Soon-to-be-graduates: Wise to pay heed

The following speech was delivered by Colonel John Gardam to the RMC Class of 1984 a month prior to graduation.

Col. Gardam has the distinction of being the first Director of Cadets at the Royal Military College, Kingston, who was not an RMC graduate.

Many would say most of this speech – applies today equally as it did in 1984.

 

TALK TO RMC GRADUATES – 11 APR 84

YOUR FIRST COMMAND

I HAVE BEEN GIVING THIS TALK SINCE I WAS D CDTS HERE 10 YEARS AGO AND I SPEAK TO YOU AS A PERSON WHO HAS SEEN A LOT OF RMC GRADUATES IN COMMAND POSITIONS IN THE FIELD. YOU ARE NOW IN YOUR FINAL MONTH AT RMC AND THIS SUMMER, AFTER YOU HAVE COMPLETED YOUR CLASSIFICATION TRAINING, SOME OF YOU WILL GO TO YOUR FIRST COMMAND. THIS IS THE SUBJECT I SHALL NOW PROCEED TO TALK ABOUT.

VERY SOON YOU WILL PASS FROM THE MILCOL SYSTEM OF PEER LEADERSHIP INTO REAL WORLD OF OFFICERS AND MEN. MANY PEOPLE IN THE FORCES CLAIM THAT THERE ARE DIFFERENT STYLES FOLLOWED IN THE NAVY, ARMY, AND AIR FORCE. WHILE I AGREE THAT, ON THE SURFACE THIS MAY BE TRUE, DEEP DOWN THERE ARE SOME BASIC TRUTHS ABOUT LEADERSHIP STYLE THAT WILL NOT LET YOU DOWN REGARDLESS OF YOUR FIRST UNIT.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN OFFICERS AND OTHER RANKS IS A CRITICAL ASPECT OF LEADERSHIP AND I HAVE SEEN IT FIRST-HAND. THE LAST TIME I SERVED IN AN ARMOURED REGIMENT WAS IN 1967-69 AS DEPUTY COMMANDING OFFICER AND EACH SUMMER PRODUCED ITS CROP OF JUNIOR OFFICERS. SOME OF THOSE LIEUTENANTS ARE SENIOR MAJORS TODAY AND TWO OR THREE ARE LCOLS. ONE IS COMMANDING THE 12 RBC IN VALCARTIER. WHEN EACH OF THOSE SUBALTERNS ARRIVED, THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR SOLDIERS EITHER PAVED THE WAY FOR SUCCESS OR DOOMED THEM TO FAILURE. THE CMCS SENT US TWO TYPES OF OFFICERS IN MY VIEW:

  • THE ONE WHO ADAPTED WHAT HE HAD LEARNED AT THE COLLEGE, LISTENED TO HIS TROOP NCO, TREATED HIS MEN AS MEN AND GAVE THEM HIS UPMOST AS A LEADER.
  • THE ONE WHO TREATED HIS MEN LIKE FIRST-YEAR CADETS, HIS NCO AS IF HE WAS A LESSER BEING, AND HE SPENT HIS TIME WITH POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE AND NEVER GOT HIS HANDS DIRTY.

DO NOT THINK FOR ONE MOMENT THAT I AM PICKING ON ROTP, MICOL GRADUATES BECAUSE I AM NOT, REALIZE THIS, HOWEVER, YOU HAVE BEEN SHELTERED FROM THE REAL WORLD.

IN PANIC OR WITH REAL CONCERN YOU MIGHT AS WELL ASK, HOW SHOULD I COMMAND, WHAT SORT OF LEADER WILL I BE?

THINK BACK TO THOSE WHO COMMANDED YOU IN THE PAST; AT RMC, ON SUMMER TRAINING, OR EVEN WAY BACK IN THE MILITIA OR CADETS. REMEMBER THOSE TRAITS THAT DISGUSTED YOU AND TURNED YOU OFF, THESE ARE THE TRAITS YOU MUST AVOID. I DO NOT MEAN THAT YOU MUST SET A PLAN PRIOR TO TAKING OVER COMMAND AND THEN STICK TO IT COME WHAT MAY, BUT AT LEAST YOU MUST HAVE AN IDEA.

