Friday, November 9, 2012

6 Leadership Lessons from the West Point Cadet Prayer

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays – Søren Kierkegaard

The stated mission of the United States Military Academy is to “educate, train and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army.” I like it. It’s clear, concise, and straight to the point.

I recently read the West Point Cadet Prayer for the first time. It contains plenty of leadership nuggets worth remembering and applying. Let’s face it; leadership is hard. It’s demanding. It can be lonely.

Contained within the prayer are leadership markers that if taken to heart and embraced can be a difference maker in formulating your leadership style and disposition. Here are six leadership takeaways for your consideration with the corresponding words from the prayer (italics mine).

Lead with integrity. Strengthen and increase our admiration for honest dealing and clean thinking, and suffer not our hatred of hypocrisy and pretense to diminish. Encourage us in our endeavor to live above the common level of life.

Integrity is the foundation from which leadership flows. When leaders commit to living by example rather than by decree it raises the bar for others to follow. When you commit to live above the common level of life as a leader you will be an uncommon leader worth following.

Aim for excellence. Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong and never to be content with a half truth when the whole truth can be won.

This portion of the prayer is poignant. Leaders make the hard choices. Leading with excellence is about choosing the harder right instead of the easier wrong. It is the high calling and price of excellent leadership. There are no shortcuts.

Don’t be afraid. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.

If integrity is the foundation of leadership then courage is the fuel that drives it.  Anais Nin said, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” So does your leadership. Pray for courage.
Pray for wisdom. Guard us against flippancy and irreverence in the sacred things of life. Never take lightly the responsibility of leadership. Surround yourself with trusted advisors and never be too proud to seek advice.

Be compassionate. Grant us newties of friendship and new opportunities of service. Kindle our hearts in fellowship with those of a cheerful countenance, and soften our hearts with sympathy for those who sorrow and suffer.

Charles Dickens said, “Have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts,” That’s great advice for leaders. The spirit of a leader is just as important as the vision of the leader. No one wants to follow a jerk.

Serve with honor. Help us to maintain the honor of the Corps untarnished and unsullied and to show forth in our lives the ideals of West Point in doing our duty to Thee and to our Country.

Leaders serve with honor and are devoted to causes greater than self. Henry Ward Beecher said, “There never was a person who did anything worth doing who did not receive more than he gave,” And that is the secret of great leadership. Leaders who get ahead do so out of generosity. Lead with honor and you will be rewarded.

Leaders – it’s time to say your prayers.

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

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