A 14 Year Old Crash Course in Leadership
I wish you could have been with me 14 years ago when the Army decided it would be a good idea to make me a Corporal. Now, this is just my personal opinion but since this is my article, I gotta say that
Corporal is The Toughest Rank Bestowed Upon a Soldier!
I was getting paid the same amount of money as the Soldiers I led. And those Soldiers saw the rank of Corporal as someone with no real authority.
I had a steep learning curve ahead of me. That learning curve was this thing called Leadership.
I had to learn to lead while knowing full well that my Soldiers didn’t fear me.
Here’s the thing. My little rank of Corporal didn’t put any fear into the Soldiers. Allow me to tell you about some of the darling angels I was given as Soldiers:
I was given the bottom average of the platoon. The other squad leaders were told to give me a few Soldiers from each of their squads so I could have a squad of my own. Did they give me their best Soldier? Nope. Of course not. They gave me the guys they wanted to kick out the Army.
I remember my first day addressing my new squad. They stood there staring at me like they wanted to stomp me into the ground. I could tell right away I had my work cut out for me.
They rebelled against everything I said. I remember one of the Sergeants from the other squads telling me I was going to have a tough time because I didn’t curse. You see, in their mind they believed you had to curse at Soldiers to get them to do anything. I thought that was ridiculous. Why not treat people like human beings?
A thought came to my mind to treat them the way I wanted my leaders to treat me when I was coming up. Every day I imagined myself as a private. How would I want my leader to treat me today? That question guided me every day.
And you know what happened? My squad of misfits outperformed all the other squads in my platoon. The other squad leaders started coming to me asking what I was doing: “Your guys are awesome! What are you doing?”
I told them I was just treating them the way I want to be treated. They gave me looks like, “Yeah right.”
That’s all I did. Nothing special... but it meant the world to my Soldiers. And to me. I still miss my guys today.
Looking back, to be honest it was a nightmare at first. But slowly and surely I gained the trust of every single Soldier in my squad. I’m proud of that.
Here’s what I discovered: People will work hard for you if they know you care about them. You don’t have to yell and scream. Just respect them. You can be tough, which I was. People are people. Treat them the way you would want to be treated, and they will surprise you.
Author: Cedric Crumbley
Photo courtesy of the author