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Give Subordinates The Honor When They Succeed

; Essay, Research Paper

1. Its 0630 and I’m in full service dress blues. I’ve been told that I must report to the Wing Deputy Commander to explain the actions of a Communication Security (COMSEC) incident that has occurred in my section. I am in charge of the account but did not personally have anything to do with the incident. Do I shift blame to the Airman that committed the incident? What would you do in this situation? In the next few pages, I hope to explain to you the importance of good leaders giving honor to their subordinates when they succeed and taking the blame when they fail.

2. How easy is it to take responsibility for your subordinates work? Now think, how easy is it to take the blame for your subordinate’s failure? As a leader, we must give subordinates the honor when they succeed and be ready to accept the responsibility of our subordinate’s actions when they fail. In order for me to encourage you to practice this, you first need to understand how both of these actions can benefit the team. First, we’ll look at the advantages of giving honor to our subordinates when they succeed, then we’ll look at some advantages in taking the blame for our subordinates.

3. What are the advantages of praising our subordinates? What type of qualities should a leader have? These are the questions you should ask yourself. Be modest and humble, and praise when praise is due. According to an article in the Marine Corps Gazette, Lord or Leader Modesty Will Force Introspection, “Leaders are modest; lords are not. A modest person is a person who is constantly introspective and places his or her position and accomplishments into proper perspective.” (Lyman: 49) A good example of modesty and honoring subordinates when they succeed happened to myself in 1998. I was in charge of the largest COMSEC account on the base. Our section went through a command COMSEC inspection and received an outstanding rating. During the out brief with the wing commander, the inspector singled me out as being the best COMSEC custodian in 15th Air Force. I thought to myself; what made me the best? I did not do this by myself. I immediately responded to the commander that my team deserved the real praise, because without their hard work and dedication in preparing for the inspection, none of this could have been accomplished. The team was then praised by the commander for their accomplishment and rewarded a 1-day pass. The benefits were overwhelming in team unity and pride. Remember this, your success as a leader is measured by the success of the team not by your individual success. Giving praise to our subordinates when they succeed is easy, but what about taking the blame when they fail?

4. How can you trust you subordinates to do a task when you are responsible to get it done? We are not expected to do all the work, but we are responsible to ensure all the work is done. From the book Robert E. Lee on Leadership, General Lee wrote to Jefferson Davis before the battle at Gettysburg and said: “I have for the past year felt the corps of this army were too large for one commander. Each corps contains when in fighting condition about 30,000 men. These are more than one man can properly handle and keep under his eye in battle…. They are always beyond the range of his vision and frequently beyond his reach.” (Crocker: 105) General Lee knew he had to delegate authority in order to lead his men into battle. He alone could not do this. He also knew that when delegating authority, he could never trust a subordinate who did not share his vision. He broke his own rule, which resulted in the disaster at Gettysburg. A leader must be willing to take reasonable risks in order for your subordinates to become a more productive member of the military. Our subordinates will never have the opportunity to grow unless we take these risks and give them that opportunity. As a good supervisor, you know when your subordinate is ready to take on a more active role. You are willing to take that reasonable risk in order to let this person grow and learn. You alone are responsible for their actions, good or bad. Now, remember General Lee’s philosophy that when delegating authority the subordinate must share your vision. General Lee put his trust into General Longstreet, even though he knew General Longstreet didn’t share his vision. General Longstreet didn’t follow through with General Lee’s plan, which resulted in the failure at Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg. After the failure Lee said, “All this has been my fault. It is I who have lost this fight, and you must help me out of it the best way you can.” (AFPAM: 84) General Lee put all the blame on his shoulders. Lee knew that no matter how much discretion he left to his officers, the responsibility ultimately rested on him.

5. I hope you now have a better understanding of why its important in giving subordinates the honor when they succeed, and taking the blame when they fail. I believe you must help your subordinates grow and to do so you have to take reasonable risks. This might mean taking the blame sometimes. We as supervisors and leaders need to know when our subordinates are ready for more responsibility and when to delegate the authority to them. After that it’s up to them to perform and for us to support their decisions. It is also beneficial for a leader to give honor to their subordinates then it is to take it all yourself. I hope now you will use this style as a leader.

7. Its now 0700 and I have just left the commanders office. I have taken the heat for my subordinates. It’s now time to educate them on a lesson learned.


Todd W Lyman , Marine Corps Gazette, Lord or Leader Modesty will force Introspection, Volume 83 No.3 Mar 99

H.W Crocker III, Robert E. Lee On Leadership, Executive Lessons in Character, Courage, and Vision, 1999

Air Force Pamphlet 36-2241, Volume 1, Promotion Fitness Study Guide, 1 July 1999, OPR:AFOMS/OMP

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