Earned Leadership

When I stepped into the “Head” Athletic Trainer role after 12 years here I thought I had earned leadership credibility. I had, it just did not go as smoothly as I assumed.

Kevin Parker and John Ciecko discuss the book About Face by General Hackworth

Earned Leadership; kevin parker; john ciecko

“Personal gifts like intellect or charisma help. But neither are required enough to be a leader. Physical appearance, poise, and outward self-confidence can be confused with leadership – for a time. I saw many new lieutenants arrive to battalions and fail to live up to the expectations their handsome, broad-shouldered look generated. Leaders walk a fine line between self-confidence and humility. People are born; leaders are made.” 

– McChrystal

“You can read all kinds of books you want and you can make all kinds of plans you want, but when you get out in the field, those books and those plans might not meet the eye of the situation you find there. So you just have to roll with it.”

– Hackworth

Kevin Parker joins again after last seasons Heroes as Leaders – https://sportsmedicinebroadcast.com/heroes-as-leaders/

1. In discussing earned leadership, what is your favorite part of About Face?

Kevin – when he took over the battalion in Vietnam and transformed them into a well-oiled fighting machine.

Everyone wants to be the transformational leader that people write stories about…but this is where you miss the whole point of the book.

Why a book about war to teach lessons in AT?

  • You take care of your people
  • ID problems and the people to handle those problems…then give them resources to deal with them.

2. Learning leadership – the wrong way

“Grab at the coattails.” – p. 60

The Army was no more warriors than it was clerks trying to get the army out there.

Rather than earned leadership people surrounded themselves with people that were going to agree and help support your decision.

There was no one there to help prevent them from not making critical decisions.

Hackworth’s willingness to accept clear honest feedback is ultimately the best for the organization.

Be wary of an echo chamber

“Figures don’t lie.” – p. 601

300% input of Ranger School…but that was because we went from 0 to 3…

If you want to lie to get ahead you lose your leadership capital in the end.

Hackworth was all about not sugarcoating things.  He wanted to clearly disseminate info up and down the chain in the same manner.

You have to tailor your message to each person, but it’s the same message.

To the athlete: the outside of your ankle hurts

To the Doctor: his lateral malleolus is the affected area

Rehab – do they know what they are doing and why…so you could walk away and they can continue.

Don’t be that person “he is great at rehab but has terrible bedside manner…”


“Measuring up” p. 778

3. Learning leadership – Honesty and morality

“Study of Vietnam” p. 614

The tactical know-how of senior officers has ended in a condition of not knowing how to fight but a bunch of corporate office managers.

The soldiers are focused on advancing to the next level rather than leading the people below them.

“Never ask a subordinate to do a task you are not willing to do”

Maybe you show up at 6 am to help with COVID screening a few times

Does the AD need to be at every practice every day??? Nobody wants that.

In every organization, there is someone who is promoted one level beyond their competence

From Facebook: Richard Cox It reminds me of when Jocko would scramble guys' radios to make sure that they all knew how to fix them because he wanted everyone in the platoon to be able to do everyone else's job.

“Westmorelands understanding from Napoleon.” p. 737

“The interview – forest from the trees” p. 777

“Issues and Answers” with Howard Tucker from ABC

Did the upper echelon of the army ever become changed on the war…did they learn from their mistakes?

“No” they became paper pusher and analytics and could not see the forest from the trees.

We were measuring using the death ratio for success.

You have to have strong moral courage to step up and say “maybe we are not winning”

LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE and see there is more going on outside of the immediate.

One of the lasting lessons Kevin has learned: 

Kids’ parents like to watch their kids play games…if we can change the game time so their parents can watch them we need to do that.

“Learn from the past.” p. 831

4. What have we seen during this time and how can this book (or ones like it) shape our learning curve of leadership?

Anytime you can go back and have an understanding of how and why a decision was made you can see how changing just one step could have changed the course of action.

It is easy to make decisions when there is an unlimited amount of time and resources…but that never happens.

“Can you make a decision without having all the variables and info you need?”


Contact Us

Kevin Parker – @kparker9200

John Ciecko – @JohnCiecko

Jeremy – @MrJeremyJackson

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