Leadership is Tough and Kind

Leadership is Tough and Kind

In my various leadership roles in the military, I’ve always held onto one of my favorite Merrylisms: “I may be an asshole, but I’m an asshole with a heart.” This phrase encapsulates the dual nature of military leadership, where the mission’s success often necessitates tough discipline, yet there’s also a profound need for compassion.

Leadership often involves making difficult decisions, some of which can be unpopular or lead to harsh consequences. For instance, I once had to take disciplinary action that resulted in a team member causing self-harm. Such outcomes are a heavy burden, underscoring that leadership isn’t about being liked; it’s about making the right decisions for the mission and the team, even if they’re not always well-received.

However, the essence of leadership extends beyond discipline. It’s equally about compassion and engagement. After disciplinary actions, I made it a point to continue engaging with the individual, striving to understand the root causes of their behavior. Often, personal issues were a significant factor, and as a leader, it became my role to offer support and help them refocus on the mission.

True leadership is about understanding your team and their circumstances. This knowledge is crucial in creating an environment where team members can be productive and effective. Post-discipline, my focus shifted to understanding the individual, preventing issue recurrence, and alleviating any external pressures impacting their performance. At the end of the day, we are all human, facing challenges that could easily be our own. This understanding is vital in maintaining a balance between discipline and compassion, ensuring that while the mission remains a priority, the human aspect of leadership is never overlooked.

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