Hannibal was 25 years old at the time and some of the soldiers he led were nearly twice his age. How did he command their respect and extraordinary effort?
Hannibal led by example. He slept amongst his soldiers and would not wear anything that made him distinct above them. He led his men into battle and was the last to leave the battlefield.
Or jump out of the airplane.
The United States Air Force uses an interesting twist on leading by example to ensure maximum performance. The USAF has a policy that people who pack parachutes have to periodically make jumps themselves. The result? The USAF has no quality control problem with chute packing.
Or go to the mat.
I’m an adjunct instructor at the Alaska DPS Academy on a number of legal topics cops need to know about. I usually end a day’s classroom instruction of the recruits with a workout in the Academy’s fitness room.
On one such day, the recruits were still at dinner chow (it’s a residential Academy) when I wandered towards the fitness room a little before 1800. From the adjoining gym, I heard thuds, thwacks and grunts. The building is secure at that time and I thought the place was empty except for me. I cracked open the door and peeked in.
Corporals Lance Jamison-Ewers and Eric Spitzer were ground fighting on the mats. Their faces were red; their bodies were sweaty; they were panting with exertion. These guys had been up since 0400 to lead the recruits in morning PT and had put in a demanding day after that.
“Hey! What are you guys doing?” I shouted.
They stopped and looked at me without untangling. Both grinned like I’d caught them in a joyful indulgence. Lance sang out, “Working on DT, Ma’am.”
“Yes, Ma’am!” they both agreed.
“Carry on.” And they did. They gave it everything they had, and then gave it some more. I don’t know for how long because I left them to it.
So where’s the leading by example here? The recruits didn’t know their Corporals were working harder and longer than they had that day.
But I did. And while I left these Corporals to their grappling, they didn’t leave me. Their commitment, their passion for training hard and being the best they could be for the recruits, continues to make me want to work hard and well enough to be worthy of them and the recruits we train.
When did you last get your boots muddy?
You don’t have to be in a position of authority over someone to lead by example. I’d taught Corporal Spitzer as a recruit. Anyone can set an example of effort and perseverance that inspires others to extraordinary effort and action.
So, whether you’re a law enforcement executive, an FTO, an Academy trainer or fellow officer, when did you last get your boots muddy?
- When did you last keep on breaking and replacing track when those around you didn’t think they could go on?
- When did you last decide to be the change you wanted to see in the world?
- When did you last give up some of your comfort to experience some of the discomfort your recruits or officers do?
- When did you last jump out of a plane with a parachute you packed and do some of the job that they do?
- When did you last hit the mat and do more than they do?
Because, here’s the thing,
“We lead by example, whether we intend to or not.” ~Unknown~
About The Author:
Described by Calibre Press as "the indisputable master of enter-train-ment," Val Van Brocklin is an internationally sought speaker, trainer and noted author. She combines a dynamic presentation style with over 10 years experience as a prosecutor where her trial work received national media attention on ABC's Primetime Live, the Discovery Channel's Justice Files, in USA Today, The National Enquirer and REDBOOK. In addition to her personal appearances, she appears on television, radio, and webcasts, in newspapers, journal articles and books. Visit her website: www.valvanbrocklin.com