THE RELATIONSHIP STARTS WITH YOUR FIRST APPOINTMENT AS AN OFFICER, BE IT ON A FLYING BASE, IN A REGIMENT OR SERVICE BATTALION, OR ABOARD A DESTROYER.

TAKE A CLOSE, HARD LOOK AT THOSE IMMEDIATELY BELOW YOU IN THE ORGANIZATION, THE WO, THE SGT, THE CPL. YOU CAN TELL MUCH OF THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE OF A SERVICEMAN BY HIS BEARING AND DEPORTMENT, THE RIBBONS ON HIS CHEST, ETC. IF YOU HAVE AN OLD AND GRIZZLED SGT WHO HAS OBVIOUSLY BEEN SERVING SINCE BEFORE YOU WERE BORN, AND YOU FIND THAT HE HAS NO CD ON HIS CHEST, IN ALL PROBABILITY YOU HAVE INHERITED A “SALT OF THE EARTH” WHO HAD BEEN UP AND DOWN TO THE RANK OF SGT ONCE OR TWICE. THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN YOUR COMMAND IS THAT NCO WHO WILL ACT IN YOUR ABSENCE. HE MAY HAVE ALREADY BEEN COMMANDING THE SUB UNIT FOR MANY MONTHS BEFORE YOUR ARRIVAL AND COULD QUITE NATURALLY RESENT YOUR ARRIVAL, WHICH NOW MEANS HE IS RETROGRADED TO A LOWER POSITION ON THE TOTEM POLE OF COMMAND.

IT IS IN THESE FIRST DAYS THAT YOU SHOULD USE YOUR EYES AND EARS AND TRY SO HARD TO KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. THESE FIRST FEW DAYS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT IN YOUR PROCESS OF LEARNING HOW TO COMMAND. OBSERVE ALL YOUR WITNESS BUT DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, RUSH INTO HASTY DECISIONS WITH REFERENCE TO CHANGE. MANY YEARS AGO, I WAS GIVEN ADVICE BY AN OLD AND GRIZZLED ARMOURED CORPS MAJOR WHO SAID, “WHEN YOU TAKE OVER YOUR FIRST COMMAND LEAVE THINGS WHERE JESUS FLANGED THEM”. WHAT THIS OLD TIMER WAS SAYING WAS THAT THE OFFICER WHO HAD GONE BEFORE AS THE COMMANDER WAS NOT A COMPLETE IDIOT, AND THAT YOU MUST HAVE SOME TRUST IN HOW HE COMMANDED. TO CHANGE THINGS FOR CHANGE’S SAKE IS A SIGN OF IGNORANCE. REMEMBER, YOU HAVE SO MUCH TO LEARN. “PICK THE BRAINS” OF YOUR SGT OR WO.

SOME OF YOU WILL FIND YOUR EYEBALL TO EYEBALL CONTACT WITH OTHER RANKS WILL NOT BE AS CLOSE AS OTHERS, BUT REMEMBER WHAT MONTGOMERY SAID “THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS POOR UNITS – BUT THERE IS SUCH A THING AS A POORLY LED UNIT.”

IN 1976 I WROTE A SPEECH FOR LGEN CARR COMMANDER AIR COMMAND TO GIVE HERE TO THE 1976 GRADUATING CLASS. I PROPOSE TO USE SOME OF THAT TEXT TO DISCUSS YOUR FUTURE AND YOUR FIRST COMMAND.

FIRST LET ME TELL YOU WHAT I SUSPECT YOU WILL LOOK FOR IN YOU FUTURE CAREER IN THAT FIRST COMMAND YOU WILL WANT:

  • A CHALLENGE SO THAT YOU CAN GET JOB SATISFACTION AND A FEELING OF SELF-FULFILLMENT.
  • A CHANCE TO PRACTICE WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED DURING YOUR FOUR YEARS HERE AND YOUR SUMMER TRAINING.
  • A CHANCE TO COMPETE WITH OFFICERS OF OTHER NATIONS, AND TO FEEL THE PRIDE IN BELONGING TO A WINNING TEAM.
  • A FEELING OF HUMILITY, AS YOU LOOK AT THE LEGACY YOU HAVE INHERITED FROM THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE YOU, AND THE TASK THAT LIES AHEAD EACH OF YOU.
  • A PRIDE IN YOUR FELLOW OFFICERS, AND DEEP RESPECT FOR THE SERVICE PERSONNEL YOU ARE FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO BE PRIVILEGED TO LEAD.
  • AND FINALLY, A FEELING OF WELL-BEING AND PRIDE THAT GOES WITH BEING 100% CANADIAN AS A MEMBER OF THE FORCES.

