In Company of Heroes

Published 21 Dec 2016

In the military, leadership is of utmost importance. If one is not getting the results with their subordinates, some military leaders approach their soldiers with a threat, with the intent of making them do it. Chances are, they will respond in a compliant way at least in the presence of the superior. Yet the consequences of basing the power on fear are numerous. Sometimes the behavior just goes underground. People still do things one does not want but they don’t do it when they are around.

If people’s negative feelings are elicited and then suppressed, they do not die; they hide. One of the invisible effects of suppression is that people hate the one who does the coercion. That is not the way to gain respect from subordinates. This kind of coercive power is based on fear in the leader and in the followers and leads to external, temporary, negative control (Baroch, Andrew). This is very much unlike the kind of leadership that is expounded in Michael Durant’s book In the Company of Heroes.

An effective kind of senior leadership in any institution, including the military, depends on attributes that is quite different from that of the middle management. The character trait of “Generalship” is considered the most important thing about military leaders. It is the one thing that differentiates the real leaders from the ordinary ones. It is that quality which distinguishes one so that he is most valuable part of the institution and the nation as a whole. Duty as a general is not similar from what goes before. The issue on flag officers is more visible. Some subordinates can be lax with their rank. They may not necessarily stand on the integrity of their ideas. This is because the kind of decisions that are formed at the senior level are more abstract. One can receive confusing orders and guidance. Yet senior leaders must be totally accountable to whatever will result out of their decisions than they were as more junior officers.

Michael Durant’s, true story gives readers an idea of how it feels like to be captive in Somalia. Yet he lived his life with integrity and valor, proving himself to be worthy of being called a leader in the military. He lived his life with a real mission to serve. He could have been plunged into the deepest recesses of depression but he was too noble for that. He just had to fulfill his purpose in life. Because of this he is able to inspire and motivate others who may be lacking in the true spirit of defending one’s nation in battle.

He exhibited true respect. Respect and obedience to one’s authority is an important value in life. When one matches his words, feelings, thoughts and actions, with congruence and without duplicity, one elicits respect from others. To paraphrase Robert Louis Stevenson, a man worthy of respect cannot be perplexed or frightened. They go on in their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm. In bringing this illustration to this essay, we could only imagine what it would mean if all the present-day soldiers in the army had the value of obedience because their superiors merited this from them. If the military people live with true values, what they would radiate have the capacity to influence others greatly. Their power will not vary. It will not fluctuate. It is not diluted. Others do not have to wait us out or make apologies for them. Their officers need not make these excuses for them just to cover up their disobedience. (Perls. Frederick 1951).

One is reminded of the courage and fortitude exhibited by the great George Washington. He was a great transformational and situational leader. He exhibits charismatic skills that know how to convince people that they deserve freedom. He performs situational leadership by taking into consideration internal and external factors, in developing plans and strategies in war and in the public office.

Strengths can be gleaned from all theories of leadership. The best combination relies on integrating the strengths of participative, transformational and contingency theories. The principles of participatory process, empowerment, passion, vision, and practicality should compose those of leaders’ perspective. Leadership cannot be all vision, without practical target results and operational plans, nor can leadership focus on managerial-scientific functions. Striking a balance among the strengths of the leaders and the followers, and analysis of the contingent factors, provide a more holistic and creative leadership theory and style.

The study of how our actions affect us brings us inevitably to the need for a code of ethics. Military leaders cannot live without some value system; and for the sake of our own stability, we must adhere to the ethics dictated by whichever system we choose. Since our code of ethics contains our most important attitudes toward other people and toward ourselves, we ought to consider it carefully and reconsider it often. Real sophistication is the discovery that other people’s admiration will not lift us as we had hoped, and that the strongest argument for any behavior is its effect on us and our view of our fellowmen.

The loyalty of army servicemen can be measured in their dedication as seen from their actions to their homeland and the constant readiness to fight. Today, the army counts on many integration initiatives to strengthen its ability to meet military commitments. However, knowing rules means nothing if the army man does not have a trait that could distinguish all the difference between him and another one. That trait is obedience to authority. True obedience not only emanates out of the fear of reprisal but of a mature kind that takes other people’s feelings in consideration (Baroch, Andrew).

If the military leaders live with integrity, what they would radiate has the capacity to influence others greatly. Their power will not vary and will not fluctuate. It is not diluted. Their officers need not make these excuses for them just to cover up their disobedience. Roger Dawson refers to this kind of power as “Reverent Power,” a kind of consistent set of standards with no deviations. (Perls. Frederick 1951). During the Vietnam War, no general officers and only a few colonels chose to resign as a matter of ethical conviction. There were rare demonstrations of protests.

Soldiers obeyed only because their officers were worth the respect and obedience. (Stockdale, James as qtd in Zwygart, Ulrich). Author Jerome Brown suggests, “Military institutions should enhance this learning process by giving role models the chance to teach, by encouraging critical thinking, and by making the students aware of how important a good command climate is for promoting critical obedience. (Brown, Jerome as qtd in Zwygart, Ulrich )

Indeed, if the military leaders want to elicit true obedience from its subordinates, then it must strive for consistency in its living, not only within the military but also in their own inpidual homes and community. The consistency referred here does not compare nor judge. It is the consistency of thought and action that comes from a set of principled beliefs and values. Others will begin to respect and obey their leaders only if they are treated with consideration and kindness consistently, meaning that they operate from the very core which is out character. Military men must not be capricious or transitory.

Loyal to the State, they must not be situational or variable in their acceptance, their patience, their discipline and obedience. As expounded in Durant’s novel, leaders do not view their actions as manipulative techniques brought into play when they do not get their way. Rather their approach must become a set of values that is their own creed, their personal code, a manifestation of their character in the paper, a function of who they are, and a reflection of who they truly are.


  • Baroch, Andrew. Army Recruiters Take Day to Reflect on Ethics of Job. Voice of Washington D.C.. Retrieved May 6, 2008
  • Brown, Jerome (1992). Discipline: The Execution of Private Eddie D. Slovik. Combined Arms in Battle Since 1939, edited by Roger J. Spiller (Fort Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Press, 83 as qtd in Zwygart, Ulrich )
  • Durant, Michael. In the Company of Heroes. Putnam Adult. May 8, 2003
  • Perls. Frederick, S. Growth in the Human Personality New York: Julian Press, 1951
  • Zwygart, Ulrich. How much Obedience does an Officer Need? Retrieved May 6, 2008
Did it help you?