Friday, June 10, 2011

Making Choices in Our Relationships

A CGSC Staff Group 30C Thought for the Week:
The views expressed in this blog entry are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
The Bible says that "And God hardened Pharoh's heart." How strange! I would have expected God to encourage him to be a more spiritual person; to be open hearted and more kind...
Of course as a leader, Pharoh was under a lot of pressure. The people were complaining about all of those plagues! Under such pressure, could Pharoh really act with free will? Here, God is hardening Pharoh's heart in order to give him free will, not take it away. Now Pharoh can make his own decisions about how he will lead others. He could have chosen to be a better leader, spouse, parent or friend.
We too are surrounded by miraculous events - sometimes beautiful and sometimes tragic. And we also have the opportunity to make decisions about how we will treat the important people in our lives.
Consider this: Are there better choices we can make right now about how we act towards our friends and Family, and our fellow Soldiers?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bold or Foolish?

“Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful.”

~William Shakespeare (1564-1616 CE) in Measure for Measure
“When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and strong hearted."

~David, Warrior, Poet and Statesman (1040-970 BCE) in Psalm 138:3
It’s easy to confuse Boldness and Foolishness; You may think that it’s timing or meeting the right person or knowledge, but when examined closely, the difference between boldness and foolishness is meaning. Boldness in the service of higher meaning is an aspect of resiliency, and it is our values as warriors and leaders that make it possible for our Soldiers to be bold in the service of our nation.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Do You Wish to Be Great?

“Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.”  ~St. Augustine, 354-430 CE
Do you wish to be great? Who doesn’t? Or as a retired CSM and friend puts in his email signature: Aspire to Inspire before you Expire! Then begin by being True to yourself. The Almighty certainly has a way of ripping away our masks with challenges in our lives. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric of a meaningful life? Think first about the foundations of humility. The basis of humility isn’t walking around with one’s head down thinking “I’m nothing.” The real basis of humility is Truth; a true and accurate understanding of one’s worth (as created in God’s image), and one’s abilities. The higher your structure of meaningful living is to be, the deeper must be its foundation of being true to oneself and true to one’s comrades in arms.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Supreme Court Justice William O'Douglas once said "Security can only be achieved through constant change, through discarding old ideas that have outlived their usefulness and adapting others to current facts."
I've seen a fair bit of change in my life, in our society, our world and of course in the Army. Two coming holidays (Passover for Jews and Easter for Christians) include themes of transformation, both personal and national.
Our 'business' is the security of our nation; transformation and change are things we deal with as Army leaders all the time.
It's important to know what doesn't change! Whether it's your faith and spirituality, Army values or the warrior ethos, somethings don't need to change. Rather than giving you my principles, which are (hopefully) grounded in Torah, I ask that you consider the sources you can draw upon for your principles. You must know what values you rely on and stay with. Those you lead will know your principles. Do you?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Diversity is Stronger

I was traveling one day and came across an interesting book in the airport: The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki, a NY Times business columnist. He makes a strong case that groups of people can be smarter than individuals, no matter how brilliant that individual may be. This simple idea requires that the groups of people discuss ideas and have ways to incorporate multiple viewpoints, much like a marketplace or a democratic society.

Scripture describes the actions of two sons of Aaron, the high priest, in the Book of Leviticus (10:1-2). Nadab and Abihu each decided to approach the newly constructed and inaugurated tabernacle and offer incense. Simultaneously they were struck by lightening and died on the spot! The language used in the Torah to describe the events is unusual and emphasizes that they "each" acted. The implication, according to an ancient text, is that they acted independently and without consulting each other.

This seems strange to me. I would have thought that since they both had the same idea, discussion would be unnecessary,  but scripture tells us otherwise. Perhaps if they had discussed their plans with each other, the very act of consulting with a peer would have brought up new considerations and prevented their tragic death. There are other examples in Scripture where even the Creator of the world seems to consult with subordinates!

Fostering an environment where everyone has a voice and gets heard is part of great leadership. I am often reminded of a quote attributed to General George S. Patton speaking to his staff: "If everyone here is thinking the same thing, then someone isn't thinking!"

A leadership climate that respects diversity while staying focused on the Army's mission and values is important not only because it's the right thing to do, but because it makes us all more successful.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Leader's Treasure

Once upon a time there was a poor man who lived in a small village. He dreamed about a treasure buried under a bridge in a distant city. The dream came to him several times, one night after another until he decided that he must go to that distant place and look for the bridge and thus find the treasure.

He traveled to the city, saw the bridge and began to dig. A policeman noticed the digging and asked him to explain himself. The poor man told the policeman about the dream and why he was sure there was a treasure here. The policeman laughed at him and said "Fool! I also have a dream about a treasure. It is located under a small house in a little village far away." The man realized the policeman was describing his own home and village, and so he returned home quickly and dug underneath his house. There he found the treasure!

As Army Leaders at every level, it is important to remember that our treasure is here in the units we currently serve in. That treasure is our Soldiers. Each one is created in God's image; infinitely more valuable that diamonds or gold.  Also, like a diamond or any other raw material, it takes skill and effort  and leadership to bring out their best. [Thank you LTC Quint Matthews for suggesting this last point].

As leaders, we must always remember to take care of our Soldiers. While we all serve, they are the ones who accomplish the mission.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


A Soldier handed me flyer from at&t which said "TXTNG & DRIVNG --- IT CAN WAIT".  I read it several times, and then gave him my alternative version - "PRAYNG & DRIVNG --- IT CANT WAIT".

Now, I'm not advocating more distracted driving, but I would like to talk about prayer from my own perspective as a spiritual leader.

At first glance, prayer may seem all about whining and begging God, "Please heal  this person. . . please help me survive this brigade run..." etc... One could mistakenly thing that God is holding out on us.

When we're faced with very serious problems, many have the practice of asking others to join together in prayer. What's that all about? It seems as if we hope to move God through force: "God, if you don't respond to my prayers, when I will recruit through the email thousands of others to pray."

Do we think these strategies really work? What are we actually doing here? If God is all knowing then why am I telling Him my problems? He already knows them. If God is good, then why am I asking Him to change my situation?

Prayer is an act of connecting to one's spirituality. It allows us to examine ourselves. Perhaps the question shouldn't be "Is God listening to my prayers?" but rather "Am I listening to my prayers? Does what I say impact me? Have I changed?"

For most of our Soldiers the power of prayer is a significant part of their spiritual fitness and resiliency. As leaders, we can insure they have the opportunity to pray, each in his or her own faith tradition, and know that in doing so, the mission, Soldier and Family are better for it.