Our friend (and an admired leader himself) Matt Meyers pointed out this article about leadership to us. We figured — for a number of reasons — we ought to share it with you guys. Meyers, a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and a former OEF/OIF infantry officer, is descended from either The Kurgan, Peachy Carnehan or Danny Dravot depending on the day of the week. In his time Meyers has defeated surly hoplophobes, Taliban warlords, Iraqi insurgents, cancer and the PNW’s own peculiar version of Le Cafard. A couple centuries ago Meyers would have been James Brooke or Josiah Harlan — as it is now he’s a pillar of the military optoelectronic industry, an honorable vetrepreneur truly dedicated to the warfighter and just overall a good sumbitch. That’s why we share.
Bring it in, take a knee, listen up. Mad Duo
“I came across this article about one of the most fascinating professors I ever had the privilege to encounter at VMI, Dr. Alan Farrell. Old school, grizzled, coolcat MACV-SOG guy with better war stories than anyone I’ve ever talked to. In his office he had a stuffed kangaroo, helmets from every nation at war in the 20th century, and a small photo of himself in a loincloth with his Montagnard tribesmen during the Vietnam War.
His character made an impact, but his stories were ones that found the sticking place. On certain days I’m glad I had the privilege of learning from thinkers such as him. I’m glad he’s still out there doing his thing.” Matt Meyers
Said one of Matt’s friends (also from VMI) of Dr. Farrell,
“I remember running off hangovers during summer session and he’d be rucking with silkies and a cigar. Always in awe.”
Teaching leadership? . . . .
“It’s some slippery stuff.” -Dr. Alan Farrell
Says Dr. Farrell of leadership’s beginning,
“You will doubt. That’s where the leader becomes a leader. That’s where leadership is the simple but unavoidable business of taking the first step … first, off into the void. Follow me. That, in a word, is the leader: the one who understands the human being’s rights and promise in a physical, circumscribed world, but who has the plain ol’ vanilla nerve just to take the first step out there into the unknown to prove it.”
He explains further,
“Leaders can and do contest nature, defy nature, ignore nature and the confinement of the here and now. You can’t change the odds, but you can beat them. Knowing when and where and how—and with whom—is the miracle of leadership, the challenge of leadership. Why it’s so elusive. Why managers and administrators work for leaders and patiently explain the real world to them and fume when the leader ignores their constrictions, hesitations, reservations.”
At times, Farrell avows, it’s not about going first.
Not all leadership comes from being first, first over the edge or into danger. Days later, on that same mission, as Farrell recalls, he led from the back by being the last man to board helicopters leading his unit from danger to safety. ‘Not that my silly gesture changes the risk or the threat. But last sometimes is the place for a leader. Slow sometimes is the pace for a leader. Taking up the rear sometimes is the role of a leader. Not that log chain Patton was talking about but maybe an anchor. So I step back. And the ’Yards stay back with me. All of this wordless. I feed them into the aircraft. I jump on last and we blow that lousy, bloody, smoke-shrouded clearing.’”
Leadership. Farrell says you can talk about it, read about it, invite CEOs and old generals to “blather” about it; you can mistake success for it, same as you can mistake achievement for honor– but he’s not sure you can teach it. All you can do it demonstrate it, practice it, and get used to the loneliness of it.
You need to read the rest of this, boys and girls. You truly do, and you can do so right here.