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Leading from The Front

15 March 2023

One quintessential quality of the American is that the soldier, as well as the patriot, does not accept a command, order, or even wish from anyone leading from behind. The leader must lead from the front, and must do so for the most sound and stable of reasons.

Alexander Hamilton wrote eloquently and accurately about courage under fire. He stated that soldiers commonly look up to those that command them. Even under the best of conditions, a leader may be seized with a sudden panic that precipitates the men into cowardice.

“But a settled durable panic is generally a Reflection upon the leader.”

You must keep the contagion of panic to the dimensions of a sudden panic; do not allow it to swell into a “settled durable panic.” It is the psychological poison of panicky retreat that prompts total disintegration which in turn threatens the ranks.

Those statements can be disregarded, but only at one’s peril!

Another military leader of the Revolutionary War was General von Steuben. This Prussian was not truly the aristocrat that he’d claimed he was, but he was a perceptive, crucially experienced, and proud man. He proved more than capable of training the raw volunteers of the colonial militias, the “minutemen” who forged a Continental Army out of the barest of supplies, save that of a desire for liberty from the tyranny of King George III.

General von Steuben insightfully wrote:

“The genius of this nation is not in the least to be compared to that of the Prussians, Austrians, or French. You say to your soldier: ‘Do this,’ and he doeth it; but I am obliged to say, ‘This is the reason why you ought to do that; and then he does it.’”

Von Steuben also took note of one salient fact which, from his time to ours, has been consistently remarkable among American junior grade officers (second and first lieutenants and captains of line infantry companies):

“The American makes a wonderful soldier; he’ll go anywhere at all, except in front of you.”

U.S. Army General von Steuben brought all his Prussian military experience and training to bear on the soldiers to try to teach them to respond to commands like automatons. He could not, however, train American enlisted men to move out ahead of their officers into an attack ordered by their officers from the rear.

The American aspiring to prevail over adversity, and cowardice, especially cowardice among his fellow man, she seeks a leader. That leader must be a true commander who not merely meets the challenge of taking decisive action. The leader must convince the American that he is worthy of the trust and confidence to be granted to him, or to her.

You can’t fake authenticity. Frauds can fool millions for a while, but when the genuine article appears, it’s only a matter of time before those millions leave the fraud behind, since leading from behind is his natural condition.

The leader not only rises to the moment. He makes the moment upon which to rise.

That moment begets many other such moments, riding toward the future. Before that future can be thwarted, it is at hand. The leader has taken hold of that stampede let loose upon him, and he’s turned it around.



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