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Leading from the Sidelines | U.S. PATRIOT NEWS & REVIEWS

Leading from the Sidelines

“Lead, follow or get out of the way.” This popular saying is often used to suggest that true leaders belong at the front of the pack, charging up the hill, saber in hand. The truth is that sometimes a good leader does need to get out of the way and lead from the sidelines. History likes to remember our favorite leaders as being hard charging, in your face types who stand shoulder to shoulder with their men as they advance on the enemy.  From Washington standing statue-like as his small boat crossed the frozen Delaware to Patton facing a strafing German fighter with a six shooter in his hand, Americans love a leader who is not afraid to be at the front, asking their troops to do only what they themselves would do. But, sometimes the true sign of a good leader is stepping out of the way and letting others do their jobs.

Regardless of what the rank and file may want to believe, there never has been and never will be a leader who is capable of doing everything they ask of their troops. Nor is it the leader’s job to do everything themselves. The leader, whether a chief or senior officer, is tasked with building the best team possible, providing the direction necessary to make them even better and then facilitating their completing the mission. Sometimes a good leader needs to be at the front motivating and inspiring those following behind. Other times they need to be on the sidelines directing the larger operation and ensuring the units are properly supported. The difference between a good leader and someone who is simply in charge is knowing when to do each.

WashingtonSpend enough time in the military or law enforcement and you will eventually work for the supervisor everyone hates – the one who never truly leads. They will drown their staff with meetings, brain storming sessions and countless reviews of data but avoid making a decision. When it comes mission time, they will conveniently have “other duties” which prevent their direct involvement, and are never seen geared and ready to go. Of course, when the results are favorable, they are more than ready to hold a press conference.

A leader who spends too much time directing every aspect of a mission runs the risk of micromanaging their junior leaders out of existence. Regardless of what type of organization you find yourself, the junior leaders learn and develop through two methods – studying past successes and failure by those who came before them and then learning through their own success and failure. If a leader does not allow his juniors to experience their own success and failure, he is doing everyone a discredit. After all, every great leader eventually retires and leaves their unit in the hands of these junior leaders.

Knowing your place is as important a trait for leaders as it for the newest boot.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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