SO MUCH FOR WHAT I THINK YOU WANT IN YOUR CAREER.  MAYBE I’M RIGHT AND PERHAPS I’M WRONG. NOT ASSUMING I AM PARTLY RIGHT, WHAT WILL THAT FIRST COMMAND DEMAND OF YOU AND OFFER TO YOU IN RETURN:

  • APPOINTMENTS (NOT JOBS) THAT WILL TEST YOUR ABILITY IN SUCH A WAY THAT NO OTHER CAREER COULD. THE CHANGE TO PERFORM UNDER THE MOST TRYING OF CONDITIONS BUT WITH THE BEST FELLOW-WORKERS IN THE COUNTRY.
  • A CHANCE TO DO THE WORK FOR WHICH YOU ARE TRAINED BUT ALSO TO DO JOBS FOR WHICH ONLY YOUR COMMON SENSE, AND PERSISTENCE, ARE YOUR ONLY WEAPONS.
  • TRAVEL AND MORE OF IT TO THE POINT WHERE THE WORDS “KEEP ME POSTED” WILL MEAN FAR MORE THAN “LET ME KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING”. YOU WILL SEE NATIONS WHICH HAVE BEEN AT WAR, AND YOUR TASK WILL BE TO KEEP THEM AT PEACE. YOU WILL SEE THE NORTH LANDS OF CANADA FROM PATROL AIRCRAFT OR NAVAL SHIPS IN THE ARCTIC, OR FROM THE BUSINESS END OF ONE-MAN TOBOGGAN. TRAVEL YOU WILL, TO THE POINT WHERE YOUR PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE GEOGRAPHY OF CANADA WILL RESULT FROM HAVING “LIVED THE NATION”, AND NOT JUST READ ABOUT IT OR WATCHED IT ON T.V.
  • LATER IN YOUR CAREER YOU MAY EDUCATE OFFICERS AND MEN FROM EMERGING NATIONS, TAKE COURSES WITH THEM, AND SPEND MUCH OF YOUR TIME HELPING THEM KEEP UP. YOU MAY COMPETE AGAINST TOP ALLIED NAVIES, ARMIES AND AIR FORCES, AND YOU WILL FEEL PLEASURE OF SUCCESS AND THE SATISFACTION OF BEING IN THEIR COMPANY.
  • REGARDING THE LEGACY YOU HAVE INHERITED: FIELD MARSHAL ALEXANDER SAID THESE WORDS AT RMC WHEN HE WAS OUR GOVERNOR GENERAL: “ALTHOUGH YOU MAY HONOUR, AND RIGHTLY SO, THE GREAT TRADITIONS OF THE PAST, THE TRADITIONS OF THE FUTURE BELONG TO YOU.” I REALIZE THAT THE FORCES HAVE A LEGACY THAT IS WHY I USED THIS THEME IN THE FINAL CHAPTER OF MY BOOK SEVENTY YEARS AFTER.
  • WHEN YOU GRADUATE I SINCERELY TRUST YOU ARE ALL WORTHY OF THE NAME OFFICER, BECAUSE YOU WILL SOON FIND THAT LEADERSHIP IS WHAT YOU ARE REQUIRED TO PRODUCE – AND AT ANY COST. “OFFICER” COMES FROM THE LAIN AND MEANS “DUTY”, AND AS ADMIRAL NELSON SAID “DUTY IS THE GREAT BUSINESS OF AN OFFICER AND ALL PRIVATE CONSIDERATIONS MUST GIVE WAY TO IT NO MATTER HOW PAINFUL IT MAY BE.” LEADERSHIP IS THE ABILITY TO INSPIRE AND BE INSPIRED, AND IT MUST BE A CHARACTERISTIC IN AN OFFICER OR HE IS IN THE WRONG BUSINESS. I WARN YOU NOW THAT YOUR ABILITY TO LEAD WILL BE TESTED FROM DAY ONE OF YOUR FIRST COMMAND.
  • THE FORCES WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GIVE YOU GREAT MONETARY WEALTH BUT IT CAN GIVE YOU WEALTH THAT IS NOT TAXABLE. IN MY 34 YEARS OF SERVICE I HAVE DEVELOPED, WHAT I HOPE IS, A MODEST PRIDE IN FEELING I AM DOING SOMETHING FOR THE CF AND CANADA – AND I HAVE ENJOYED MYSELF DOING IT.

