Lessons Learned at Fort Benning

I’m currently reading Colin Powell’s book, My American Journey. I found the following passage interesting and useful to anyone, whether in the military or in business. (It seems like since the time of Sun Tzu, business and military tactics have been very closely aligned.)

For years, I have told young officers that most of what I know about military life I learned in my first eight weeks at Fort Benning [Just like kindergarden – G]. I can sum up those lessons in a few maxims:

  • “Take charge of this post and all government property in view” — the Army’s first general order.
  • The mission is primary, followed by taking care of your soldiers.
  • Don’t stand there. Do something!
  • Lead by example
  • “No excuse, sir”
  • Officers always eat last. [Or, in business, management gets paid last. -G]
  • Never forget, you are an American infantryman, the best.
  • And never be without a watch, a pencil, and a notepad. [True. Everywhere.]

Powell also goes on to say that “American soldiers must know the reason for their sacrifices … If the duty of the soldier is to risk his life, the responsibility of his leaders is not to spend that life in vain.” In management, this is also a rule to be remembered. To paraphrase: People must know the reason for their sacrifices. They have to know why they’re doing what they’re doing. If the duty of a person is to spend their life in pursuit of a goal, it is the responsibility of his leaders, those he follows and looks to for direction, not to spend that person’s time — and therefore life — in vain.

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