The leadership law of Putting Duty Before Self is probably the most difficult of all the laws. Today, unfortunately we live in a time that is about survival and survival of the fittest. The economy dictates that you must be the best you can be and don’t worry about the other guy. It is understandable when the other guy is worried about how he is going to feed his family, pay his bills, and stay one step ahead of foreclosure.
Thus the economy is creating a generation that reinforces that self is more important than the team, the group, or the organization. Therefore, changing that mindset requires the individual to more than just want to change but to truly believe that the paradigm, that is their life, must and will be shifted in a direction that makes looking at things that are bigger than him with better perspective.
Classic examples of the ability to put duty before self can be found through US military history. In World War II, every soldier that landed on Normandy on D-Day was certainly putting duty before self. They knew that the mission was going to be difficult and deadly but they left the relative safety of the Higgins Boats and ran into the wall of bullets and bombs anyway. They knew that the only way that Europe was going to be liberated from oppression was to walk out onto the hell that was being unleashed that June morning in 1944.
In November 1965 in Vietnam, there was LTC. Harold Moore and approximately 450 U.S. soldiers that were dropped into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley by helicopter. The 1st of the 7th Cavalry troops were soon surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese Army soldiers and over the course of 48 hours the US soldiers took on a force that was on its home turf. At one point during the action the US soldiers knew that re-supply and reinforcements were not going to be arriving anytime soon. Yet, instead of giving up these soldiers fought even when their commanding officer ordered an artillery strike on their own position.
These two along with countless other examples show that people when faced with overwhelming odds will choose what best serves the cause as “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.”
Sure the soldiers in these examples have been trained to wage war and act under adverse conditions, as a leader you are also trained to act under adverse conditions and change as conditions change in order to ensure that mission is successfully completed. Hopefully, your organization will never find itself conducting an amphibious landing on some hostile beachhead or lands its helicopters into a hot LZ but if it does trust in the organization’s mission and executing to deliver on that mission and vision is what a leader does.
In order to be a success within the organization the leader must not only take care of her people but she must genuinely do so with an emphasis on meeting the directives, mission, and vision of the organization. This means shedding one’s old “Me, Me, Me” attitude and shifting to an attitude that calls on doing what is best for the organization in order to achieve what the leader can to get the company to where it needs to be. Remember, putting duty before yourself is really the best thing you can do for yourself and your career with the organization. This then makes it truly the only way to survive in the modern workplace.
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