Lesson # 14 from Starship Troopers

Today, we’re going to cover the fourteenth lesson I learned from the book Starship Troopers. This is the fourteenth lesson in 17-lesson mini-series.  If you haven’t read the previous post yet, please do so right now and try to follow it in order.

Lesson # 14: Having No Leader is Better Than Having the Wrong Leader

Quote: “The M.I. never commissions a man simply to fill a vacancy.”

starship troopers bookMy Take: In most cases, it’s better to have a unit vacancy than it is to have the wrong leader in the job.  When there is a vacancy in a unit, especially in a leadership position, senior leaders should take their time to fill the position to make sure they find the right person for the job!

You see, many units are desperate to find people to fill their unit vacancies.  As a result, they will hire the first person that applies for the job.  Personally, I think that’s a big mistake.  I think you should hire someone for a job because of their credentials, their experience, their abilities and their potential, not because you need a warm body to fill a duty position.

Throughout my career, I’ve seen units hire people for the wrong reasons.  As a result, it was the unit and the Soldiers that paid the price.  I’ll even admit that I hired a few people in my career out of desperation to fill a slot in the unit.  And in just about everyone of those cases it bit me in the butt.  I very quickly had buyer’s remorse and regretted my decision.  Worst of all, I had to spend more time to get them OUT of the duty position than I did getting them in the duty position.

Hopefully, you can learn something from this valuable lesson.  The bottom line is that you should never hire someone JUST to fill a duty position.  Instead, you should hire someone based off what they bring to the table.  If they aren’t qualified for the job, don’t give them the job, even if you are desperate to fill the slot.  This will only backfire on your later on and worst of all, it’s the Soldiers who will suffer the most.

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

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7 thoughts on “Lesson # 14 from Starship Troopers”

  1. I must agree with you that hiring someone to fill a position can be the wrong move, worse than leaving a position open. Sometimes a good leader can get a poor employee to come around to investing in the quality of their work but it’s a difficult, lengthy process that’s prone to reverting back to less responsible behavior. Many difficulties and unsatisfactory conditions and procedures are being brought up in this series. What action is to be taken by those who are most disgruntled. What action will they take? How will they change the system. Are people who criticize as responsible for the problems if they aren’t taking action to correct the unsatisfactory (according to them) situations.

  2. Never assume that disaster will ensue if a leadership position is left vacant for more than 48 hours. If you have the right people in your unit, those who need to step up will step up. One thing I learned from our deployments is that you NEVER have everybody you’re supposed to have, and that includes leaders. Between those medically unfit, casualties, and R&R leave, you’ll constantly be down anywhere from 10% to 20%. For that matter, I’ve never been in a Guard unit that was fully manned. Right now I have E-6 platoon sergeants and E-5 squad leaders and E-4 team leaders because of a combination of factors, including people who are on our books but detached to other units, an E-7 acting as a PL because he’s working a direct commission packet, and the nature of the AGR force, which puts AGR personnel in platoon sergeant and squad leader slots even though they can’t effectively serve in those positions because of their full-time duties. My point is I’ve dealt with empty leadership slots for years–everybody does what needs to be done and you drive on. Don’t be in a hurry to make that choice.

    1. Good point Daniel. Whenever I’ve served in units with empty leadership slots, someone else always stepped up to the plate and made sure things got done. I guess that’s one of the many great things about the military: people rise to the level of expectation you place on them. I’ve seen First Lieutenants do a Major’s job and I’ve seen E-4’s as Squad Leaders. I always tell folks that the job doesn’t make the person, but the person makes the job!

    2. I agree with you wholeheartedly, Daniel. Putting the wrong person into a leadership position can do way more harm than leaving it vacant. Once the damage is done, it is difficult to undo it. Even when there is no formal leader, people will come together and a leader will emerge when needed. This might even lead to a viable option for permanently filling the spot.

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