Lesson # 2 from Starship Troopers

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

Lesson # 2: It’s hard to lead people if you’ve never been in their shoes. 

Quote: “A man ought to fill each spot on his way up.”

My Take: The best leaders are leaders that have been there and done that.  One of the reasons NCOs are so effective at leading Soldiers is that they were at one time young Soldiers.  They have worked their way up the ranks and got experience.  They know what it’s like to be young and inexperienced.  They know the problems their Soldiers deal with on a day-to-day basis and they can relate to them better.

starship troopers bookWhen it comes to Officers, I’ve found that the most successful officers (in most cases anyway) were Soldiers BEFORE they earned their commission.  They spent some time as a Soldier, so when they become a leader they are GROUNDED.  They can relate to their troops and they always have their troops on their mind when they make a decision.  I know I spent almost five years enlisted before I earned my commission and it had a tremendous impact on my leadership abilities and decision making process.

Here’s the bottom line.  If you can’t relate to the people you’re leading (in any profession) it will be difficult to be successful as their leader.  There’s nothing wrong with starting at the bottom and working your way up to the top of the organization.  When you do that, you will be a much better leader.

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

8 thoughts on “Lesson # 2 from Starship Troopers”

  1. Faith A. Coleman

    To this topic I have to give my absolute agreement. I mentioned this factor in a previous comment. This should apply to just about anything. Once again, I know the field of medicine and there is a movement, more of a mandate really, to go to all electronic medical records. I don’t know anyone who is a health care professional forced to use these systems who agrees that they constitute an improvement that adds up to better patient care and communication. Of course the people coming up with the languages, templates, etc. that health care professionals are supposed to use have never actually had anything to do with patient care. No software system can describe the complexities and nuances of a human’s health.

    1. I’m not a big fan of having all my military records stored on electric media such as the internet. It really forces you to give up control of your own wellness. If someone hacks into the system you risk the chance of losing all your privacy. I think the only person it benefits is the government.

  2. I’m really enjoying this innovative series you’re sharing, it’s offering up some new perspective and insights regarding leadership that I hadn’t considered before. My brother is a Marine and he once told me that when he was being trained for his specialization he was also trained in the specializations above and below his. This was standard practice for everyone’s training so that anyone could confidently step in and fill a vacancy should something happen to a member of their unit. I think this is a great practice for all sorts of careers, civilian and military alike, because it instills a sense of confidence and unity within the group.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      We all need to know how to do our boss’s job and our subordinates’ job. Things happen, especially in combat, and if people aren’t cross-trained, bad things can happen.

  3. Daniel Slone

    Not only does experience at every rung of the ladder make for a better leader, it gives that leader substantially more credibility with his or her Soldiers. While the active component sometimes looks down its collective nose at the National Guard, I think we have distinct advantages in some areas, and one of those is that the vast majority of the officers (at least in my personal experience) have prior enlisted experience. As a platoon sergeant I never had to deal with what were known in past wars as “90-day-wonder” platoon leaders (although these days it takes a lot more than 90 days to turn out a newly-minted second lieutenant).

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