In teaching others, I consistently revisit this from John Boyd, following biographer Robert Coram and as quoted at Art of Manliness..
Boyd said (emphasis mine):
“One day you will come to a fork in the road…
And you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go..If you go that way you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and you will get good assignments.
Or you can go that way and you can do something – something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide you want to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get the good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself. You will be true to your friends and to yourself. And your work might make a difference. To be somebody or to do someting. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision.
To Be or to Do?
Which way will you go?”
Recently I had the pleasure of training with a man who exemplified the doing part in this. As he told his story, I reflected on an experience of mine that was similar, but his – and his decision – was more final, asking more of him than what mine did of me.
These are the people I consider leaders. Rank has nothing to do with leadership – it may require deference, but it cannot command respect. What you do – consistently, over many years and under repeated tests – defines who you are far more than any position or promotion.