By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to help you gain greater focus.
It’s been a few years since I last saw the precision performance of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. But I still marvel at their focused attention and consistent execution. Nothing deters them – not the crack of a lightning bolt, or even the needle-like pelting of hurricane-force wind and rain around the clock, day in and day out, 24/7.
I learned a lot about leadership the day I spoke with one of the guards when he was off duty. I wanted to know how he maintained such disciplined concentration – every 21 seconds– during his 30-minute shift four or five times a day.
Every 21 seconds he has to either shift his bayonetted weapon to his other shoulder or methodically march 21 steps. To assure the cadence, he counts to 21 over and over again as many as 85 times in each 30-minute session. He counts consistently, persistently and methodically but not absentmindedly. And he focuses on his mission.
“ I am always thinking about the dedication I have to the cause,” said the Army Sergeant at the 1st Battalion, Third United States Infantry at Fort Myer, Virginia who had been guarding at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier for nine years when we spoke. “I’m always making a connection to what I am doing to why I am doing it. I keep thinking about all the soldiers who died in war, all of those who paid the price and in some small way I am giving something back to them who fought for the freedom we have today.”
The leadership lesson is clear: If you have a compelling enough WHY, a leader will fashion the HOW to get something accomplished. No matter what the distraction. No matter what the barrier. No matter what the obstacle . They heed the Creed.
Maybe we corporate leaders should repurpose our vision and mission statements into a Creed that is so ingrained that it informs the daily performance even in routine duties. For example every time a Tomb Guard salutes a commissioned officer, they always say in a loud voice: “Line Six, Sir or Line Six Ma’m” Line Six is the crux of the 99-word Sentinel Creed :
“My standard will remain perfection.”
You may cringe at the indoctrination. But you can’t argue with the consistent results. May be that’s why the key to this kind of focused performance is in the recruiting process.
Only volunteers can become a Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and even then only one in five will qualify to carry out Line Six.
1. My dedication to this sacred duty
2. is total and whole-hearted.
3. In the responsibility bestowed on me
4. never will I falter.
5. And with dignity and perseverance
6. My standard will remain perfection.
Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements, I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability. It is he who commands the respect I protect, his bravery that made us so proud. Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day, alone in the thoughtful peace of night, this soldier will in honored glory rest under my eternal vigilance.
Turn your mission/vision into a creed to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.
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