Leaders, Subordinates and Trust: A Leaders Guide. To our subordinates we owe everything we are or hope to be. For it is our subordinates, not our superiors, who raise us to the dizziest of professional heights, and it is our subordinates who can and will, if we deserve it, bury us in the deepest mire of disgrace.
Leading, commanding, being in-charge of or however you want to put it, requires that there be a trust between the leader and his or her subordinates and that trust is a must, and it is a sacred trust. Trust is hard gained and easily lost. So, always treat it as such. As a leader in or out of the military, you will always have a certain amount of respect because of your rank or position. That comes with the territory, no matter the rank or position. As a leader, you have a special place to hold for those you lead. You must be firm, but fair. You must restrain when you feel you should act harshly, but yet, you still must get the mission accomplished. A good leader does not require trust from subordinates but gains their trust. They must trust that you will not throw away what they have done for you or what they will do for you. Trust that what they do is going to help the mission succeed, that they have an even chance of returning from a mission or that what they do and sacrifice for will be appreciated, maybe even remembered. A good leader always remembers this, but sadly, today, many do not.
As a Colonel Albert G. Jenkins once wrote: “To our subordinates we owe everything we are or hope to be. For it is our subordinates, not our superiors, who raise us to the dizziest of professional heights, and it is our subordinates who can and will, if we deserve it, bury us in the deepest mire of disgrace. When the chips are down and our subordinates have accepted us as their leader, we don’t need any superior to tell us; we see it in their eyes and in their faces, in the barracks, on the field, and on the battle line. And on that final day when we must be ruthlessly demanding, cruel and heartless, they will rise as one to do our bidding, knowing full well that it may be their last act in this life.”
Colonel Albert G. Jenkins
The words of Colonel Jenkins have stayed with me over the years in my various leader roles, either in the military or outside of the military. They have served me well, as I am sure they will serve you well as long as you remember them. As a leader, you are only as good as those you lead. Lead by your example, ensure your subordinates have the best training and resources you can give them. Ensure that they have your trust and full support to do your biding and give them to room and time to do them. Step in only when needed and always be there to offer guidance and assistance when needed. Never take the credit, but always give the credit. Never pass the blame, but always take the blame. These are but just a few things to remember. Remember, trust is gained, not demanded, gained, not expected.
The relationship of leaders and their subordinates has many complexities. Too many to address here at one time. What we have addressed here is but the tip of the iceberg of leaders and subordinates. Leaders are not born but made. Anyone can become a leader, and anyone can be a subordinate, and we all wear the hat of leader and or subordinate in life and at times, we may well wear both hats at once.
“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”