Recently, I’ve wondered about the difference between a soldier and an officer. It’s a subtle distinction, neither are completely exclusive of each other, but there’s a clear focus on a particular skill-set for each role. A soldier focuses on the operational execution of the task. His job is to do what must be done, and to do it right. He thrives in the heat of action, making judgement calls that are intuitive and based on experience. He is about the mission. The officer, on the other hand, thinks about the mission less in its particulars and focuses on everything else. He focuses on ensuring partners are informed and coordination is done. He ensures the front and back are covered, and that the big picture is in view. The officer leaves the fighting to his men; he can do it and he probably will be involved but he commits himself to the intellect of strategy.
There’s definitely an absolute advantage of one over the other – the officer gains more prestige because his attributes are more cerebral. He is the face, the point of contact. Yet, I wonder if the soldier ends up being the one who lives a more pleasant life. I’ve shyed away a lot in the past year from roles that are largely administrative (mostly student leadership positions) , because I’ve gained a lot more joy from being in an operational/strategic role. I can do things, get into the heart of the matter, solve things and create possibilities. I derive satisfaction from being the driving force; the pulse in the heat of things that is causing a shift in perspectives. Where the officer gets bogged down in the administrative catch-up game, the soldier pushes on doing what he knows is good.
Again, neither role is completely exclusive of each other. Every soldier needs to think like an officer, and the better soldiers in fact are officers in all attributes but name. Therein there lies a dilemma. A soldier’s hope is to do his job well, uninterrupted and to the best of his ability. Yet because he insists on leading based on influence and respect, he refuses positions where leadership is based primarily on the prestige and administrative prowess of the office. He must therefore ensure he that leads him has his best interest at heart.
It gives rise to a new paradigm in society. Politicians, leaders of all kinds, CEOs have to keep themselves in check because of their dependence on the people that follow them. If the people you lead don’t like you, you’re out. But what if the power is unbalanced? What if the person , aware of more of how the world works, decides the person in charge needs to be able to lead the way that he ‘feels’ is the most appropriate. He wouldn’t do it himself, because he’s a soldier. The burdens of the officer aren’t for him. But he’ll be the kingmaker and he’ll decide the king.
That’s my fascination. How can the world we live in, be controlled not by the kings, but by the kingmakers? These people with money, influence and sizable authority put in power kings, who are in all respects officers, that help them, the soldiers, gain more advantage. People like Murdoch and Daley who run their societies without prejudice have to be complimented for their cunning.
Is this a problem? I would argue so. How would you fight it? Current models fight for systemic change, changing the way systems work so that people in power can do their jobs without the burden of being beholden to the kingmaker. But that takes time, and the people in power are incentivized to fight these efforts. Instead, I prefer a more Batman-esque approach. You fight the darkness by using it against itself.
What if people who had the best interests of everyone at heart were kingmakers instead? They knew what the countries and organizations would benefit from, and ensured the right person got in power. It’s a tricky line to walk on. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and in this position , if successful, power is again held unevenly. There has to be hope though, absolute strength of belief in what is right and good. What is necessary for the future. Discussed through discourse and hammered through experience, and most importantly not veiled for another agenda.
Kingmakers and kings, a tremendously fascinating phenomenon that continues to permeate through society in every way without us even knowing about it. Can we turn it on itself?