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Art Callaham: Our leaders need a well-thought-out approach

February 26, 2012|By ART CALLAHAM

“The quality of leadership we need … requires that we have people who are operating from a well-thought-out approach so they will know why they are doing what they are doing, not just copying someone else’s cool idea.”

This is a quote from Reggie McNeal’s “The Present Future, Six Tough Questions for the Church.” I hope you don’t mind that I have quoted from a religious-based book; it is not my intention to mix church and state and business. Good ideas come from all sorts of places.

Let’s consider leadership, or as the quote above suggests, leaders who operate from a well-thought-out approach. When I served in Vietnam in the early 1970s, I had the opportunity to operate with a few soldiers from the Republic of Korea’s Capital Division, then known simply as the Tiger Division.

The ROK soldiers from the Tiger Division were some of the fiercest and most capable among our several allies who fought alongside Americans in that war. But equally as impressive as their fighting abilities was the leadership displayed and tactics employed by their commanders.

Operating mostly in the II Corps area, principally Binh Dinh Province, South Vietnam, the Tigers employed a somewhat unique tactic in their search-and-destroy missions. That tactic generally referred to as “cordon and search” proved more effective than the “sweep and search” method employed by other units.

Cordoned (surrounded) prior to the search phase of the operation, the “bad guys” could not easily exit from the battle space; while sweeps allowed for flanking or retreat movements and an easier exit path. Cordon and search was a well-thought-out approach and the Tigers knew exactly what they were doing while operating — completely destroying the enemy.

As for leadership, the Tigers generally operated in larger units (battalion, task force or brigade size) and their senior commanders were usually on the ground among the fighting elements. This “lead from the front” approach also helped answer the “why are we doing this” question.

Now certainly, churches as well as local, state and national leadership should not be into “destroying the enemy.” In fact, I take a great deal of umbrage when professional athletes refer to themselves as “warriors,” or politicians “declare war” on opponents or others’ political views. More than likely your favorite pro football player and local, even state and national, politico knows very little about war or being a warrior. And if they did, they wouldn’t talk openly about it or wear it as a badge of honor.

So, let’s go back to a well-thought-out approach as a real badge of leadership and depend less on over-the-top rhetoric like we hear so often emanating from our nation’s and state’s capitols. Who do you know running for office or in office today that has a well-thought-out approach?

Let me relate an approach given to me by a (OMG!) Democrat. This approach relates directly to tax increases within the state of Maryland. First, assume that a tax increase will occur — if it doesn’t, nothing ventured, nothing gained or lost.

Second, assume that locally, next to jobs’ creation, infrastructure (i.e. water/sewer, transportation, capital projects) issues are extremely important to this community. (If you don’t agree with that, you may want to move off the grid.) Third, assume that some of our infrastructure is crumbling or at least becoming out-dated. (If you don’t agree with that, then perhaps a trip to the eye glass specialists or chiropractor may be in order).

Now, suppose, as an elected official, you have three options available to get our own money back from the government (we’re talking tax dollars paid out) to maintain, rebuild or improve our local infrastructure. Option one, raise taxes. Like me, I know you don’t like that option whether you are Democrat, Republican or whatever. Option two, work hard to ensure that the final decision on a tax increase is in the best interest of your constituents — most politicians do this — and then move on to the next issue.

Option three, work hard on the final decision concerning a tax increase and if the decision goes against you, then scratch at the majorities’ back side by going to the courts or even the court of public opinion for redress.

An old axiom I learned while working with ROK Tiger Division officers goes like this, “if you scratch the tiger’s behind enough, the tiger will turn and bite your head off.” Beware of the behind scratchers, particularly those who know little or nothing about war.


Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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