SS Leadership Guide : Leadership and Following
25 July 2004
Leadership quality is a gift from God. One must be a born leader. What makes a leader cannot be gained by office or promotion. The leader among the masses is like a diamond in the sand. He is inconspicuous until he is polished. Even unpolished, he is still more valuable than polished glass in a fancy shape; that remains trifle and hypocrisy.
Shiny glass and expensive facade blind. The viewer eventually recognizes the deception. But the damage it causes is too great.
It's good for a community when those with leadership quality gain office and authority. We must hence select the core without being blinded by the facade. We must also look at the heart and courage of a man, but not at the smooth face of the braggart. The saying holds true: "Whom God gives an office, he also gives reason." When he has achieved what he wants, he assumes a shiny exterior. The man gifted with leadership quality, however, prays to God for the strength to fulfill his duty well and loyally -- and to remain modest!
There is no instruction manual or patent for correct leadership. Leadership obligates. The leader learns through ceaseless hard work on himself to meet the demands of his office better and better. For his following will be like him.
The leader is there for others, always and everywhere. The leader educates, promotes enthusiasm and joyous devotion.
The false leader pardons. He causes disdain and laziness. he disappoints the man who does always have the strength to keep his eye on the great idea despite bitterness.
People are always the same, but the one kind of leader creates a bundled force from them that remain in his hand; the other kind of leader creates rebellion and dissolution, which leads to the destruction of service and the following slips out of his control.
The leader stands before and protects his follower. The weakling in a leadership position, however, seeks protection through him. The right leader promotes responsible and meaningful action. There might be mistakes, which the leader must certainly correct. The false leaders shifts responsibility onto his subordinates. The result is avoidance of decision. From this emerge lameness, timidity and mediocrity. Then it gets so bad that the men no longer sense any leadership and begin to let things and themselves go. Everybody "sneaks through." Then it's there again, the terrible "just don't become conspicuous!"
A sign of those who may be selected but not called is that every braggart puts in his two cents with them. One doesn't want to offend anybody, to make an enemy; one wants everybody as a friend. The door is wide open for the meek and the self-important. The modest, industrious, loyal man on the other hand is overlooked. Well-behaved children wish nothing; well-behaved children also get nothing.
The genuine leader encourages the able. He is not afraid of losing his authority because he nurtures the value of each follower and listens to the advice of the knowledgeable.
Not to fear the superiority of the subordinate means being superior to the subordinate.
The following of the true leader will know how to obey, because he knows how to command, and because the healthy following gladly acknowledges the leader's superiority and even wishes it.
Under the leadership of those without this calling too many issue orders to enable real obedience. The uniform mold, the bond between leadership and following is destroyed.
You, leader, do not need to punish every transgression, but you must not tolerate them, either.
We want to train decent fellows in the following, but we consciously do without insisting on perfect boys alone. We prefer a man who once did something stupid out of hot blood. That will be compensated for another time, if -- as is long customary in German soldiery -- we treat subordinates well and with due consideration. Our concern for the man helps us to easily find the right path and proper measure. Then a necessary severity will not be viewed as an injustice.
We also don't need to pounce on an issue, which, wrongly handled, seems huge and over which one just laughs a year later.
There are, of course, events where the leader must remain unforgiving. He can't always be told where the line runs between hardness and well intent. He must find it alone. When in doubt, the decisive question is: what best serves discipline?
The man whom we once help overcome a violation -- after he has otherwise behaved well -- will go through fire for us.
The leader's spirit is also the spirit of the following. The group needs direction. Without the right spirit it never achieves the right tune. The most expensive machine remains dead if the builder erred in his calculations. Spirit and mass must be inwardly in balance in order to build a genuine community. If the calculations are right, then all gears move in harmony.
When we spoke of leadership, we until not too long ago meant, often exclusively, "leadership" in the military sense. Indeed, that's the sense where it has its most unambiguous and clear expression. We immediately think of somebody who leads, commands, is responsible, and of others, who obey. In our mind's eye we see somebody standing in front of a unit. We expect a specific bearing from the leader and even recognize him by his facial expression. From the very beginning we have no doubt about the essentials of leadership. Maybe that's because soldiery lies in German blood. Military education through many generations consequently bred a clear conception of the fundamentals of soldiery down to the last descendant. One does not just know it; one feels in it every utterance, whether something -- if it is about a matter of leadership -- is right or wrong. If we imagine a person who must lead, we cannot even imagine that something false could happen. And if we think about the unit, then it's self-evident to us that this group of individuals becomes one mold through their obedience.
Even if one spoke of any individual within the unit, there was no doubt that he would behave properly toward the right leadership. The men in the unit by no means became soulless zeros, a mere mass. Each one of them, dependent on himself, could at any time, even under the most difficult circumstances, meaningfully execute an unexpected task for the whole, for his behavior is simultaneously solid proof of his ability and of his training, hence of his leader.
