Leadership and the Warrior Ethos

August 12, 2013 — Leave A Comment

Band of Brothers HBO miniseriesIn keeping with my recent theme of exploring the connection between leadership and warfare, I took a dive into Steven Pressfield’s short but profound work The Warrior Ethos, which, Pressfield says, was written for men and women in the military, but has application beyond the arena of literal armed conflict. Specifically, he writes,

We all fight wars–in our work, within our families, and abroad in the wider world. Each of us struggles every day to define and defend our sense of purpose and integrity, to justify our existence on the planet and to understand, if only within our own hearts, who we are and what we believe in.

We are all warriors. Do we fight by a code? If so, what is it? What is the Warrior Ethos? How do we (and how can we) use it and be true to it in our internal and external lives?

Great questions, worthy of any leader’s consideration ~ perhaps especially those who follow Christ, since so much of the journey of faith described in Scripture is presented in terms of conflict and war.

To that end, here are some of the key points I gleaned from The Warrior Ethos on what it means to be what I call a Kingdom Warrior ~ that is, a spiritual warrior in God’s Kingdom:

  • The Kingdom Warrior takes the long view. He is out to win not just the battle right in front of him, but the larger war. He knows what victory in that larger war would look like, and brings those goals into his strategy for the current battle. He may even intentionally fight a battle he knows he cannot win if he believes it will ultimately lead to winning the war. (Think Martin Luther King.)
  • The Kingdom Warrior fights in and with a band of fellow warriors. Never alone. In fact, most of his virtues ~ courage, selflessness, love, loyalty, self-command, willingness to endure adversity ~ come as much or more from his commitment to his brothers as it does his desire for his own victory.
  • A Kingdom Warrior needs a code of honor to follow. Without this code, he doesn’t know what being a warrior means, or how to get there.
  • In addition to a known code of honor, a Kingdom Warrior needs training, and a rite of passage into Kingdom warriorhood, in order for him to know he is a Kingdom Warrior.
  • In battle against a common foe, the man who stands at your side is everything. Because of him, the warrior’s prayer on the battlefield is not “Lord, spare me,” but “Lord, let me not prove unworthy to my brothers.”
  • In war, the group matters more than the individual. The group = community. This leads to individuals sacrificing themselves for the sake of the group. This is valor, courage.
  • In war, as in all leadership, leaders must go first. The battle cry of the Kingdom Warrior isn’t “Go get’em!” but “Follow me!”
  • Kingdom Warriors glory in hazard and hardship. The more miserable the adversity, the greater the opportunity to demonstrate their devotion, and raise the bar for their fellow warriors.
  • In warrior communities, happiness isn’t about feeling good or the absence of suffering. Happiness is living a life of unsullied honor.
  • Kingdom Warriors fight to win. They don’t fight “not to lose,” or fight merely to survive. They believe the victory is theirs, and they fight accordingly.
  • Kingdom Warriors have great respect for the enemy, and do not underestimate him.
  • Without discipline, a Kingdom Warrior will not succeed.

What do you think? What aspects of this warrior ethos do you strive to embody in your leadership? On your team? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Michael Warden

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One response to Leadership and the Warrior Ethos

  1. Thanks for this post, Mike! I especially like the point “In war, as in all leadership, leaders must go first”… It seems that often leadership is touted as the cool thing to do, when in reality it can be very lonely, intimidating, and frustrating at times, even when we are leading well. It helps me to know that this is normal because it connects heavily to the reality that forging a path can come with these side effects, but it is worth it!

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