysis is caused by lack of courage, is responsible for many of the problems of the world of today.

You may be taken to task for the inevitable mistakes you make in such a course of apprenticeship as a leader; but although you can incur the anger of your superiors, you will never fail to gain their respect if you can prove to them that you are honestly acting in the best interests of the Service. Similarly, you must look for and recognize this very same trait in your subordinates and apply yourselves to harness it for the success of the cause.

I could mention many other qualities inherent in leadership which are no doubt important, but in my opinion those I have just mentioned are the most vital ones. If you are loyal, and possess knowledge, integrity and courage, you will have the basic qualities required by a leader in any field of enterprise, particularly in the Canadian Armed Forces.

The success of an operation undertaken by a leader will not only depend on his capacity to lead but also on his sense of fairness. In any position of leadership or management of others, there arises the need for praise or criticism, commendation or rebuke of subordinates before the highest standard of group performance can be reached. Remember that when either rewards or punishments are required in your platoon, you must give them with impartiality and they must be merited. You will often, as leaders, have to pass judgement on your subordinates and when you are in such a position remember that you are judging another human being and that your judgement must be tempered by the circumstances. For example, a first offence is not as serious as an oft-repeated one. And when praise is due, do not reward a trifle, or commend routine well done.

In my position as Commandant of the School of Infantry responsible for conducting the course you have just completed, it is my duty to develop qualities which everyone of you possesses in some degree so that you may meet the condition of the world you will face tomorrow, perhaps alone with little or no guidance. And, Gentlemen, I am daily reminded of my tasks by the sight of my four sons whom you may one day be commanding in the face of the enemy. Therefore, I feel it is essential that I tell you that when disciplinary action is required in your command, you should make sure you do not administer it in anger or with a sense of annoyance or irritation, but with the full consideration of justice and the judicious application of the corrective measures at your disposal. This does not apply only to officers of Her Majesty's Forces: it applies also to everyone concerned with the management of men.

I have known of officers too concerned about their popularity with their troops. Remember that in order to be a good leader you do not necessarily have to be the most popular man in your unit and always pleasant with others. On the contrary, successful leadership means the recognition of what is good and what is bad alike and it will not be effective if either factor is over-looked. When you are in command of your platoon, do not overlook faults or omissions because you find the rendering of disciplinary action distasteful. You must possess the moral courage to apply discipline when necessary, and in taking disciplinary action do not forget that you may have to cancel privileges or impose sanctions or take even stricter measures. You may also have to combine these elements to make the punishment fit the crime. Never forget punishment without constructive or corrective measures is seldom effective and is never conducive to lasting satisfactory performance. When you take disciplinary action you must have only one aim in mind and that aim should not be the satisfaction of your ego or certain written regulations; it must be to make your men better all-round soldiers.

Now that you are leaving the School of Infantry, you will be called upon to practise leadership in the true sense of the word. Make no mistake about the fact that it is not always a picnic; it is both arduous and exacting.

If you demand much of your men you must be prepared to give in greater amounts. The true leader knows all of the standards required by the authority he represents and much of the dispositions of those to whom he answers. He also knows the dispositions, characteristics and capabilities of his team. He is the intermediary who interprets between these elements in terms of the finished product. The quality of your platoon will be determined by your ability to conceive ideas or interpret them, motivate your subordinates, lead them and supervise them.

At the moment when so much is happening in the world, military leaders at all levels have to understand, cope and live with the implications of external conditions affecting the people they are leading. Today's world is unsettled and complex; economical and social conditions influence both military and governmental leaders. Look at what is going on in the world today. In particular look at those areas where millions of people have for centuries accepted life as their destiny, who suddenly, because they have seen a bit of the modern way of life, feel the urge, the compelling desire to completely change their concept or mode of life which endured for centuries. It is now, Gentlemen, that you must train yourselves to give deep and thoughtful consideration to external conditions affecting the internal management of our military operations. This in fact is a demanding phase of leadership in the difficult times we are passing through. Nevertheless, prepare yourselves to understand and to interpret, and guide your operations accordingly. If you do this, I am sure you will taste success.

Read and keep abreast of what is happening in the world. Be on the lookout now to avoid being trapped and forced to follow the policy of "something for nothing". This you can do without too much difficulty if you are prepared in both thought and deed to do your share in your own particular field.

You may know, but let me remind you that there is no shortage of young men in this country who, being well coached, can develop into outstanding leaders; however, there is already a shortage of truly developed leaders. This, in my opinion, is due to the fact that many fail to contribute properly to the development of men. Be careful not to be found wanting in this field.

You must, as leaders, no matter at what level you work and in particular at the level of platoon commander, apply yourselves to select, train and develop the young people, your subordinates, to cope with the military, social and economical changes facing Canada at the moment. The training and development of a soldier into a junior leader is a time-consuming job, and to train him to become a leader it is necessary to know, understand and get to like him and also feel duty-bound to prepare him for successes equal to the potential of his talents.

Next month, next year, when you have command of your very own platoon, you should organize your work in such a way that you can move around your command so that you can watch your men function in training under your subordinate leaders, and be able to counsel them and get to know them better as individuals. If you are really interested in your job, you will have no time to worry about your own security or advancement, which is often the reason why the soldier is left to his own resources, seeing his commander only when a rebuke has to be delivered.