I WANT YOU TO REALIZE A VERY IMPORTANT THING HERE AND NOW, JUST WHY YOUR FIRST COMMAND IS SO CRITICAL TO YOUR FUTURE:

  • YOU WILL START TO DEVELOP A SENSE OF WELL-BEING AND CONFIDENCE IF YOU HANDLE THINGS PROPERLY.
  • YOUR SUPERIORS WILL CLASSIFY YOU AS A GOOD LEADER OR HOPELESS VERY QUICKLY. YOU MUST SHOW THAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES.
  • YOUR INTERACTION WITH YOUR MEN AND HOW THEY FOLLOW YOUR EXAMPLE WILL BE FOLLOWED WITH GREAT INTEREST BY YOUR PEERS AND YOUR LEADERS.
  • THE WAY YOU SACRIFICE YOUR TIME FOR YOUR MEN IS PARAMOUNT.
  • HOW YOU SHARE YOUR TIME WITH YOUR FAMILY AND THE FORCES IS ALSO A SIGN OF YOUR LONG-TERM POTENTIAL.
  • HOW YOU STAND UP TO CRITICISM AND PUTTING YOURSELF LAST AND YOUR MEN FIRST WILL ALSO DETERMINE YOUR FUTURE.

(TAKE A BREAK IN PLACE AND THEN I WILL TALK ABOUT THOSE FIRST FEW DAYS).

WHEN YOU ARRIVE AT YOUR NEW COMMAND YOU ARE ON DISPLAY IN FRONT OF THEM. YOUR MEN WILL BE EXPERTS AT BEING “TAKEN OVER BY YET ANOTHER BUDDING GENERAL”. IN MANY PARTS OF THE CANADIAN FORCES IT SEEMS AS IF IT IS THE FASHION TO CHANGE JUNIOR OFFICERS EVERY FALL. THE OLD TIMERS MOVE ON TO OTHER JOBS OR OTHER PLACES IN THE UNIT BUT THE MEN STAY ON FOR A FAR LONGER TIME. REMEMBER THAT FIRST IMPRESSIONS CAN BE LASTING BUT ONCE AGAIN I WARN YOU NOT TO CREATE A BIAS RIGHT FROM THE START.

TO THOSE OF YOU WHO WILL SEE VERY FEW OTHER RANKS IN YOUR FIRST COUPLE OF JOBS BECAUSE OF FLYING DUTIES TRY AND GET TO KNOW YOUR GROUND CREW. TAKE A GENUINE INTEREST IN WHAT THEY DO FOR YOUR AEROPLANE. DON’T GET INTO THEIR WAY ON THE HANGAR FLOOR BUT DO NOT IGNORE THEM. A WISE OLD PILOT WHOSE STORY IS IN CHAPTER 16 OF MY BOOK SAID “VERY SELDOM DID THE GROUND CREW GET THE PRAISE THEY DESERVED. THE PILOT GOT THE GLORY FOR WHAT HE DID BUT THE PLANE WOULDN’T HAVE TAKEN OFF WITHOUT THE SKILL OF THE AIRMEN ON THE GROUND”.

