My 100th post.
Everybody knows the buck stops somewhere, and that accountability is non-delegable. This is especially true in hierarchical organisations like mine, where management have a statutory authority to compel subordinates to do things they might not otherwise want to do. They might not want to do those things for a variety of reasons, including the likelihood that obeying the direction might dramatically increase their chances of getting killed. Given recent world events, I am surprised anybody would insure us at all. Yet they are still the ones running towards danger when everybody else is headed the other way.
We here in New South Wales operate under an Act of Parliament that allows for our criminal prosecution if we refuse to obey a lawful direction. In the heat of the moment, a direction can be objectionable, stupid, wrong-headed and tactically unsound, yet still lawful. Plus, you’d have to be brave to refuse the typically forceful, A-type personalities that inhabit the senior ranks in this job. Bad enough if time proves you wrong, even worse if it proves you right, because unless you have played your cards extremely well, you are going to get thrown under the bus.
While the egos and upward-mobility of our senior management should not dictate our day-to-day response to work, anymore than the moronic comments of breakfast show hosts, or the harangues of rednecked radio announcers, you’d be naive to believe it to be any other way. So when you ring to brief them, expect a one-sided conversation. You must be totally across the full facts, yet they will be cagey and coy when it comes to providing clear direction. Why such reticence? Is it because the buck stops with them, and so the best they can do to safeguard their glittering careers is deny they ever said those words to you? He went off reservation, they’ll allege of you: he’s a donkey on the edge.
So, forewarned = forearmed. But it hardly inspires you with confidence, does it, down here in the mud. With boots on the ground, it’s much easier for me to step in and get missile-lock than it is to step back, but the latter is what I’m being paid to do. You have to do something, doing nothing is rarely an option, so you do the best you can with what you’ve got, knowing that the armchair critics and social media experts will line up to eviscerate you at their leisure. You can’t win, that’s for certain. You must act, and sometimes it could be a coin-toss between everybody dies or we win the day, and the spectre of being scapegoated in a protracted coronial inquest might be the one thing that makes you pause and lose that tactical advantage.
None of us know our limit until we get there, and even then the sheer act of reaching it and not breaking pushes our limit even further out — what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger — but it might also make you cynical, depressed, resentful and angry. It’s the best job in the world, and the worst. It’s easy to succumb to the weight of all those negative emotions, and so hard to remind yourself that the reason they weigh so much is because, like an armload of coal, they’re heavy fuel for the fire. My message to all my brothers and sisters under siege by enemies both foreign or domestic is that blue lives matter too. If you’re a leader, then for God’s sake lead. The rest of you, find your place in the thin blue line and stand your ground.