Hal Moore on Leadership

In early 2021 in Hal Moore’s files, I found a detailed initial outline of what would later grow into the “Hal Moore on Leadership” book. This series of posts pulls from that outline – mostly short paragraphs or bullets.

For more detail, check out the book (click on the image to go to Amazon). The focus of Moore’s life after retirement from the military was on helping and mentoring others along the path to becoming great leaders. 

Set high standards and maintain them at ALL times.

In order to lead people and hold them accountable, it is important you set the highest standards for yourself and don’t cut yourself slack.  When things are going well, it is crucial to stay disciplined and in top physical and mental shape.  Likewise, you need to hold your team to high standards at all times.  Upfront, let them know what you expect and don’t leave room for falling off.

Time Management

Be disciplined in all areas of your life.  It is imperative to find time for your family, friends, hobbies, culture, and vacation, if you are going to be successful in the long term.

Knowledge is power.

Discipline yourself to set aside time to study your enemy/competitor and history. Take the time to learn something new every day about your enemy/competition.  Don’t learn the minimum.  Challenge yourself and your team to know everything they can about your opponents. Read.  Learn how and why others have failed and succeeded at the goals you have set for yourself.

No second place trophies

Unless something is done right, there is no sense in doing it in the first place.  Never stop halfway, always push through to the finish and push through to perfection.  Strive for perfection, not just to “get by”.  Being disciplined doesn’t just mean that you do the things on your list of things to do.  It means that you commit yourself 100% to getting the job done well.  As a leader, you are committing yourself and your team to being the best and you should set the position of #1 as the standard and accept no less.  If you aim to be #2, you will never end up #1!  Second place on the battlefield means defeat.  I am interested ONLY IN WINNING.

Details make the difference

After assuming command of the 7th Infantry Division in Korea when the previous commander was relieved for pervasive race riots, to include burning buildings, and pervasive drug use, Moore realized he needed to understand the details to solve the problem.

From the book, Hal Moore on Leadership:

If you seek to correct a subordinate’s overall behavior or performance, start by telling them what they do well, then tell them where they need to improve.

This approach inspires loyalty within the subordinate while maintaining their self-respect. Furthermore, it lets them know that the boss values their contributions, appreciates their strengths, and is not merely on the lookout for deficiencies. “In any case, the new Top Brass should not just drift in, take over a desk, and start reading the paperwork. The first thing a new boss has to do is stand up in front of every person in the unit; let his people see him. He should visit each sub-unit personally and strongly impress his personality and spirit on the subordinate leaders and workers in the ranks. Concurrently, he should learn his responsibilities and what each of his subordinate units is charged with accomplishing.”

Over a 10-day period, Moore flew his helicopter to each of his camps in South Korea and talked for fifteen minutes or so to every unit in the division. “Since the biggest problem facing me was the highly flammable racial situation, my top priority was to get that cooled down and under control. My principal message was that I would see to it that every man would be treated fair and square and it was up to every man to rise as far as his abilities would take him. To deal with these racial tensions, I first had to get the facts on the details and scope of the problem. This I did on the highest priority. Right off, I learned if there were perceived problems of unfair discrimination, those perceptions had to be dealt with just as carefully as real problems—and with just as high a priority.

“I quickly located the units with problems and promptly took corrective action with both the commanders and the troublemakers— white, black, or brown. Many were discharged. Early on, it was evident to me that many of the race relations problems, perceptions and real cases of discrimination occurred at the small unit level. As I checked into that, the other small-unit leadership deficiencies came to light.” To correct these problems at the small-unit level, Moore instituted an Officer’s Leadership School for company-grade officers and an NCO Leadership School for staff sergeants and below. Each course was a week long (Sunday-Saturday) and taught by instructors carefully selected from across the division. Moore himself even taught a few of these courses. “These schools went a long way toward reducing the racial and drug abuse problems.”

Reading List (links to Amazon)

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