The Three Principles of Great Leadership

Originally Published at Return of Kings.

Every man is a leader. Whether he is simply leading his own children or whether he is leading a multinational corporation, at some point in his life, every man will be a leader. Furthermore, the leadership of men—the good leadership of men, that is—is a primary component for the maintenance of civilization; in fact, the lack of strong male patriarchal leadership in the West is, arguably, one of the main culprits for the decline of Western civilization over the last generation.

So, given that leadership will be a critical component of every man’s life at some point in time, and given that leadership is also a critical component of civilization itself, it behooves each man to know what it takes for an outstanding leader to be outstanding.  And having led soldiers, police officers, and others in the past, I thus want to share with you the critical aspects of leadership that I have observed through my own experiences.

In my view, when boiled down to its essentials, strong leadership is composed of three main principles. And if you put just these three principles into serious practice, it is almost guaranteed to make you a solid leader regardless of the field that you are in (although note that this is assuming that you already possess a natural physical presence borne from being fit, confident, and well-kept, as well as assuming that you have decent communication skills). So the three critical principles are the following: Lead by Example, Treat Your Subordinates Like Sons, and Be Competent.

Lead By Example

It is a standard cliché that a real leader leads by example. But the reason that this idea is a cliché is because it is true. Indeed, as a leader, always by prepared to do whatever you ask your men to do, and whenever possible, do what your men are doing. If your men have to dig trenches, then, if you have time, dig trenches alongside them. If your men have to do a round of sentry duty, then you do one too. If your men have to come in on the weekend to finish up extra paperwork, then you be in the first one there and the last one to leave.

The fact is that men have great respect for a leader who is willing to do everything and anything that he asks his men to do, and who actually shows that this is the case by doing these things whenever possible. Now, granted, as a leader, you will be unable to always do the things that your men do, but that is not the point; the point is that by doing what your men do whenever you can, your men will see that this is the case, then internalize this fact, and then they will never resent you when you ask them to do some shitty job, because they will know that if you could do the job yourself, you would.

Treat Your Subordinates Like Sons

Although this may sound strange to some, the fact is that a true leader is like a patriarchal father to his subordinates. He is the authority figure. He dispenses justice and resolves disputes. He cares for and loves his men, but he is not afraid to challenge them or demand great sacrifices of them either. And so, if you want to be an excellent leader, become their “father”. Indeed, just like a good father would be the first to rise and the last one to go to bed, when it comes to work, be the first one at work and the last one to leave. Look after your men’s welfare, makes sure they are fed and rested, know their problems, take genuine interest in their lives, and develop their character. A father pushes his children to their limits so that they can grow, exposes them to controlled danger, drives them to overcome their fears, and helps pick them back up when they fall down, and a true leader needs to do the same. And just as, sometimes, a father is willing to sacrifice his sons if the situation calls for it, a leader must be ready to do that too.

So think of how a true patriarchal father would treat his sons, and emulate that; doing so will indeed help turn you into an excellent leader. In fact, a leader who truly treats his subordinates like his sons, will soon have his subordinates treating that leader as a father, and as we all know from experience, sons will often do just about anything to please their fathers.

Be Competent

At a common-sense level, this principle is self-explanatory. If you are going to lead men in a certain situation, you need to have the knowledge and skills to do so effectively in your particular circumstances. Indeed, even if you practice the other two principles, but you do not have a solid level of competence, then, at best, you will be looked at as a “good guy who tries hard”, but not as a leader. So you do need to be competent at your job; this does not mean you have to be perfect—and many mistakes will be forgiven if you practice the other two principles—but it does mean that you have to know what you are doing the majority of the time.

Additionally, note that competence extends beyond your own specific role. Indeed, for while you should be an expert in whatever job is specifically assigned to you, as a leader, you also need to be generally competent in the roles that your subordinates do as well. So, for example, as an infantry platoon commander, you need to be excellent at giving orders and providing direction under fire, but you also need to have a competent grasp of how to strip and assembly the platoon’s heavy machine gun, how to fire the mortar, and so on (and note how this ties into leading by example). So being competent is a principle that extends to all the tasks that you and your subordinates have to deal with.

In the end, real leadership comes from loving your men in the true sense, for when you love your men you will naturally treat them like sons, and you will naturally want to be competent for their sake, and you will naturally lead by example in order to show them the way. And we see this ideal represented in numerous films and books, such as in the movies Gladiator or Master and Commander, or in the series Band of Brothers, where the intense bonds of brotherhood and affection that the men have with their leader can be felt through the screen.

And so, if you want to be the best leader that you can be—and why would you settle for anything less—than remember to lead by example, treat your subordinates like sons, and be competent. Do these three things, and other men will follow you anywhere!

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