Core Leadership Values (Part 5): Honor


Here’s a tale of two college students with their future on the line and a brief look at their very different responses in light our core leadership values.

Specifically, I want to tell you about an experience I had while serving on a performance review board.

Our purpose: To determine the fate of two cadets who were failing to meet standards at the annual Advanced Camp.

In this scenario, we’ll see how individual responses affect senior members of our organization differently.

Army Leadership Values

Army Leadership Values (Part 5 – Honor)

This is the fifth in my 7-part series exploring the Army leadership values, represented by the acronym LDRSHIP.

  • Loyalty – Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit, and other Soldiers
  • Duty – Fulfill your obligations
  • Respect – Treat people as they should be treated
  • Selfless Service – Put the welfare of the Nation, the Army, and subordinates before your own
  • Honor – Live up to all the Army Values
  • Integrity – Do what’s right—legally and morally
  • Personal Courage – Face fear, danger, or adversity (physical and moral)

— FM 6-22: Army Leadership

In this blog, I explore how attitude becomes a determining factor that is more important than an individual’s skills or knowledge, our leadership value of honor, and how you can bounce back after making a mistake.

Army ROTC Advanced Camp

Now known as the Leader Development and Assessment Course, in 2001 it was simply called Advanced Camp, held annually at Ft. Lewis, WA.

Typically, this camp was for cadets about to enter their final year of college where ROTC cadre assessed whether each individual was prepared to make the transition to become a commissioned Army officer upon graduation.

It is a capstone event. Every cadet is evaluated in a number of areas, including: Physical Fitness, Land Navigation, Confidence Training, Field Leader’s Reaction Course, CBRNE, (Chemical, Biological Radiological, Nuclear, Explosive Training), U.S. Weapons Familiarization, Cultural Awareness, First Aid, Maneuver Training, Tactics, and more.

Failure to meet standards in any one of these areas prompts an invitation for additional training. While the cadet is reevaluated, peers move on to the next phase.

If a cadet falls too far behind, he or she must then have their performance reviewed by a board of senior officers who determine whether they deserve another opportunity in a follow-on class, or they are sent home having failed the course.

I served as one of three review board members along with another Lieutenant Colonel and a Colonel. We were each ROTC battalion commanders, and together we reviewed the performances of two cadets, then made our recommendation.

A Tale of Two Cadets

  1. Bob, a student from one of the ROTC programs within the continental United States.

Almost from the moment he arrived and began answering our questions, Bob’s attitude came across as unconcerned. It seemed to us that after three years of training on campus, learning about our culture, values, and what it means to serve within the Army, he appeared indifferent.

He was not concerned about his failure to meet the same standards of the other 40 members of his platoon or thousands of cadets who go through this course every summer. He made it clear that if he were sent home, he would drop out of the program before he returned to campus.

Needless to say, his responses were disheartening and discouraging. He indicated no commitment to keep our traditions; his responses were devoid of any honor.

  1. Juan, a student from one of our ROTC programs in Puerto Rico.

From the moment Juan arrived, he acknowledged his failure to meet the prescribed standards. With each response, he reinforced that it was his responsibility to make the necessary corrections.

He informed us that if he was sent home, he considered it his own doing. And, if that was to be his fate, he would be back (after his senior year, his commissioning would be delayed and he would not be able to participate in on campus ceremonies with his classmates) and he would succeed next year.

Juan made every pronouncement with pride and conviction. He might be delayed, but he would not be deterred.

Honor – Live up to All of the Army Values

While not an Army value, a critical trait for every officer is responsibility.

To become a leader in the military, accepting responsibility for your actions is unequivocal. This means not only accepting responsibility for your actions, but the actions of every person who reports to you.

ROTC is in the business of transforming college students into Army leaders, those who might be charged with leading our nations’ sons and daughters into battle someday.

  • Which cadet do you think we granted another opportunity, and which one do you think we sent home?

Juan won our hearts and he was given another chance. To me, he demonstrated honor better than any other example I recall throughout my 20-year career. He was willing take ownership for everything he did. He made it clear that he would live our values, carry on our traditions, and that he would lead his soldiers responsibly.

Live Your Values

My experience was truly a tale of two cadets with two attitudes, one who demonstrated honor, and another who did not.

Whether your organization’s values are defined by an acronym like L-D-R-S-H-I-P or you have a completely different set of leadership values, you need people in your organization that will live your values and carry on your traditions.