In my leisure time I’m reading Fantasy and SciFi. Lately I read “Soldier Son” by Robin Hobb. The story evolves around the growing up and education of one son. He is to become a soldier, too – and officer to be precise. From young age he learns to obey and tries hard to do everything right for his father. One day his father decides to give his son to a former enemy for further training. That man makes the son promise to obey his orders. That is hard for the son but he follows as being told. When he is faced with a life threatening situation he finally breaks the promise and makes a decision (other than to follow and obey) on his own. Later the father explains to the mother why he did this. He was concerned his son would never stand on his own feet and would not become a leader.
His words were, “you need to learn to follow orders before you can command others because you must understand the consequences to those who believe in your leadership. “
This is a powerful parable. The question is, is it right?
Just a few days ago I came across a job description for an executive role. There was nothing special about it, it talked about strategy, planning, and operational management. And the interesting part came in the skills and competency section:
“Ensures decisions – own and organisational ones – are being actioned without hesitation.”
This sounded like military to me. And I asked myself, at what stage is the following of orders right and necessary and when is it wrong and dangerous?
This is a good reminder to look at the ethics and values of an organisation. Its adherence to rules, regulations, the law and its moral culture. Doing the right thing is very important to me. A decision that implies action which will undermine the ethics and values should be questioned. One of my mentors told me, the first question you ask when you join a team “Will we cheat?”. This tells you a lot about the team and provides you with a clear idea what to expect.
Your comments are as always welcome.