Lessons from a Platoon Leader in Afghanistan

If you like reading about leadership and personal development, and if you want to see a fine example of clear and credible communication, I recommend that you read this short blog post: What I Wish I Knew: From Cadet to Lieutenant in Afghanistan, by First Lieutenant Scott Ginther.

Probably everyone will relate differently to Ginther’s 20 points, but here are three that stood out for me:

First, he says something profound even before he gets to his points. I’ve been writing a chapter about clarity for my book on credibility, and ironically have found it difficult to encapsulate what clarity means. Ginther expresses it as well anyone:

“I swore I would do three things: 1) provide an honest answer, 2) express the truth in the most unvarnished way possible, and 3) keep things short.”

Any writer or speaker who can do these three things does not need any further advice on clarity.

Point #2: “Your job is to take responsibility. You control your own consequences.” This is advice that applies to anyone who wants to be a leader. There are two sides to this. First, although leadership does not come from a title, if you have the title you have the responsibility whether you want it or not. Use it. Second, even without the rank or the title, assuming responsibility for outcomes makes you a leader.

Point #17: Your soldiers will do amazing things. “I have the following Soldiers in my platoon: a former blacksmith and rodeo clown, a NASCAR pit crewman, two carpenters, a private who is a multi-millionaire and drives and Audi R8, a Sugar Bowl-winning, University of West Virginia offensive lineman and a SSG who graduated college at 17 years old and taught physics at Tulane before the age of 26.” Although Ginther doesn’t say it this way, my takeaway from that statement is that leaders will get the best results by pointing the way and then getting out of the way.

After reading this, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that this lieutenant in Afghanistan succeeds in providing honest lessons in an unvarnished way, and keeps it brief. I wish most business books were written this way.


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