The Art of Leadership

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I am addressing this, my second personal message to the Canadian Forces, specifically to those of you who are faced with the great challenge of leadership, namely the group from master corporals to general officers, inclusive.

I have not chosen this subject lightly. To me, leadership is the key to success in military operations, in peace and in war, as it has always been through the centuries. Yet it is a subject that doesn't get the attention it deserves today. My purpose with this letter is to stimulate some thoughts, and to put leadership in the forefront of your minds, where it belongs. I want you to read carefully and seriously what I have to say.

Back in 1959, when I was a colonel and the Commandant of the Royal Canadian School of Infantry at Camp Borden, I talked to a graduating class of young officer cadets on "Leadership and Man Management".

"Leadership is the art of influencing others to do willingly what is required in order to achieve an aim or goal." I find it interesting, some fourteen years later, to look back over the words that I presented to those budding young leaders that day. What strikes me most, upon rereading my text, is how little my ideas about leadership have changed over the years. I myself have certainly changed in the interim _ in rank, in outlook, even in my basic approach to military life. Likewise, the world around me has changed dramatically in those fourteen years; 1959, after all, was before Vietnam, the hippies, colour TV, the permissive society, widespread drug abuse, "wars of liberation", man in space, unification, and all those things and events that have characterized the recent era as the period of "future shock". And yet, when it comes to the basic principles of leadership which I talked about in 1959, it is remarkably clear to me that, "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" _ "the more things change, the more they stay the same".

Another thing that surprises me in retrospect is the fact that my remarks on leadership, which were directed to a group of brand new infantry officers and which were presented very much in the context of the imminent employment of these young officers as platoon commanders, are pretty well appropriate in a much wider sense. For example, an air element master corporal who is responsible for the repair of an aircraft could very well apply the principles evoked on that occasion, as could, say, an admiral in command of a flotilla of our ships. The point that I want to make is that the basic principles of leadership and man management are both timeless and universal.

What I would like to do, then, is to talk about a few very straightforward rules that have helped me immensely during my career and which I commend to you in the hope that they will, at the very least, stimulate some thoughts in your minds about such matters.

In doing so I don't lay claim to their originality because that, after all, would be a contradiction of the point I just made about their timelessness. These basic rules have been around since man first learned that working together was the key to success in battle and in his more peaceful pursuits. My only presumption is that my personal experience, covering as it does a lengthy span of years and the whole spectrum of military ranks, in conditions of war and peace, has given me a rare opportunity to see for myself how true these basic principles of leadership are, and how helpful they can be in solving the difficult problems that face all who must lead other men. Before getting down to specific principles, I would like to dwell for a moment on leadership in general.

First of all, let me give you my definition of leadership. There are as many definitions as there are writers on the subject, but I have always favoured one that seems to capture the essence of it in very simple terms:

"LEADERSHIP is the art of influencing others to do willingly what is required in order to achieve an aim or goal."...
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