While it is true that there is no "magic system" to develop leaders, you will soon be faced with this task. Of course this must be the concern of all of us and it must start at the very top. Whenever you have the occasion, you must persistently press this point home. You will be told "Watch the man management in your platoon", or "Your junior leaders are not good—do something about it". Many more such remarks will be your lot. Do not allow yourself to be rattled by them or your confidence in your own ability to be shaken. Stop and think; remember your own training and solve your immediate problems by accepting such counselling as will help you prepare a better plan of action to develop leadership in your subordinates.

In a matter of a few weeks you will be gone from this School and this is my last opportunity to speak to you as a group before you actually take over the command of troops. Therefore, I would like to end my talk by passing on to you some tips which may help you in your work.

1.     When you are finally in the position where you have to give commands, make sure you use a tone of voice which indicates without doubt that you expect your order to be executed. Look at your men straight in the eye, use simple words and be definite. It is not necessary to shout, but it is necessary that you have something to say before you open your mouth.

2.     Do NOT coax your men into obeying your order. On the other hand, do not club them into it.

3.     Do not flatter your men—there is nothing more disgusting to men than an officer who has to use flattery to get his orders obeyed.

4.     Avoid being sarcastic when you talk in a serious vein.

5.     Do NOT put yourself in a position where you have to wave your rank under a man's nose to make him obey you. It is better to use the proper approach, tone of voice, etc., which will give the man the feeling of "Let's go and do it". One way to avoid placing yourself in a bad light is by making sure the order you wish to give is lawful.

6.     Be proud of your rank and achievements. Be proud of your unit and of the formation to which you belong.

7.     Do NOT criticize your seniors or the Army when you have nothing constructive to say about them. Keep your mouth shut instead. If you feel you must speak, be sure of your facts and be sure it will be profitable to the organization.

8.     Show your men you have confidence in their ability to perform tasks, and avoid riding them.

9.     Accept the responsibility and blame when your platoon has NOT carried out the plan as it should have. Never shift the blame to subordinates under your command.

10.     Never end an order with a threat. You are the platoon commander and it goes without saying that because of the authority vested in you, you can apply sanctions if you so wish.

11.     Do not be afraid to recognize in public the good points you have noticed in one of your subordinates. Always give credit where and when it is due. If you use someone else's plan or ideas, recognize the fact.

12.     If you have to reprimand, do it in private unless it is for the good of the group to do so publicly.

13.     When you have to apply discipline, be satisfied that your actions are justified by the nature of the crime and the circumstances that prevailed at the time of the offence. Be humane, impartial, unprejudiced.

14.     Be proud of the discipline which governs your actions and make sure your men also are.

15.     Cultivate the habit of ready and immediate obedience to orders and ensure that your subordinates react similarly.

16.     Always be interested in the promotion and advancement of your juniors. Be interested in their personal problems and help settle them through sound counselling. Nothing annoyed me more when I had my own platoon than to hear of some man's problems through outside sources. So it is your job to make sure they turn to you first with their problems.

17.     Be careful of your conduct, bearing, dress, relationships.

18.     Do NOT abuse your privileges: in fact, leave a margin as an insurance, otherwise you may stretch their use over the permitted limit. Remember whatever example you set to your own men will be imitated by them.

19.     During training, train your men to the limit of their mental and physical capabilities. Make sure that you participate in this training. Make sure when your NCOs are conducting training that you supervise them well. Do NOT lead by remote control.

20.     Never take matters for granted. Check and double-check at all times.

21.     Do NOT waste time. Plan your work. As far as avoiding waste of time and effort during war is concerned, there is a battle procedure in force in units. You must invent your own working and training procedures for the good of your command. When I was a student I had a professor who drummed into our heads the following adage expressed by Boileau in his "Art poetique": "Ce que l'on concoit bien s'énonce Clairement, et les mots pour le dire viennent aisément", which, expressed in English, means "What is accurately thought out is clearly expressed and the words to say it come easily."

22.     Show initiative, and always carry out orders to the letter. When in training or operations, make sure you lead your men conscientiously. Make sure now that you can forget yourself entirely in favour of your mission and your men tomorrow. You will be able to lead men in war in the proper fashion only if you have in peace-time practised yourself to that end.

The war of the future, in my own personal opinion, will require of soldiers of all ranks a maximum of knowledge, initiative and leadership ability. You can see this yourself by studying the many battlefield troop postures. It is evident that you will often have to fight your own battles with a minimum of supervision and guidance; you will be away on your own and the decision will be yours only. It is therefore imperative that you prepare yourself for this eventuality.

Being an efficient leader may appear, superficially at least, a lonely business. Some do believe it is. Personally, I do NOT consider that being a leader of men is a lonely job, inasmuch as the infinite satisfaction of accomplishment that ensues is the ultimate in reward. And remember that an honest leader leaves numerous living monuments in the form of leaders he has helped to develop and guide, who in part at least, reflect the guidance and man management to which they have been exposed. I often think that were it possible to infuse someone with all the qualities of good leadership, the pursuit of developing leaders would probably lose some of its zest. The fact remains that good qualities of any description can only be achieved through hard work, diligence and sacrifice. If any or all of these elements characterize your leadership while in command, you can, with your head high, take your place with those who have gone before and left their mark, and I am thinking of Montgomery, Simonds, Eisenhower, Rommel and many others.

What is more, you will be able to look back on a job well done.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the leaders of today and, more so, the leaders of tomorrow, must possess in a large measure all of the qualities which I have elaborated on earlier. You must possess the knowledge of your job to perfection. Set yourself a high standard of self-discipline; be bold, courageous and above all, today in peace-time, dedicate your life to your job no matter where or when you may be called upon to serve.

The best of luck to you.

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