A man who is angry and not convinced of his task, achieves nothing, rather he fails in the decisive hour. Good will alone does not suffice to obtain success. First, good leadership must show direction and goal and it must decisively influence the independent action of the individual.
It is very important to never forget that in any group of people that has come together each always influences, steers and, ultimately, leads the other. Often that happens without notice. And if an officer lets his leadership slip, in the end it's taken over by a soldier council. One always leads, whether he likes it or not. Hence whoeve commands should also see to it that he leads.
A unit is a force if it is formed by individuals with a common will and if a good spirit inseparably binds them together. We could say: "Leadership is a spirit, following is movement!" Good leadership is good spirit, which carries over onto the subordinates and triggers a strong, uniform burst. Bad leadership becomes dissatisfaction, laziness and decay.
Adolf Hitler disciplined every life expression of the nation and simultaneously gave it the most effective unity. Each life expression finds its firm foundation and loses nothing of value. Furthermore, we proceed on the basis that work alone is true wealth, but not hoarded gold. Since he did these things, it has become clear to all of us that military service is only one part of the national expressions of strength, which from inner necessity must be led.
The term military service puts us on the right track, because we emphasize the word "service." It's about service in general, about service in all areas and in all forms. All of us serve all the time and everywhere.
The National Socialist does not serve solely through his occupation. His entire life is service for the folk and fatherland; otherwise it is not the life of a National Socialist. Already in his occupation, a man should obtain the strength and training to be an officer of life, whose essence is not command, rather -- after learning to command himself -- to be an example of bearing and action and thereby to lead.
Service is selflessness. Again, this is shown to us mostly clearly in the occupation of the soldier, who makes great exertions in order to be ready for battle and ready for death. One does not die in order to make a profit from it.
The highest demands are placed on his physical and spiritual bearing.
For whom? For all of us and for the future of our children! Let us learn from the soldier! His service is a sacrifice.
No such comparable sacrifice is demanded of us. We even earn through service. Wherein lies the selflessness of our service? Therein that we add to our work our sweat, our loyalty and the affirmation of our obligation to the whole.
We all serve in one unit or another, be it an office or business, in a factory or as a member of an orchestra. Somewhere and somehow our effort and desire always flow toward the same goal: our fatherland. Everywhere where we may serve, the same inner command stands over us that finds such clear expression in the military service: the law of leadership.
Even though nobody can sever the bonds that tie us to the community, we nonetheless do not sink into a stubborn, uniform mass. Such a Movement is life. The whole only lives because it is filled with the life of its parts and their diversity. The individual only lives, when he lives consciously, when he is given room for inner growth, when he takes pleasure in his work, when he is surrounded by decency, and when he sees that his strength and his work advance the prosperity of the whole. The life of the individual must, just like we saw in military service, be filled with a good spirit. And because nobody can withdraw from his life unit, the worker from the factory or the teacher from the school, the attitude toward service, its results and form will depend on whether the unit has a good or a bad leadership.
If service is the great current of a nation, then this all-encompassing leadership in general can be compared to a river bed into which the many tributaries flow. A higher organization, the state, must show the direction and give a might push, otherwise the water becomes slow and stale.
To service belong both: leadership and following. That means much more than command and obedience.
Their proper application means the recognition of the common responsibility toward the same goal. Direction is given by one and the impetus by the other. This is determined by the joyful relationship between spirit and mass. The spirit of the leadership must not ignore the enthusiasm of the following. "Following" can only mean gladly following, willingly, voluntarily and insightfully. Loyalty and appreciation are pillars of reciprocity.
The master bricklayer without his bricklayers would not be a master. He would hardly be a bricklayer. The bricklayers need their master, otherwise they build no livable house, rather just a pile of bricks. If the master reaches not just the working hands but also the hearts of his people, if he leads them, then the work is blessed with a feeling of joy for the master and his bricklayers. But if the master is a grumpy, unjust slave driver, a curse lies within each brick, it seeps into the house and fills the hearts and homes of the bricklayers. Such work is servitude, perhaps due to the need for bread. It is no joy, rather a misfortune from which new harm always emerges.
If the bricklayers are uncooperative, moody, unwilling or even rebellious, then they eventually strangle all good ideas of the master. They take away the possibility of realization of the planes, which have perhaps emerged in quiet evening hours. He dissipates his strength in the defense against invisible hostility. Things remain undone that would have been otherwise achieved for the prosperity and use of living and future people.
Consider how much good would have been done if our own inertia or the envy and jealousy of others had not stuck pointed border-markers into our existence.
