General Jacob Bayley remains one of the most obscure figures of American Revolutionary War leadership. Yet in our present age of debilitated moral strength, feeble character, and flexuous purposes, the details of his life and deeds are both instructive and edifying.Continue reading
I have lately had the pleasure to read some of John Paul Jones’s correspondence during the American Revolution. It was a surprise to me how many notables he communicated with—not just with his political superiors, but with Benjamin Franklin, the King of France, Lafayette, and many others.Continue reading
The emperor Julius Valerius Maiorianus, known to English-speaking posterity as Majorian, was a vigorous and able sovereign. He is conceded to have been one of the last western Roman leaders who made an energetic effort to maintain and improve the empire’s institutions. Even Gibbon, who usually had only snide comments for the later occupants of the Roman throne, condescended to say a good word for him in chapter 36 of his History.Continue reading
We do not know the precise location of Charlemagne’s birthplace. He donned the crown at the ripe age of twenty-nine in 771 A.D. upon the death of Carloman II. From that moment he became embroiled in an almost ceaseless series of military campaigns designed both to expand his frontiers and safeguard them; in this turbulent age, kings needed to fight as well as administrate. Historians tell us that he undertook around fifty-three campaigns, and personally commanded most of them.Continue reading
The chronicler known to posterity as Notker the Stammerer (“Notker Balbulus”) was born in what is now Switzerland around A.D. 840. He seems to have come from a family that had the means to provide him with the best education his era could offer. We find him in adulthood as a monk at the monastery at St. Gall, where he was able to exercise his considerable musical talents in composing verses and hymns.Continue reading
Max Hastings’s excellent history, Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, discusses one revealing engagement that took place between American and North Vietnamese forces in late March of 1971. This action—a ferocious assault on a remote firebase named Mary Ann—merits further reflection, I think, and we will give it its due here.Continue reading
If we are to understand the mind of early medieval man, we must attempt to place ourselves in his situation and circumstances. It is difficult for us, having been reared in an age of relative peace and prosperity, to grasp the degree to which Western Europe had succumbed to chaos, warfare, and barbarism after Roman civil authority collapsed in the fourth and fifth centuries.Continue reading
There is a scene near the beginning of the film The Departed (2006) in which the character played by Martin Sheen, a police captain, asks Leonardo DiCaprio, a potential recruit for undercover work, a pointed question. The question is this: “Do you want to be cop, or do you just want to appear to be a cop? It’s a legitimate question. Some guys just want to appear to be cops.”Continue reading
The distinguishing feature of our “leaders” today is their near total disregard for putting the mission ahead of themselves. They are unwilling to risk their careers to make the hard calls that would truly benefit society. And because of their moral cowardice, all of us suffer. We see this played out over and over. In this podcast we examine an anecdote from the experience of one POW in the Second World War, and discuss its lessons. When leaders betray their oaths and their offices, the betrayal extends beyond their immediate radius of control: they betray future generations as well, the young people who were looking to them for protection and guidance.
Sometimes you have to accept the flaws and issues that people have, in order to accomplish the greater good. If you are in a leadership position, the priority is mission accomplishment. All else is secondary. Your people will not be flawless: some of them will have issues. If someone is a top performer, sometimes you have to learn to work around those flaws, as long as his abilities merit consideration. In special situations, you have to make allowances for people, and work around problems. Circumstances will be the judge of this principle–and it should not be abused.