In Basic Training, Soldiers memorize general orders that begin with “I will”. They learn the habit of doing their Duty, as it’s literally a matter of life and death in combat.
Duty: A foundation of trust
As a Boy Scout, I learned in my oath “to do my best to do my duty to God and country”. Little did I know that those simple words aimed at molding a child would become a recurring theme throughout my career as a Soldier. The Boy Scouts knew that training was necessary for me to learn to do my Duty in the little things so that as an adult, where consequences are more significant, I would habitually deliver.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
As a leader, I learned to trust those who have a habit of delivering.
In Basic Training, Soldiers memorize general orders that begin with “I will”. They learn the habit of doing their Duty, as it’s literally a matter of life and death in combat. Importance of Duty is emphasized:
- As one of the Army’s values - Duty is fulfilling your obligations with an emphasis of being a good teammate and not taking shortcuts.
- In The United States Military Academy at West Point’s motto: “Duty, Honor, Country”.
- In the Soldier’s Creed - it’s made clear that a Soldier’s Duty is founded on moral obligations to be ready and trained, placing the mission and those who serve alongside you above yourself.
Duty is also embedded in the Warriors ethos, the NCO Creed, the Ranger Creed and the Oath of Office that every leader in the Army takes swearing that they “will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
In the Army, Soldiers rely on each other to shoot their weapon accurately, at the right time and often aiming in front of another Soldier’s position. Soldiers trust their buddies to protect them when they cannot protect themselves, while they may be accomplishing another important task for their unit. It’s a trust that’s earned through repetitive drills and training exercises where habits are formed. It becomes clear who you can trust to execute their duties; in good times when it’s easy and in challenging conditions where it takes extra effort and personal sacrifice.
For me, Duty comes down to delivering on what you sign up for with your job, your family, and your personal behavior in the form of creeds, oaths, mottos, contracts, and promises.
In business, when you say you will do something, your delivery becomes your credibility. Your customers trust that you’ll do it without taking shortcuts that undermine the final product’s integrity. Your track record of delivering is a proof point for your next contract proposal and becomes an important competitive advantage.
Will you deliver what you were contracted for on time and at cost? Will what you deliver be what you promised? Trust starts with an individual’s habits and builds over time collectively in an organization leading to culture – and a culture of delivering – of doing one’s Duty - supports a winning company.
I, (Dave) was fortunate enough to have John George as my roommate during Plebe (Freshman) year at West Point. John could always be counted on to do his Duty. As he rose to the rank of Major General, his understanding of Duty built him the same reputation that I recognized when we were nineteen years old.
In our book, Becoming a Leader of Character, we define Duty as - “taking action based on both our assigned tasks and moral obligations.” As John points out, a leader and an organization that can be relied upon to exercise Duty in the small and large moments, builds trust with everyone they encounter.
Don’t wait for the big moments! The small moments that test your sense of Duty will set you up to be that reliable leader that others will follow. I will follow MG(R) John George anywhere, at any time!
MG(R) John George is a West Point graduate and an Army Ranger and served our country with distinction for more than 33 years. He is now Vice President and Army Strategic Account Executive at Leidos. More importantly to him, he is a husband, father, and a grandfather multiple times over!
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