We all need real discipline from time to time

Published: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 03:21 PM.

The Marine Corps Times, which recently reported on changes coming to Marine leadership training in a column titled, "Brass Edict: Mentor More, Intimidate Less," called the knife hand gesture intimidating and "vaguely threatening." At one time, there was nothing vague about Corps discipline. When you got a finger in the chest you darn well knew you were being disciplined and you were intimidated. That was OK. And then it was over and you moved on, no worse for the wear.

Vaguely threatening? Forget real discipline. Now even vague discipline may be on the way out. Amongst our hardened Marine Corps Teufelshunde or Devil Dogs? In what was once known as the world’s toughest, most disciplined fighting force? If so, no wonder discipline as we knew it is endangered in every other aspect of American society.

There’s a feminization of discipline occurring in our society that matches this trend in other areas. At least in the past, when disciplined men generally got crisply "filleted," they learned from it — or not — and moved on, not really dwelling on the experience.

Women, on the other hand, generally get sweetly "counseled" (or mentored) or at least less crisply disciplined and then they ponder — for months — the deeper meaning and feelings of the experience. We’re moving as a society to this kinder and gentler method of discipline — if it can even be called that anymore — with, as of yet, unknown consequences.

Moreover, turning Devil Dogs into Pound Puppies is just one reflection of our cultural shift away from real discipline and toughness. "Spare the rod, spoil the child?" Gone. Discipline in families? Gone. Real discipline in schools? Gone. Tough discipline in sports? Gone.

And now maybe hard discipline in the military is next to go. If the failure to shave U.S. Army officer and accused Fort Hood killer Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to make him comply with military grooming standards before his long delayed trial is any indication, we’re already there. But all is not yet lost.

That’s because good leaders are situational leaders who have the ability to use different techniques for different times and people. Mentoring and coaching have their place in a leader’s "tool box" to be sure. There’s even a time for "sweet" counseling. But there’s also a time for tough love and to be disciplinarily "flayed" when it’s needed.

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