As we examine the elements of the Natural Aristocracy, Edmund Burke has guided us, down every turn he has illustrated the qualities that form the character of a true gentleman and aristocrat.
Burke has instructed us on developing the mind, respect, an even how to be well bred. Now he takes us to yet another important labor of a aristocrat: leadership.
To be habituated in armies to command and to obey
Since Burke never served in the military himself this may seem hypocritical, but he doesn’t necessarily say that such service is required, only that one become “habituated” to them. As my father so eloquently says, “It’s stupid for someone to be in charge of something they don’t understand.” How can one gain the respect of an army and manage it properly unless one has an understanding of how it works? One needs to know how to give orders with the right attitude, more importantly how to obey them.
To become a leader requires earning the respect of your subordinates and superiors by demonstrating your understanding and appreciation of their jobs and importance.
To be taught to despise danger in the pursuit of honor and duty
Duty is a concept almost as foreign to us as honor these days. So let’s reacquaint ourselves with their definitions.
Duty: That which a person owes to another; that which a person is bound, by any natural, moral or legal obligation, to pay, do or perform.
Honor: A testimony of esteem; any expression of respect or of high estimation by words or actions; as the honors of war; military honors; funeral honors; civil honors
– Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
George Washington is an excellent example of a man who followed this principle, and I doubt any can compare his steadfast courage in danger. When still a young man in his early twenties he saw the French and Indian War as an Opportunity of advancement, a military career being his preference.
Washington wrote to his brother once saying that “By the all-powerful dispensations of Providence I have been protected
beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets
through my coat, and two horses shot under me yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me.”
This unyielding courage has been a hallmark of many well known military men: Robert E. Lee, “Stonewall” Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, and others.
Appreciate – Know the true value of your employees, and your bosses. A good leaders understands and appreciates those who work beneath them and his superiors above.
Ambition – Balastar Gracian wrote that Ambition pushed men to greatness, that “improving his taste, quickening his heart, stimulating his mind, ennobling his spirit, “ As with many a trait it only becomes a flaw when taken too far. Ambition can make people pursue duty and honor at the cost of personal risk.
Action – At the end of the day a leader needs to take action, make decisions, and do what must be done.