I SHALL NOW COVER THESE SPECIFIC LEADERSHIP TRAITS AND SOME PITFALLS:

OFF DUTY HOURS

PRAISE AND RECOGNITION

CONFIDENTIALITY

PER POINT SEEKER

YOUR TIME IS THEIR TIME

COMMUNICATION

SENSE OF HUMOUR

OFF DUTY HOURS

ONE OF THE BIGGEST DIFFICULTIES IS IN THOSE OFF DUTY HOURS OR RECREATION PERIODS WHEN IT IS VERY EASY TO LET DOWN YOUR GUARD AND BE “ONE OF THE BOYS.” WATCH FOR THAT DANGEROUS PRACTICE OF USING FIRST NAMES ONE MOMENT AND THEN JUST RANK THE SECOND. YOUR MEN ARE NO DIFFERENT THAN ANY GROUP OF HUMAN BEINGS. YOU WILL FIND THAT THEY RESPOND MUST BETTER TO A CONSISTENT POLICY OF: “BE FIRM BUT FRIENDLY.”

PRAISE AND RECOGNITION

TO PRAISE A PERSON FOR DOING AN EXCELLENT JOB IS SIGN OF GOOD MANNERS AND AWARENESS OF WHAT PEOPLE ARE DOING FOR YOU. BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVERDO IT WHERE YOU ALWAYS GUSH WITH PRAISE WHEN ANYTHING IS DONE. MAKE YOUR REWARDS MEANINGFUL.

CONFIDENTIALITY

ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT FACETS OF ANY OFFICER’S LIFE IS TO PROVIDE VARIETY AND CHANGE. I AM AFRAID THAT ONE OF THE WAYS THIS IS DONE ALL TOO OFTEN IS BY “MES TALK.” IN ORDER TO GET LISTENED TO, PEOPLE SAY, “DID I TELL YOU WHAT ONE OF MY MEN DID IN OTTAWA THIS WEEKEND.” THE OFFICER WHO USES CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION ABOUT HIS MEN AS A TOPIC FOR IDLE CHATTER IS NOT REALLY WORTHY OF THE TITLE OFFICER.

PER POINT SEEKER

BEWARE OF ACCEPTING ADDITIONAL TASKS FOR YOUR COMMAND SO THAT YOU GAIN FAVOUR WITH THE PERSON WHO SUPERVISES/COMMANDS YOU. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES VOLUNTEER YOUR COMMAND FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF GAINING FAVOUR FOR YOU OWN GOOD. DO NOT, HOWEVER, SHIRK YOUR SHARE OF RESPONSIBILITIES.

YOUR TIME IS THEIR TIME

IN CASE YOU DID NOT HEAR IT EARLIER, THE WORD OFFICER COMES FROM THE LATIN WORD, “DUTY” AND THIS MEANS DUTY 24 HOURS A DAY, 7 DAYS A WEEK. I KNOW YOU HAVE PUT IN LONG HOURS HERE AND THIS IS GOOD TRAINING FOR WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN THE REAL WORLD. I WANT YOU TO REALIZE HERE AND NOW THAT YOUR JOB IS NEVER DONE AS A COMMANDER AND YOU MUST MAKE YOURSELF, AND YOUR TIME, AVAILABLE TO YOUR MEN, COMMUNICATION.

MAKE A REAL EFFORT TO TALK WITH YOUR MEN ON A FORMAL OR INFORMAL BASIS WHENEVER YOU CAN. ENSURE THAT EVERY MAN UNDER YOUR COMMAND REALIZES THAT YOU ARE APPROACHABLE. WHEN YOU ARE APPROACHED DO NOT BRUSH OFF THE EVENT AS BEING UNIMPORTANT. TO YOU THE MATTER MAY SEEN RATHER LOW KEY, BUT TO THE YOUNG PRIVATE OR CORPORAL IT MAY BE ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT MOMENTS OF HIS LIFE. YOU NEVER KNOW HOW LONG IT TAKES A YOUNG SERVICEMAN TO SCREW UP THE COURAGE TO SPEAK TO HIS OFFICER.

