The TASC List: On leaders

Scenes from “American Sniper” fade from our view. The role of drones on the battlefield is debated. The brutal and uncertain complexities of asymmetrical warfare unfold. There exists some plain and straightforward language, derived from an earlier era that has applicability today. It speaks to the philosophy of soldiering, and of leadership.
We are in some ways as taxpayers the foot soldiers of Wilton. Our leaders are elected, appointed, and sometimes called to service as volunteers. Now is the time to think about all of our roles in the town hierarchy, and the impact decision-making has upon us. The outcomes we desire, and the kind of community we want are the result of our local dynamics of leadership.
We’ll soon be choosing new faces and perhaps some new roles in our town. It’s time to think about who and what we want in the achievement of better results, have some dialogues with full disclosure where the financial burdens will be carried along for years, and be able to feel that the conduct of business across the community is open, ethical, and undistorted.
So let’s look at what one of the nation’s most distinguished commanders in Korea and Vietnam, Colonel David Hackworth, had to say about the essential philosophy driving his own business. In About Face this infantry commander quotes the man he served under as a captain, Colonel Glover Johns. This is unembellished direct communication. Perhaps it will serve as a template for thinking about the military today, and beyond to our equally important everyday lives. Colonel Johns’ philosophy:
Strive to do small things well.
Be a doer and a self-starter — aggressiveness and initiative are two most admired qualities in a leader — but you must also put your feet up and think.
Strive for self-improvement through constant self-evaluation.
Never be satisfied. Ask of any project how can it be done better?
Keep folks informed: telling them “what, how, and why” builds confidence.
Enthusiasm, fairness, and moral and physical courage — four of the most important aspects of leadership.
Showmanship — a vital technique of leadership.
The ability to think and write well — two essentials of leadership.
Have consideration for others.
Understand and use judgment; know when to stop fighting for something you believe is right. Discuss and argue your point of view until a decision is made, and then support the decision wholeheartedly.
Stay ahead of your boss.
Brotherhood in combat and esprit de corps are critical elements for a winning team. Pride in the overall unit produces important benefits. One needn’t look too far in Wilton to see the characteristic of pride demonstrated in action. It’s evident when any major storm descends upon the town, and crews fight to eliminate the dangers and reduce the damage. Accident and emergency scenes and hazardous conditions of fire and spill are professionally remedied. Road surfaces are treated and repaired in an endless cycle of plowing, sanding, pothole remediation, and resurfacing. Physical courage, as in the colonel’s list above, are on full display in these activities.
Wouldn’t it be remarkable if more town-wide functions performed in this manner? It’s both the leadership and the soldiering. And the directions, doctrine, and detail that flow down through the organization. If we can envision the appropriate philosophy, and select the leadership to implement it, we will have taken some giant strides.
The first item — strive to do small things well. A useful beginning in any realm. There is plenty of room for improvement here — and much of this been noted in great detail over the past 12 months. Will some larger things then take care of themselves? A stronger town awaits the careful choices needed ahead.    
TASC stands for Toward a Stronger Community. Contact: