Schofield’s definition of Leadership

07 May Schofield’s definition of Leadership

Written by Matt Wegner
Founder and Lead Counselor, Matt Wegner Coaching,

In my years as an Army officer, I came across many different takes on leadership. Some were good, some not so good. But there is one explanation so good that it has stuck with me for years. My officer peers who graduated from West Point all knew this definition so well that most of them could recite it verbatim (testament to the importance of this in their education). While I didn’t attend the Academy or commit this to memory, I do keep a printed copy of it on my wall to remind me of what true leadership is.


The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and to give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice to inspire the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or the other dealing with subordinates springs from the corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels and hence manifests disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.

Whether you are a military leader, small business leader, manager where you work, or you want to be in charge some day, this small bit of text is a powerful lesson that you can use to guide the rest of your life.

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