Do The Right Thing

The articles about the military were very interesting.  In both of these cases, a commanding officer is put in a position where they must make a decision between their mission and their conscience.  In the case of Lt. Withers, it seems as though everyone seems to agree that he did the right thing by helping out Peewee and Salomon.  Even though they weren’t supposed to take and holocaust refugees with them, he followed he did what he knew was right and ended up having a big impact on both of those kids.  Sanders knew that if he was caught he wouldn’t get the GI Bill and wouldn’t be able to go back to school, but he disobeyed orders anyway because he thought it was the right thing to do.  This same basic situation was seen in the second article, where Colonel Dowdy had the choice of taking his men through dangerous territory or going around it and getting to the objective later than he otherwise might.  Dowdy does not technically disobey orders but he does go against what his commanding officers seemed to want him to do.  In both of these cases, the men on the ground made decisions based on what the saw.  Also, both times they did so against the wishes of their more far-off superiors.

This disconnect between leadership and subordinate is explored in Covey’s article on leadership.  Covey believes that relationships shoudl be more horizontal than vertical.  That is to say that relationships within companies should not be so much about bosses and authority.  Leaders should not look down on subordinates because of their lower position, but instead they should treat them as equals who just happen to work a lower position in the company.  Leaders that take this approach are better for two reasons.  Firstly, they are more likely to listen to the advice of their subordinates.  Secondly, their employees will likely be more comfortable bringing suggestions to management’s attention and will put forth their suggestions with more frequency.

In the cases of  both Sanders and Dowdy, it seems that these types of beliefs would have been beneficial.  If the higher military brass would have allowed the men on the ground to make decisions based on the intelligence that they had and that central command did not), neither of these things would have been an issue.

That being said, I will say that Sanders’ choice, although it was more directly disobedient, was not as bad as Dowdy’s.  With Sanders, the only person that stood to be hurt from his choice was him.  With Dowdy, the entire invasion could have been compromised.  It wasn’t compromised because he got there on time and the resistance was not as severe as we thought; but we did not know that at the time.  Dowdy tried to save the lives of his men and civilians, which is admirable.  But he could have cost the lives of even more if his batallion had really been needed in the taking of Baghdad.  Both of these men took risks, risks that perhaps they should not have had to take.  But Dowdy did take a bigger risk than Sanders.

But that is not the main point of this post.  The point is that people are more important that money or objectives, and also that the people who are in the action should have a say, or at least some input, into the decisions that are finally made by they superiors.  I certainly wish I had this kind of input at my job.  I’m sure you do too.  Well, don’t you?

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