The 5 Be’s Excerpt: Esprit De Corps

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I’m proud to present an excerpt from my latest book, The 5 Be’s (For Starting Out). It will be available on in print and e-book formats on Halloween, and on Amazon as an e-book shortly thereafter!

Before we begin the discussion on helping people find their own strengths, it is important to address the external aspects of “pride.” In the military, as illustrated in my “Airman” speech to the First Term Airman’s Center (FTAC) Airmen, it is virtuous for individuals to subordinate their own needs to that of the group. The Air Force Core Value of “Service Before Self” embodies this idea. For mentors, coaches, and leaders in every type of organization, esprit de corps builds team cohesion and imparts a sense of belonging to the group. Esprit de corps, literally “spirit of the body”, is the collective pride in the larger group. It is a necessary and desirable starting point used to assemble a group of people into a team to accomplish a shared goal.

Helping our new Airmen find some pride in their organization was the reason I began my speech to the FTAC Airmen the way I did. Reminding them about the might of the Service they volunteered to join. In order for the young Airmen to take their service seriously, they needed to take their Service seriously. Esprit de corps helps a person take pride in their group membership, enabling them to overcome the natural and human tendency of placing individual interests before the groups’.

Furthermore, the subordination of an individual’s needs will assist that group member’s personal growth. The principle is the same in many walks of life, such as athletics, religion, business or art. Any time we learn to delay gratification for the good of others, we gain the opportunity to learn something new about ourselves, and as a side effect, advanced the shared goals of the group.

Preparation + Opportunity = Victory

This is pride experienced from group participation in the best case. Like all things, divergence to either extreme can create vice. In the extreme, if individuals twist pride into fanaticism. If pride in one’s group results in the subordination of all good outside of the group then people become fanatics.

Fanatics are capable of great harm, either through violence or just plain ugliness. It is the same vice that generates bullying in high school and at its most extreme, war crimes like ethnic cleansing. On the other end of the scale, the wrong sort of pride in the group creates a user of people, where they spend their lives in subordination to the group to the exclusion of all other good. This is the kind of pride that generates the stereotypical “salaryman” who neglects his family for work.
Therefore, mentors and leaders should appreciate the power of external motivation and esprit de corps, and use that power only for good… the good of the team and the good of the individual.

Esprit de corps should inspire us to achieve, to become virtuous, and to become better people.

Look for The 5 Be’s (For Starting Out) on Halloween in the Lulu Store!

More on Generational Differences UPDATED

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Practical Leadership

generation-gap-2Generational differences are nothing new, but each generation seems to find new ways to separate themselves from their parents.  Sometimes it’s intentional as in the Parisian students’ social rebellions of 1968, and sometimes it’s just coincidence and technology that widen the generation gap.

In any event, for leaders to be effective we need to make an attempt to bridge the generational divide and invite the younger generation to do the same. After all, leadership at it’s most basic level is motivating people to accomplish something; and the human “terrain” is no less important than  any other piece of “key terrain.”

For example, did you know most people in the millennial generation don’t listen to their voicemail? Ever? And sometimes they don’t even answer the phone!  Unlike my generation where a ringing phone was a force of nature to be dealt with now, millennials have grown up with caller ID…they know who’s calling and they decide if you’re important enough to interrupt whatever they’re doing to talk to you.

Over at, Suzanne Lucas schools us “seasoned citizens” on the younger generation now entering the workforce by expounding on the famous Beloit College “Mindset List” :

The following factors influence the mindset of the members of this year’s entering freshman class:

  • When they see wire-rimmed glasses, they think Harry Potter, not John Lennon.
  • During their initial weeks of kindergarten, they were upset by endlessly repeated images of planes blasting into the World Trade Center.
  • Hong Kong has always been part of China.
  • Ads for prescription drugs, noting their disturbing side effects, have always flooded the airwaves.
  • There has always been a national database of sex offenders.

The young men and women “coming up” this fall are bright, energetic, and ready to take on the world’s problems. As leaders, we can help them reach their goals (and ours) by “getting” where they come from.  It shouldn’t be a one-sided affair, however, because youth and energy can’t compete with experience and education. Just like we learned the timeless arts of leadership and adulthood from our fathers and mothers, it’s incumbent upon us to pass those some lessons on to them. The trick here is to bridge the generational difference and present the lesson in a way the student can understand.

UPDATE: A millenial praises voicemail.