The 3 Cs of Leadership

Being old school implies not being curious, not being hip or cool, and a prisoner of antiquated methods. But having old-school ideals can also be a positive.

On Nov. 1, 2011, Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh addressed a group of graduating cadets.

In his 50-minute speech, Welsh showed them a slide of Master Sgt. Bart Decker sitting on a horse, with a boatload of technology at his disposal. Decker was serving in Afghanistan, and Welsh made the point that Decker was a new-age kind of soldier, highly tech-savvy, even though he was sitting on a horse.

Welsh continued his evaluation of Decker by saying that while he was the modern soldier, he was really an “old-school” warrior.

When someone proclaims he/she is “old school,” it often comes with a negative connotation — that they’re opposed to today’s method of leading or working. The negativity really stems from the word “old,” implying someone unwilling to change or update his/her ways.

Being old school also implies not being curious, not being hip or cool, frozen in time, and a prisoner of antiquated methods. But having old-school ideals and methods can also be a positive.

“The enemy will change, technology will change, how we successfully lead will never change going as far back as the Roman Legions,” Welsh told the cadets.

The Roman Legion was a military unit of the Ancient Roman army. The Romans were a society that valued discipline and detailed organization — and the Legion was a testament to their way of life.

It consisted of several cohorts, each containing six centuries (groups) of infantrymen and commanded by a centurion. A century consisted of 80 men who would fight as one unit under one officer: the century leader.

Leadership is a key factor in the success of the Roman Legion. The legion’s leadership was a group effort that would not have been possible without the cooperation of all members.

Besides committing to the process and being highly organized, The Roman Legion valued three areas of leadership:

Calibration. Julius Caesar was clear and concise with his strategy and all centurions were briefed and had as much information on the battle plan as he possessed. Everyone knew their jobs, everyone understood their roles and everyone played a part in implementing the strategy without email or motivational signs to remind everyone. If it’s “old school” to provide a clear direction, then so be it.

Communication. Being “old school” doesn’t mean not talking or not sharing. Before iPhones and texts, the Roman Legions were fanatical about communicating to everyone about even the smallest detail. They relied on spreading the right information to their people and would have fully embraced our methods today. In fact, they would probably proclaim they communicated better than some do today.

Connection. It was said that Julius Caesar knew the names of every soldier that fought with him; this was a strategy to win the confidence and trust of his army. Building personal connections with your subjects is a proven tactic for winning every battle. Caesar didn’t have a printout of each soldier, instead relying on his memory and his ability to make eye contact to establish a rapport.

Being “old school” might sound negative to some; however, what is old becomes new when it still works.


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