YOU MAY NOT KNOW THAT I HAVE A VERY LIGHT-HEARTED APPROACH TO LIFE AND I HAVE FOUND THAT THIS IS ONE OF THE WAYS TO AVOID ULCERS. I MUST CAUTION YOU, AS I QUITE OFTEN HAVE TO CAUTION MYSELF, THAT THERE IS A VERY FINE LINE BETWEEN BEING HUMOROUS AND FRIVOLOUS. ENSURE THAT YOUR HUMOUR DOES NOT VIOLATE GOOD MANNERS. REMEMBER, SARCASM IS NOT HUMOUR AT ALL. I WOULD LIKE TO NOW QUOTE FROM A BOOK, “WE JOINED THE NAVY” BY JOHN WINTON:

“ABOVE ALL, KEEP YOUR SENSE OF HUMOUR. THIS IS REALLY VITAL, GIVEN TO MEN OF THE SAME ABILITY. THE MAN WITH THE SENSE OF HUMOUR WILL GO FURTHEST. BY THAT I DON’T MEAN A NASTY, VICIOUS, CARPING SENSE OF HUMOUR. YOU MUST STILL BE LOYAL TO YOUR MEN AND THOSE ABOVE YOU. WHAT I MEAN IS THE ABILITY TO RECOVER FROM SETBACKS, THE ABILITY TO TAKE EACH DAY AS IT COMES, AND THE ABILITY TO SEE THE FUNNY SIDE WHATEVER HAPPENS, IT’S A PRICELESS ASSET. VALUE IT ABOVE GOLD.”

I THINK THAT SAYS A GREAT DEAL IN JUST A FEW WORDS.

A FEW WORDS NOW ABOUT THE FUTURE AND YOU AS A LEADER OF MEN. FIELD MARSHAL WAVEL SAID,

“COMPARATIVELY FEW OF YOU ARE PERHAPS LIKELY TO BECOME GENERALS. BUT MANY OF YOU ARE LIKELY TO SUFFER, PERHAPS EVEN TO TRIUMPH UNDER GENERALS; AND ALL OF YOU ARE LIKELY TO HAVE OPPORTUNITY TO CRITICIZE GENERALS.”

BEAR THIS IN MIND, NEVER COMPROMISE LOYALTY TO YOUR BOSS OR YOUR MEN. SOME OF YOU WILL BE COLONELS MAYBE THERE IS A FUTURE GENERAL IN CURRIE HALL THIS AFTERNOON. BUT MANY OF YOU WILL END YOUR CAREER AS A MAJOR, A MOST HONOURABLE RANK, AND THE ONE I WAS SURE I WOULD END MY CAREER IN.

WHEN YOU START THINKING OF LEAVING HERE NEXT MONTH YOU WILL HAVE PASSED A BIG HURDLE, YOUR DEGREE. AHEAD OF THAT LIES THE FUTURE, WHERE YOU ARE GOING TO SPEND THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. HERE IS SOME ADVICE TO ENSURE YOU HAVE A CHANCE OF SUCCESS:

USE YOUR COMMON SENSE

DON’T ACCEPT THE STATUS QUO – INNOVATE, CALL A SPADE A SPADE BUT FIRST MAKE SURE IT’S NOT A SHOVEL. DO NOT HIDE BEHIND RULES IF COMMON SENSE SHOWS YOU THERE IS A BETTER, FAIRER WAY OF DOING SOMETHING.

TRUTH IS HONESTY TO YOURSELF, THOSE WHO WORK FOR YOU, AND TO THOSE YOU WORK FOR AND FOLLOW. YOUR FELLOW WORKERS WILL FOLLOW YOU ANYWHERE IF THEY KNOW THAT LYING, CHEATING, AND MISREPRESENTATION ARE NOT IN YOUR CHARACTER.

COMMITMENT

REMEMBER, IN OR OUT OF THE MILITARY, CANADA OWES YOU AND ME NOTHING – WE HAVE TO JUSTIFY OUR GOOD FORTUNE. YOUR COMMITMENT TO ROTP IS FOR FOUR YEARS SERVICE (FIVE IF A PILOT). ONLY 15% OF OUR ROTP ARE LEAVING AT THE END OF OBLIGATORY SERVICE, IT USED TO BE 40%.

