“He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.” —Aristotle
What did Aristotle mean when he said, “He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander“? Good commanders fully understand the perspective of leadership and those serving under them; they’ve already been there, done that. They know how it feels to be given an order, because they themselves have been given many orders. Above all, they know that the obedience that was quite literally drilled into them can keep their soldiers alive when placed in harm’s way.
As kids, we tend to resent our parents’ commands; we’re given bedtimes, have our access to family cars restricted, and we’re made to eat our vegetables no matter how much we dislike them. We think our parents don’t want us to have any fun; it’s only much later on that we realize how all our parents were trying to do was prepare us for a future in which we’re the ones in charge. They were setting the stage for an inevitable change of command, and wanted us to be up to the task.
From the house to the battlefield to the boardroom, modern life is full of rules that must be followed for operations to proceed smoothly. It’s all a part of the “social contract.” A good commander – a good leader, in any field – understands that while some rules are made to be broken, some basic boundaries must always be set. They know that without having had to obey those rules, they wouldn’t have gotten to where they are now, and that one day…those they command may be in command themselves.
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