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Command Leadership

Notes and Thoughts from Daniel

Command Leadership

The easiest way to deal with anything to do with the motivation of soldiers, whether it is disciplinary or any other issue - is "harassment". It's so simple - whoever gets out of line will get punished - it will be painful and the next time, the offender will not repeat his action. Whenever he nears "the scene of the crime", he recoils - as a baby who touches a hot stove for the first time, gets burned and thereafter instinctually no longer touches the hot place.

But this is taking the easy way out, this is just taming - not education. This is violence, this is how punks behave. You make the guy mad because he is incapable of responding to the situation in an intelligent way - he'll simply slash out at you.

We do not wish to be this kind of officers. From my point of view this is a "cop out command". The really hard task is to motivate, lead and educate the soldiers by motivating their own understanding and their own willingness, through their sense of respect and desire to emulate their commanders. The "taming" approach is OK for the short term, but in the long run - it doesn't hold water.

Apparently a recruit who spends long hours of senseless "dribbling in place", will not be better prepared for his duty as a soldier. If he passes his time this way, the moment the commander turns his back, discipline is shot to hell.

Building leadership so that the commander can motivate his soldiers through mutual respect and mutual responsibility (and not through fear) is a long process that requires considerably more of an officer - such as the highest level of personal example, capabilities in any area (physical fitness, professionalism, values....) and appropriate contact with the soldiers.

Personal example is manifested through the small things as well. Always speaking quietly and never shouting, true modesty, pride in what you do and fighting spirit.

The soldier deserves respect as an adult, irrespective of whether he is a raw recruit or a seasoned fighter. The feedback we get from a person treated as a nineteen-year old is considerably different than that from a person we treat as a four-year old.

We should respond to everything the soldiers do - there is no room for indifference or apathy and we shouldn't be afraid to contend and criticize. If we don't react, the soldiers interpret our silence as approval and acceptance. A reaction does not necessarily take the form of "harassment." A response can be a look, a comment, a discussion or punishment.

It is essential to reward and not just punish - to emphasize the positive as a goal for achievement. Not only to criticize and to point out the bad side.

.Naturally we shouldn't exaggerate - as with everything. The reward is not necessarily a "long weekend" at home, but it can also be a good word, a compliment in the platoon meeting, positive feedback on the spot, etc.

It is important to understand the pressures and motivations acting on the soldier and on the platoon. We can exploit them instead of repressing them, use them positively. Take for example a soldier who is constantly making comments and being insubordinate may be treated in two ways. First, he may be "harassed" and punished to keep him quiet (by sending him to some hilltop and distancing him from the platoon). On the other hand, it may be that here is someone who is a stand out and who struggle against his insignificant status. In this case, we can assign him tasks and direct him into a channel that will advance both him and the platoon. .

One should never denigrate a soldier or be sarcastic. Remember his feelings, particularly the great influence that the commander's remarks may have.

Hold a lot of personal conversations with the soldiers, during guard duties and routine conversations. The soldier, unless he is feeling very bold or has an urgent problem, will not initiate a conversation with his commander. It is worthwhile to have an organized follow-up of these conversations.

Assign responsibility for everything possible. It is a must to foster responsibility and initiative as much as possible. A task leader should be assigned (e.g. a person responsible for managing the shooting range, inspection of weapons, guard duty, the "Stand for Inspection" arrangement...).

Almost all activities are carried out at the squad level (except for inspection of weapons, lights out and platoon meetings) The squad sergeant is in charge and holds sole responsibility over his team. He assumes responsibility for failure within his squad, safety and social problems etc. On the other hand he takes credit for all successes whatever these may be. He has to understand that he automatically addresses the problems of every soldier in his squad. Any problem with one of his soldiers remains with him - and is not turned over to another "Staff Sergeant"

Being strict and uncompromising on the smallest detail does not contradict a humanistic approach and dealings with the soldiers.

We need to be sure that the soldiers are aware of the big picture and to the purpose of their work. We cannot afford to get all bogged down with the problems of the moment, and not constantly see the overall situation, operations and security of the country.

Be aware of the phenomenon of the "virtual soldier". Life is not playing "as if" and this is a key point- we do not carry things out just to "pass the exam" but to really know. Why? - Because the enemy will not play the "as if" game with us.

Always, try to instill the passage from the individual "I" to the collective "we". If so far the principal motivation of the soldier was egoistic and personal, now we have to be concerned with the well being of all. So If I am better, the platoon will be better, the company will be better, and "Zahal" (the IDF) will be stronger and better.

It is constantly essential to emphasize the immediate significance of poor soldiering. If a soldier does not take up a position as required - he should understand that he may be shot by the enemy. Details such as leaving traces in the area, the glint of sunshine off wristwatch etc. expose the force. We do not insist on these things just to make the soldier's live miserable.

It is hard to keep up the distinction between a pleasant talk and a lecture, and disciplinary requirements, and maintaining some "distance" - however this is essential. Initially many soldiers can't fathom that the commander is not their friend and that their relations are accordingly.

Beyond the fact that "friendship" is not militarily correct, it undermines the commander's ability to create and mould the soldier.
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