If at the least the negative had not been there! How much energy is lost to the nation solely through unfruitful legal cases! Ill intent and stupidity are parasites on the folk's resources.
German people can never be molded into a uniform type, which as a norm would simply vegetate toward its end. The drive for advancement, accomplishment, responsibility and the individual life must never be prevented. The better should grow and prosper. It grows from the individual life, but it will never harm the whole. For all impulses of the individuals to again flow into the most disciplined possible leadership, means a concentration of force, without which the community could not achieve any joint accomplishment.
The concepts of leadership and following belong, as we have seen, together. Their essence does not change whether we serve here or there, whether we are soldiers of the weapon or soldiers of work.
German soldiery has never known it otherwise than that the officer advances in front of his soldiers. It comes down to this "in front," always this "in front." This "in front" is the basic essence of leadership. It accompanies the doing and not doing of the leader every step. Hence he must show his men what they should do. He lives an example for them to live according to. He must, if he is a soldier, have the strength to die first, if the others are also supposed to die. False games stop short of death. When it gets tough, the shiny shell of the false leader bursts.
It does not have to always concern death if you want to see the requirement for setting a good example. What reason fails to see is suspected by the simplicity of a child's spirit. The common soldier has a sure feeling for what it's about. Because he remains silent, the false is often first discovered when the misfortune has struck.
If the lieutenant stands in front of his platoon wearing a monocle, he shouldn't hide it when the colonel comes. If the soldier goes hungry, the officer must not eat. If the subordinate freezes, the leader goes without a coat. The leader's concern is his men's welfare. The leader is the last in the barracks, the last to eat and the last to lay down on the straw, but the first at every business. Only then does he learn the men's morale. The leader who has to ask afterward, has long since lost the inner connection to his men. He has already ceased to be a leader. No badges help him anymore. One only has to get to know a company commander in order to know his company's condition.
Look at the silent faces of the comrades at the front and you will know what's going on with their leader. If the unit's spirit is right, you will see bright, happy faces. Where sulking is visible, the higher commander must set things right fast.
Intermediaries, reports and interrogations after the fact are miserable, unworthy of the genuine leader and fateful for all. They undermine the leader's authority. The leader stands in front of his comrade, eye to eye; he speaks to him without needing a third person.
As a commander, take care not to make your subordinate comrades look ridiculous with careless questions. The man stands in front of you dead serious, otherwise he wouldn't be there. It's all right to ask him if he's married, but for goodness' sake don't ask him why he is married. (I once witnessed a painful scene when a young commander asked a long-time veteran that.) Being ridiculous kills -- not the man, rather you.
A leader completely misperceives his task if he forgets -- or is even able to ever forget -- that he is above all a comrade to the comrades placed under him. Maintaining authority and nonetheless being a comrade: that is the difficult art the the leader must master.
Sometimes a false sense of honor emerges. Honor cannot be segregated, say in the honor of the enlisted man, of the non-commissioned officer and of the officer. There can only be one honor: that of the soldier. For the enlisted man and the non-commissioned officer are also soldiers. What can be escalated through rank, training and inner manly value is the conception of duty and again and again the concern for the others and loyalty, for honor cannot exist without loyalty. The man who correctly sees his own leadership qualities, still hidden from the others, cannot escape this escalated duty, either. This duty does not depend on rank. Its demand is the most difficult one that can be planned on the rank and file. He must practice subordination, remain a comrade among comrades, not push ahead and still he has the duty to at the right time help steer something in the right direction.
We forget all too fast that among the silently obeying subordinates one often finds men who are too modest and proud to speak up for themselves, but who have more words -- even command words -- in themselves than the superior at the front knows.
The great values must not be held down through petty jealousy.
Do not think your leadership positions mean you must do everything yourself even though helpers stand at your side. Otherwise you can see that none of your many plans succeed.
Your power does not become greater simply because you don't give your subordinates any power; you don't become smaller because you let others grow.
Value and valuable men cannot be better preserved than by fighting inferiority with all means. It demonstrates your strength and security when you do not tolerate the sickening braggarts who always show up and shoot poisoned arrows at their comrades, taking effort to preferably remain unnamed. The very first time, summon the other man! No tattle-teller can take that and he doesn't try it again. It's different if the report concerns something the man must report, because it's about something unworthy. You must be thankful for such a report. But combat gossip. It has a terrible effect, even though it usually emerges from trivialities. Strangle petty envy, for it weakens the faith in the community.
A leader always has the duty to bring an especially capable comrade to the attention of a superior officer. In the new Germany the time must finally be past when heroic deeds were first discovered in an inn.
