Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"The Unforgiving Moment"

As a former US Army 2nd/1st Lieutenant, who prepared for combat but never had combat experience, I have long wondered how I would have done in the midst of the confusion and fear of a real fire-fight. Now, a book has appeared that addresses this question in a thoughtful yet emotional fashion. Craig M. Mullaney's The Unforgiving Moment, is a well-worthwhile book for those who have grappled with the essence of leadership in the "most unforgiving moments." In particular, there are two observations that Mullaney makes that I feel are worth the entire read:
  1. As a platoon leader he was well-aware that his soldiers' "... parents had entrusted me with [their lives]," which I believe is the precise statement of a platoon leader's first and foremost obligations [p. 292]; and
  2. In Afghanistan, as in so many places, "We should have focused less on finding the enemy, and more on finding our friends." [p. 362]
This is a book that all aspiring leaders would be wise to look at; the issues are important and the writing is moving. It also reminds us of the enormous sacrifices that are often asked of those who are not fortunate/wealthy enough to be able to sit-by and benefit from the sacrifices of others; how truly questionable our wars might be; and the amazing amount of preparation that is required of a thoughtful leader. Several times in the book the comment is made that the Army requires leaders who think; all too often, my experience was that this was the capability that was valued least among a variety of other more "performance-driven" attributes.

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