Lessons on PURPOSE from our armed forces

By Jim Whitt

I received this email from my friend Peter McGuill:


Hope all is well.  I was thinking of you earlier today.  I am participating in a Leadership Development program right now.  As part of the program we spent the day at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio listening to U.S. Army officers describing “Military Leadership.” One of the officers described leadership as “Protection, Projection, and PURPOSE.”  I was thrilled to hear someone talk about purpose as it relates to leadership.  The points he made were very much in line with those that I have heard you present in the past.  Here are a few of his comments from my notes.

“Leaders need to be sure of their own purpose and communicate it through their behaviors.”

“Be passionate about what you do and convey that passion through your words, as well as your actions.”

“Purpose is not something that should be allowed to sit on a shelf to be admired. Rather, it can be a catalyst for stimulating creativity, engagement and strategy in ways that drive results.”

— Lieutenant Colonel Timothy L. Hudson, 264th Medical Battalion Commander

Take care,

Peter J. McGuill

I forwarded Peter’s email to several clients which provoked this response from my friend Phillip Beatty:

This was a Wow! It turns out there is another aspect of US Army leadership philosophy that I think is incredibly important. When a unit is assigned a mission to accomplish, the leader communications the overall mission to everyone in the unit. The squad leader communicates the big mission all the way to each private. The idea is that if something happens to the leader, the next guy in command steps in assumes the role of the leader and so on down to the last soldier. This could be adapted to teams in a business.

It turns out I have a copy of the US Army Leadership manual, FM (Field Manual) 22-100, 1999 version which is fairly up to date since it is post First Gulf War. I would be glad to share it with you because it could give you many more ideas for using purpose strategically as well as tactically. Get this, the Army’s definition of leadership:

Leadership is influencing people – by providing purpose, direction, and motivation – while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization.

Be safe,


Lessons in purpose and leadership indeed! Over the years I have had many members of the armed services and veterans in my audiences and when I talk about purpose they “get it.” I know because they come up after my presentations and we talk about it. After receiving these emails from Peter and Phillip it’s easy to see why.

It is especially appropriate to share these lessons on purpose and leadership from the military during the holidays. We are celebrating the birth of Jesus who gave up his life for us on purpose. Our troops are willing to give up their lives for us on purpose. They deserve our gratitude and our prayers.

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