I always feel that a leader has two jobs– one is to motivate their subordinates to perform there tasks, and one is to protect those same subordinates from being abused by people higher up the food chain. Unfortunately, what I see all too often are “leaders” that have the “browbeating subordinates” idea down to a fine art, but shrug and claim helplessness when a superior mistreats their people.
In fact, it angers me to this day, but I knew a Master Sergeant, an E-8, that took it upon himself to personally harass and torment a soldier who had been going through some rough times since returning from Iraq. The soldier was a decent performer; while he wasn’t going to be winning the Medal of Honor any time soon he wasn’t deserving the ongoing shouting, counseling statements, public shouting-down, and rank reductions he got from this jerk Master Sergeant who seemed to relish his ability to sow misery on this guy’s life. Of course, when the Sergeant-Major of the Battalion dimply decided that the troops had been “sitting around too much” one day (mandatory computer courses and not enough computers for everyone at once) and everyone was going to commute to the Battalion HQ for next Drill Weekend (a town 400+ miles away), did Master Sergeant Tough Guy even try to stand up for his peeps? No, suddenly his spine-of-Kleenex instincts kicked in and he meekly rolled over.
There is not enough browbeating or threats of counseling that can ignite a spark of respect in my heart for these sloppy, useless, craven leaders that leave their people exposed to abuses of power. But I don’t know; I’ve been told that since coming back from Iraq myself I have “trust issues” when it comes to dealing with authority figures. I do hold them to higher standards, sometimes perhaps impossible standards. But I feel that if you want to wear that badge of rank, it had better be earned, and in spades.