Leadership Lessons: "Cubum Autem in Duos Cubos..." A Leadership Conjecture (Part 2)

  • Published
  • By Col. Anthony Hernandez
  • 319th Mission Support Group commander

Part One:  As Airmen, we can read and mentor more 
In part one of this series we discussed the requirement for leaders to develop reading and mentoring habits. The underlying premise is that it's impossible to separate these habits in order to make the whole leader. Hence, part one's clever title and subsequent practical advice is meant to shape perfect "cubes."

Part Two: Airmen need to develop thinking skills
Part two recombines these "cubes" using "thinking" as the glue. Questions, quotations, and reading recommendations are used to elicit discussion in mentoring sessions. Once again, writing your "thoughts in the margins" is expected.

"Readers are plentiful, thinkers are rare."
- Harriet Martineau

"The crisis of leadership today is the mediocrity or irresponsibility of so many of the men and women in power, but leadership rarely rises to the full need for it. The fundamental crisis underlying mediocrity is intellectual."
- "Leadership" by James MacGregor Burns

Why do we need thinkers?
Plain and simple: A free society no longer exists when its citizens stop thinking for themselves.

However, there is much more thinking required between the question and answer above (hint: there is always more thinking). For instance, what does it mean or imply for citizens to think for themselves? Additionally, what makes thinking part of a "free" society? Think about those questions for a moment and let the idea settle into your thoughts.

Now add this idea: It is very dangerous for a free society to trust an elite few to do most, if not all, of our thinking.

We learn that we live in a complex world with competing value systems, interconnected dependencies, and seemingly limited resources. As such, is it wise to trust "intellectuals" and "institutions" to think through a myriad of superficially complex problems while we struggle through our day? There are endless theories for solving many perceived problems. Does it make any sense to submit our lives or society to the various "nuances" of elite decisions? Why not think for yourself?

Folks, there are no ivory towers! Deep down you already know this. When the elite do most of the thinking, angst and nihilism grow--culminating in chaos (hint: read Friedrich Nietzsche's "Will to Power"). Over the last century, how many advanced societies were led astray by trusting an elite few?

Finish the sentence: History repeats __________!
"There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them."
- George Orwell
"Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking it is stupid."
- Albert Einstein
(Ask me why these quotes are apt for this section)

Ideas and implications for Airmen:
Idea: A free society must be an informed society.

True or False? Why or why not?

Is your source of news and information biased or balanced? How do you know?  Does  your world view restrict your media choices?

Do our learning institutions truly foster a "liberal" learning environment or have they  become hotbeds of angst and nihilism? How do you know? Does your world view  restrict your participation in the "dialectic" (hint: go look it up) process?

How do our political leaders shape our thinking? Caution: remember military members  are subject to certain restrictions on political activity and opinions. What does this  mean or imply? Does this prevent Airmen from ever thinking?

What does the following quote mean? Where has "group think" led us astray?
"If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking"
- George S. Patton

  Recommended reading:
   "Dereliction of Duty" by H.R. McMaster
   "Intellectuals and Society" by Thomas Sowell
   "The Forgotten Man" by Amity Shlaes
   "The World of Michael Oakeshott" in Modern Age, Summer 2006 by Elizabeth Corey

Idea: Honor is paramount in order for thinkers to be the eyes, ears and voice of a free society.

True or False? Why or why not?

Why does our American sense of honor imply efficiency, consistency, and a clear-cut  objectivity?

Why do we have a Bill of Rights enshrined in our Constitution? Who enforces it?

What are the dangers of too much democracy or a "revolt of the masses" in terms of a  free society?

How do themes such as the "primacy of the individual," the "value of martyrdom,"  and the "impotence of the collective" bolster (or taint) our concept of honor?

  Recommended reading:
   "Honor: A History" by James Bowman
   "The 5,000 Year Leap" by W. Cleon Skousen
   "The Exhausted West" in Harvard Magazine July-August 1978 by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
   "The Revolt of the Masses" by Jose Ortega y Gassett
   "The Road to Serfdom" by F.A. Hayek
   "The Children's Story" by James Clavell
   "Anthem" by Ayn Rand

Idea: the Air Force Core Values can help Airmen think and frame issues.

True or False? Why or why not?

Are the Air Force Core Values too "abstract" or too "concrete" in your opinion? (Hint:  go look up "abstract" and "concrete.")

Can the Air Force Core Values be twisted to permit/promote immorality? (Hint: the  academic discussion is very thought provoking.)

How should Airmen shape and employ these core values using tenets of moral philosophy?

  Recommended reading:
   "The Core Values: Framing and Resolving Ethical Issues for the Air Force" by Col. (Ret.) Charles R. Myers
   "Gallant Atavism" by James H. Toner

"Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see."
- Arthur Schopenhauer
"Intellectuals solve problems. Geniuses prevent them."
- Albert Einstein
Airmen and leaders must strive to rise above mediocrity and irresponsibility and learn to think for themselves. There is much more I can share. However, once again I am at exactly 1,000 words. "Hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet." Shoot! I hope you wrote your thoughts in the margins; assuming you understand the witticism.

Bonus questions: How many times was a form of the word "think" and/or "thought" used in this article? Why do you suppose these words are used?