When after a battle Frederick the Great searched for his fallen friend Wedell among the wounded in a barn, a bandaged fellow cried out, "All of us are Wedell!" That man was right. Without the silent loyalty of the many soldiers in an army, there would be no fame for their generals. Although our national history produces so many famous names, it must not be forgotten that the fame of individual names also proclaims the glory and heroism of the many who marched behind the great men. Back then we were proud of our company commanders who received the Iron Cross and told us at the front that they wished to wear it as the company's medal.
Among the crowd there are many real great men wearing an inconspicuous uniform. Adverse circumstances hold them down. Only when coincidence or fate draws them out of the small circle in which mass and unreason had held them does everybody stare at in amazement at what ability is suddenly revealed. Some of our front soldiers might have passed or marched along with the corporal Hitler. And...?
Providence does not bless a folk with excessive numbers of great men. Perhaps Adolf Hitler will remain an unprecedented great man in history. Nonetheless, his past shows that it is presumptuous arrogance to pass final judgment about the value of a man based on his present position or rank.
One might claim that a special leader promotes himself on his own. That is only conditionally correct, for if men before him have marked the right path, he considers it wrong to leave it. A man of format will then subordinate himself and wait until he is correctly integrated. Only half a man will then try a different path.
Whoever knows his own value should not expect others to also know it right away. He has the moral duty to guard and increase it. Whoever's development is blocked on the horizontal plane, is still not blocked from going skyward to the stars. He should be ready for the day when fate knocks on his door.
If we nonetheless demand modesty from him, that also means heightened attentiveness and responsibility for all who must lead men. Genuine heroism is often very quiet and frequently goes unrecognized into the grave. What do we really know about the most inner essence of our comrades? Actually very little, mostly we usually just see ourselves; we stick to whatever matters to us alone; we don't know the needs of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow; we are too chained to arrogance. We do not see that the relationships between past and present, between power and goal-setting, require prerequisites other than those formed by the dictates of selfish desires.
Every leader must know that. Only then does he see the diverse values within his unit. He learns to also evaluate his men by how they want to subordinate themselves and not just by how they act when they are supposed to obey. Then superficiality disappers. It honors the leader when he respects the value of a man and integrates him into the common service for Germany. All that looks so difficult and is, essentially, really very simple. Whoever avoids unnatural puffery, whoever presents himself as he is, whoever remains natural, is always on the mark. That's the first and best bridge from heart to heart. That is better and much more binding than all regulations and punishments.
Nothing has a worse impact at the front than a polished and limited character. Such fellows always know how to sneak in anywhere. It's a good sign of manly discipline if the first man who senses and sees what's up fights back the grin and conquers his own anger! The wise-guy is not a good recruit. He knows that one rainfall suffices to make a terrible mess out of all the fine feathers.
Any leader who is afraid of his own superiors should immediately resign, for he certainly cannot win the respect of his subordinates.
The leader is the superior because he is there for the others, because he is comrade, friend, advisor...and because his greater strength, will and farsightedness provide him with the inner justification and duty.
Refrain from cursing! Whoever is unnecessarily loud betrays that he is wrong. Don't forget that the enlisted man should be silent. Do not tempt him to premature talk! Always have the courage to make good your mistakes. Your authority does not suffer in the least if you admit to having treated an enlisted man unjustly.
None of us is a master. Each must continue to learn. Each improvement, each reproach, each punishment is based on the common principle of learning together, helping and improving. That certainly takes a lot of courage. But one must have it; otherwise the shimmer of power from the insignia of rank is one day lost.
The enlisted man, standing in rank, should remain silent. When you speak as a leader, always ask what you are doing, whether you are building or destroying values.
Leaders are naturally a minority compared to the following. This minority nonetheless remains decisive. For it has the greater and harder task. Without leadership a company's strength dissipates. It doesn't achieve the goal. The art of leadership decides whether a unit gets to its goal without losses. There is a grave difference between whether a unit is led into battle fresh and enthusiastic along the shortest path or totally exhausted by an unnecessary detour, whether it remains at full strength or suffers unnecessary losses along the way because of inadequate supply.
This image illustrates a truth for everybody participating in the planning and execution of a work. Just think of business life: every aggravation, every delay, every deficiency reduces the profit, means a loss of material value or, worse yet, of spiritual value. A loss of the first kind can be seen and compensated for, but the effect of a loss of spiritual values cannot be measured. If lack of desire, a sense of suffered injustice or distrust seizes the hearts, then no door can close tightly enough to keep out of misfortune.
This realization by the leader must be supplemented with another: Subordinates, don't make your leader's life unnecessarily difficult! You don't know how the leader, who isn't allowed to become tired, must get new strength through your bearing. Without leadership, you lose yourself. Without your faith, your trust and your discipline, the leader is powerless. Together, with the right attitude toward each other, you are an unprecedented unity of values and strength.
Otherwise you are a lost bunch. Correct leadership and following mean victory. Failure here means defeat.
Stopping means perishing.