SUMMING UP THIS PORTION OF MY TALK I WOULD OFFER THESE THOUGHTS ON YOUR FUTURE OFFICERS. THE FORCES WILL EXPECT FROM YOU – TWO VALUES – TWO ATTRIBUTES: THESE ARE LEADERSHIP AND DEDICATION. LEADERSHIP, AS I HAVE SAID, IS THAT ABILITY TO INSPIRE PEOPLE – TO LEAD THEM ON TO GREATER THINGS. THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO ACHIEVE THE ART, BUT IN A SUCCESSFUL MILITARY OFFICER IT IS AN ESSENTIAL ATTRIBUTE. OTHER-RANKS WILL LOOK TO YOU FOR LEADERSHIP AND WILL EXPECT A GREAT DEAL OF YOU. FIRST, BECAUSE YOU ARE OFFICERS AND ALSO BECAUSE OF YOUR BACKGROUND. BE CLEAR ON THIS POINT HOWEVER: UNLESS YOU ARE THOROUGHLY DEDICATED TO THEIR WELFARE, INTERESTED IN THEM AND WILLING TO WORK HARD FOR AND WITH THEM, YOU WILL NOT SUCCEED AS A LEADER. TO BE A LEADER YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE A SNOB. IF YOU HAVE DEDICATION AND ARE NOT STUPID, LEADERSHIP SKILLS ARE BOUND TO GROW, AND WITH THE BENEFIT OF THE EXCELLENT EDUCATION AND TRAINING YOU HAVE RECEIVED HERE, YOUR SUCCESS WILL BE LIMITED ONLY BY WHAT YOU ARE PREPARED TO PUT INTO THE CAREER YOU HAVE CHOSEN.

THINK OF THE THREE WORD IN YOUR COLLEGE MOTTO WHICH ARE: TRUTH – DUTY – VALOUR AND TRY TO APPLY THEM IN THIS WAY:

  • TRUTH IS HONESTY TO YOURSELF, THOSE WHO WORK FOR YOU, AND TO THOSE YOU WORK FOR.
  • DUTY TO CANADA AND THE PEOPLE YOU LEAD COMES NEXT. THESE WORDS FROM LORD CHETWOOD SHOULD NOT ONLY HAVE MEANING FOR YOU. THEY SHOULD BE YOUR PERSONAL CREED. THIS IS THE CREED OF THE MILITARY COLLEGE IN INDIA.

“THE SAFETY, HONOUR AND WELFARE OF YOUR COUNTRY COMES FIRST, ALWAYS AND EVERY TIME.”

“THE HONOUR, WELFARE AND COMFORT OF THE MEN YOU COMMAND, COME NEXT.”

“YOUR OWN EASE, COMFORT, AND SAFETY COMES LAST, ALWAYS AND EVERY TIME.”

  • VALOUR IS COURAGE. THE UNDERSTANDING THAT YOU ARE REQUIRED TO GIVE ORDERS AS WELL AS TAKE THEM. THE COURAGE TO MAINTAIN YOUR OWN PERSONAL PRINCIPLES IN BALANCE WITH THE ORDERS YOU MUST FOLLOW. THE ABILITY TO MAINTAIN YOUR COOL WHEN YOU WOULD SOONER RUN OR SHOOT OFF YOUR MOUTH. ABOUT YOU SAYS TO BOLT AND HIDE BEHIND THOSE WHO LOOK UP TO YOU!

THIS QUOTATION PUTS IT VERY WELL:

“THE SOLDIER WILL PRODUCE FOR THE LEADER WHO IS A PROFESSIONAL WHO KNOWS HIS JOB, WHO IS WILLING TO DEFEND HIS MEN EVEN IF IT MEANS THE END OF HIS CAREER; WHO WILL LOVE HIS SOLDIERS AND, IF REQUIRED, DIE FOR THEM; AND LASTLY WHO WILL NEVER PLACE HIS AMBITIONS ABOVE THE SECURITY AND WELFARE OF HIS TROOPS.”

