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Confirming The Ground

It’s been five weeks since I’ve taken up my appointment. My recruits enlisted the day I started work at the company, so I was as new to being a commander as they were to being in the army. As my recruits settled into the army routine, I was busy settling in myself. I found that my routine was more flexible and that most resources were available to me. I found where to get the necessary information for my work, and to what extent I was responsible for acting on information I received.

I have also found that being a commander is very different from experiences I’ve had that I’d thought might be similar. I’ve been a maanger of a system and a manager of resources. I’ve also been a coach and a mentor. I’ve coordinated events and activities and led planning meetings. This means that I’ve had assistants, 徒弟 (not students, and not quite apprentices either), and understudies. I’ve not yet had subordinates who, from the outset, expect me to be better somehow, by virtue of my rank and the fact that they have very little leeway in deciding whether or not to do what they’re told. That they perpetually have to do what I tell them is a constant reinforcement of the deference they first gave me on credit. I should qualify: I do not believe that I am intrinsically superior, and neither do my men believe that they are lower forms of being; respect is still earned, and once the men are settled they see things quite clearly. However, I am unused to accepting the trust implicit in our relationship and situation. What is that situation? My men are prepared (or constrained) to do what I tell them, even when there is no room for clarification or questioning, the fact that I am their commander being sufficient for them to act.

There is a weight of responsibility, and also an imperative to accept that trust; it is not an option for me to refuse it, so, on my part, it becomes imperative for me to do my ‘duty’, which is ultimately what we take on ourselves, even though there are usually woefully inadequate guidelines provided to us.

On the matter of trust, I should note that it is something I give very readily (although as I grew older I increasingly recognized where it was ill-deserved as well). Conversely, I quite actively avoided situations where I would have to assume some implicit trust given. Even in other appointments I’ve held, I’ve earnestly attempted to have my subordinates do only as much as I did, and only because they saw as much of a reason for it as I did. (This approach is unsuited to many ‘leadership’ positions, however; I’ve done well or passably well in the past because I was fortunate with regards to the job scope.) My readiness to invest others with my trust is probably also proportional to my reluctance to be in their position; so much for my nature. (It is also part of my nature to be comforted by putting what is difficult to articulate into words.)

Still, where I stand, there is much cause for thanksgiving. In January I made certain choices to the end of preventing myself from spending my time in the army comfortably, and forcing myself into places or situations I knew I would choose to avoid if I had a choice;  there was a risk, but my commitment would be limited to a set period of time, and I anticipated that I would have room to grow a good deal. I am five weeks into facing many of those situations, and nine months on the course that I started on with much less forethought and clarity than my words may imply.

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