Leading Soldiers When Your Heart Isn’t In It!

This is a subject that few people ever talk about.  And I think that’s a shame.  The topic is “what do do with your military career when your heart isn’t in it anymore!”  There are plenty of Army Leaders (NCOs and Officers) who LOVE serving and leading their Soldiers and do it because its their passion.  And there are just as many leaders, if not more, who have lost their passion for leadership and Soldiering, yet continue to serve because they are approaching retirement or have few other job options.

You can spot the people whose heart isn’t in it, a mile away.  I wouldn’t really call them leaders either, even though many of them are in a leadership position.  They’re the people who do the minimum.  Their Soldiers are never a high priority.  They do the bare minimum of what is required in their job so they don’t get fired, but they seldom if ever go above and beyond what is expected of them.  These leaders don’t take the time to counsel and mentor and teach their troops like they know they should.

And then there are the leaders who LOVE leading their troops.  You can spot these folks a mile away too, because they have enthusiasm and passion.  They love what they do.  And they are damn good at it.  They love leading, helping, coaching, directing and mentoring their troops.  They care about their troops like a parent cares about their child.

In every unit, you have both types of leaders.

The question is “what should be done with the Army leaders who don’t love leading and serving Soldiers?”  Or, “what should be done with the people serving in leadership positions in the Army who really don’t want to be there?”  Ask 100 people this question and you would probably get 100 different answers.

I made a vow that I would never stay in the Army if my heart wasn’t in it.  And that’s one of the primary reasons I resigned, even though I had 15 years of good service.  I felt that Soldiers need and deserve leaders who care, leaders who have their Soldiers’ best interest at heart. I must clarify I was NEVER a slacker leader.  Towards the end of my service, I just lost my passion for the military.

So, if your heart is no longer in it, this is my advice to you.  MOVE ON!  Find a new career, even if you a lot of time invested in the Army.  Don’t do your Soldiers an injustice or hold up a leadership slot for someone else.  And if that is not an option for you, find the easiest, least important job in the Army where leadership is not required, and stay in that job until your time is up (preferably a non-deployable unit).  Don’t seek out a job, especially a leadership job, that you aren’t willing to give 110% for.

And if you are a leader who is passionate and enthusiastic about what you do, keep pressing forward!  We need more leaders like you. Even when you get frustrated from time to time, never lose your passion.  It is what makes you great!  And it’s exactly what the Army needs.

What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment and let us know.

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10 thoughts on “Leading Soldiers When Your Heart Isn’t In It!”

  1. It does take a lot of guts. I think that walking away is harder than staying. That is why more people don’t do it when they should. It would be more honorable to walk away when the time comes, than to stay when you would be a ghost of your former self. You are right, that there are a lot of vets who can help us after we are out. The world doesn’t end after we leave the military.

  2. I have to also put some fault in allowing this to happen in the highest levels of Army Leadership. As Chuck said, you can tell who these leaders are from a mile away (the ones whose hearts are not in it). If anyone can see it, that means the higher ups should be able to see it also. They should be pulling them and putting them somewhere where their attitude will not affect the Army’s core.

    Just my opinion.

    1. It’s actually quite common in the Army. Few people are willing to walk from a pension, even if they don’t enjoy it. Visit any unit and you will find plenty of folks just there to put in the time!

    2. It can be hard to stay motivated, we all have bad days. It is sad when people are so out of it that they can’t even have false motivation anymore. I admit that some days are harder than others, and I wonder how fast the next decade will go. But I am not at the point where my heart isn’t in it – if I got to that point, I would leave.

  3. A passionate leader is paramount to motivating troops. Everyone gets burned out, regardless of what your occupation is. But you have to know when it’s time to move on. Some leaders are just lazy, they feel that being there is enough…..IT ISN’T! I believe you have some who have served willingly and fearlessly, but somewhere along the way (be it politics, fear, lack of support) who lost their drive and are maybe too embarrassed to say so. They may feel they’ll be ostracized or shunned and don’t say anything at all. This is a mistake, because in times of war and peace a leader’s soldiers and this country need to have confidence that they are doing their absolute best to serve this country and protect it’s rights.

    1. I agree that being there is not enough. While half the battle to anything is just showing up, we can’t do that when we are leaders. We have to have our heart and soul fully immersed – lives are at stake.

  4. I give you a huge thumbs up for writing this post. It needs to be heard and read by all military leaders.

    As Colonel Rusin said, it takes a wise person to know when to go. Staying for extra time, but putting lives in danger by not actively mentoring or leading is wrong. It comes down to selfishness.

    We, as humans, will sometimes do stupid things to keep ourselves from looking bad or from a greed standpoint. We need to consider those who are watching and learning from us.

    Please, if you are in the position Chuck mentions here, please take his advice. Either retire, or move to a position that is not putting other soldiers in harms way.

    1. Sadly, few people will follow this advice. And the only people who suffer from it are the Soldiers.

      Staying in “just” to collect a pension violates everything I personally believe in, but I know most people will disagree with me on that (and that’s fine).

    2. It can be very hard to admit that it is time to go. Just like leaving a position, we want to hold onto it, maybe past the point of when we should. It can be very hard to be humble enough to admit this, but it is necessary.

  5. Making the decision to leave the service because your heart is no longer in it, takes guts. It is a decision that you need to make for yourself, without waiting for higher authority to tell you that you are no longer needed. Many years ago a wise retired officer gave me some sage advice, “When it’s time to go, you will know.” In my own case, when I realized that I would never be in a troop unit again, that my future would be staff jobs, briefings, writing papers, and attending interminably long meetings in big headquarters, I knew it was time to go.Hanging up your uniform for the last time is never easy, but it is worth remembering that your military experience puts you ahead of your civilian peers especially in terms of leadership. You are also part of a very large network of fellow veterans, who can steer you toward job opportunities and professional development. There is an exciting world outside the military and you have the skills and experience that will make you successful wherever you go. Once you have decided it is time to leave the service, stand tall and be proud. You have been a Soldier, a leader, and that is something no one can take away from you. As a military veteran, there is no challenge in life that you cannot face with confidence and courage.Jo B. RusinColonel, US Army Retiredwww.JoRusin.com

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