CONCLUSION

I WANT TO LEAVE TIME FOR QUESTIONS AND SO I WILL SAY BUT A FEW WORDS ON THIS MOST VITAL SUBJECT OF YOUR LEADERSHIP OF THE OTHER RANKS. OUR DISCIPLINED MILITARY SOCIETY HAS CERTAIN STANDARDS AND PRACTICES WHICH HAVE BEEN HANDED DOWN THROUGH THE AGES. YOU WILL FIND THAT THE FORCES ARE SLOW TO CHANGE AND CLING TO THE PAST. YOU WILL FIND VERY FEW OF YOUR INSTRUCTORS HAVE THE SLIGHTEST IDEA ABOUT WAR AND YET THAT IS WHAT WE MUST BE PREPARED TO UNDERTAKE SHOULD THE EVENT ARISE. IT IS NOT A NICE THOUGHT TO THINK THAT A MILITARY MAN MUST LEARN TO “KILL OR BE KILLED” BUT THAT IS ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS FOR HAVING AN ARMED FORCE IN A NATION SUCH AS OURS. ALL TOO OFTEN THE BLEEDING HEARTS WILL TRY TO CONVINCE THE GULLIBLE THAT IF WE DISARM AND SPEND ALL OUR TIME THINKING OF PEACE THEN THAT ALONE WILL GUARANTEE THERE WILL BE NO MORE WARS. WE ARE ENJOYING THE LONGEST PERIOD IN OUR NATION’S HISTORY IN WHICH WE ARE NOT INVOLVED IN SHOOTING WAR. WE ARE ONE OF THE FEW PLACES ON EARTH THAT CAN CLAIM SUCH A DISTINCTION. WHEN YOU LEAVE HERE, REALIZE THAT THE WAY YOU LEAD THE MEN YOU ARE GIVEN WILL DETERMINE NOT ONLY YOUR SUCCESS FOR THE FUTURE BUT IT WILL ENSURE THEY HAVE BEEN PROPERLY DEVELOPED IN THE GREAT SCHEME OF THINGS.

I CAN THINK OF NO GREATER PRIVILEGE THAN TO BE COMMISSIONED IN THE FORCES WITH THAT FANTASTIC RESPONSIBILITY OF LEADING OTHER MEN. WHEN YOU LEAVE RMC, YOU WILL GO OUT INTO THE REAL WORLD WHERE MANY OF YOUR COMPATRIOTS, OTHER OFFICERS, WILL HAVE A “THING” AGAINST RMC GRADUATES. IF YOU CAN PROVE TO THEM THAT YOU ARE WORTHY OF THE NAME OFFICER, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR. GOOD LEADERSHIP REQUIRES A LOT OF HARD WORK AND OBSERVING RESULTS YOU GAIN FROM THE METHODS YOU USE.

TAKE HEED OF SOME OF THE THINGS I HAVE TOLD YOU TODAY AND JUST MAYBE IT WILL HELP YOU TO RISE FROM BEING AN AVERAGE LEADER TO THAT OF A GOOD LEADER WHEN YOU FACE THE CHALLENGE OF YOUR FIRST COMMAND.

GOOD LUCK TO EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU. TAKE A SHORT BREAK AND I’LL TAKE QUESTIONS.

Colonel John Alan Gardam, O.C., O.M.M., M.S.M., C.D. (Ret’d) – more

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Update on Colonel John Alan Gardam – Here

3 Comments

  • 15566 Helga Grodzinski

    April 3, 2017 at 9:50 am

    The last all-male class to graduate was in Spring 1983. Therefore, the group he addressed would have contained females. The problematic lack of acknowledgement of women aside, this is marvellous advice.

  • Doug (Shag) Southen

    April 3, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    Helga, I am 100% sure you are correct about the class of 1984 being the first to include women. I am thinking that possibly the staff of e-Veritas got the date of Col Gardam’s address to the graduating class wrong. (Bill Oliver, please weigh in?) Surely the good colonel could not possibly have given this one-gendered advice to a mixed gender class! Yes for sure Col Gardam was a hard-ass SOB, and yes I met him, but one hopes he did not give this address to a class comprising men and women……… And of course if indeed it was 1984 when this speech was given, we had women in many occupations, and RMC grads would go on to command sub-units (in most cases) with both men and women as subordinates. None of this to denigrate the comments made, but the lessons apply to leadership of all persons, regardless of gender. JMOYMV. Shag.