Where Is A Leader When You Need One?


Do you see this photo? This photo has been making the rounds on social media. It was taken of a group of National Guard Honor Guard from various states. It was published on social media with the caption:

We put the FUN in funeral – your fearless honor guard from various states.

First, the photo and caption are sickening to me. I witnessed a fallen hero being flown into my home town last year. You can read about it on my blog Nope, What I Saw Was Americans. You can also listen to a song I wrote honoring veterans, fire and law enforcement at www.ForServing.com. The song asks a very tough question; “are you proud of what you’ve done, with what they died for?” I doubt that any in this photo are proud of their actions.

The photo was available without their faces blurred out but the purpose of this blog and podcast is not to bring additional shame to these guardsmen and women. I chose this photo because this blog and podcast is about the absence of leadership and the presence of poor judgment in this group.

There are 14 individuals in this photo and I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say they set a timer on the camera. Surely there weren’t 15 individuals involved. Let’s examine how this occurred.

Did it begin like this?

They were all sitting around a table that morning. They all began grinning and nodding their head. In unison, all 14 shouted out “let’s make a picture of all of us with a flag draped casket with a caption that we put the FUN in funeral.”

NO! NO! NO! It began as all good AND bad ideas begin. It began with one person thinking this would be cute or funny. Through intimidation or persuasion they were able to convince 13 other followers that this would be the acceptable thing to do. Not one leader stepped up from the 13 and said NO!

Again, being an optimist and wanting to give this group the benefit of the doubt, I’m guessing there were more in the group that were given an opportunity to be in the photo but declined.

This brings up lesson number one.

There are two sides to integrity. The moral side and the character side. In my seminar, I give this example; my grandson calls me and he is so proud of himself. He says Papaw, there were some boys bullying another boy and I didn’t join in. Aren’t you proud of me? The answer is yes, I am proud of him but then I ask this question; what did you do to stop the others from bullying the boy? If the answer is nothing, he has the moral side of integrity down but is lacking in the character side.

There are many good folks that don’t do the wrong thing but they are also inactive in doing the right thing. They make good followers, poor leaders.  

Lesson Two. Years ago, a friend of mine shared the rule of the Four W’s with me. I have used it many times in my decision making process and also share it in my seminar.

They are;

1. What’s the best that can happen?

2. What’s the worst that can happen?

3. What will likely happen? (normally something in between the best and worst)

4. Will I be still be okay if the worst happens while attempting to get to the best? Am I willing to accept the impact this will have on my health, finances, marriage or relationships?

Most of us never get past #1 but the Four W’s have helped me make better decisions. It allows you to take risks but does not endorse risky behavior.

Lesson Three. In my HR career, I always said “everyone has an empty gun. It is my job to not give them a bullet to shoot at me.” This group of 14 handed out hi-capacity clips.

One leader could have stepped up, used any one of these three lessons and probably saved these 14 a lot of mental anguish. Where is a leader when you need one?

I’m not going to guess at what punishment will be handed out for this use of extremely bad judgment but I’m guessing they don’t have many positions open where good judgment is optional.

Are there any other lessons I have missed? 

Listen to this episode on the Frontline Manager University On Demand Radio Program

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Greg Gilbert conducts Keynotes And Local Management Development Sessions On-Site and at locations around the country.  He is committed to assisting the willing become “Unwilling To Settle” through increased Education, Engagement and Accountability.

Visit UnwillingToSettle.com for more information.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.