James Stockdale, an eight-year prisoner of war in Vietnam, a vice admiral, a college professor, a college president, and a vice presidential candidate, proposed a “discipline founded by Socrates–a discipline committed to the position that there is such a thing as central, objective truth and that what is ‘just’ transcends self interest.”

What will it take to get a worker, student, soldier, follower to reach a conclusion, to see the “vision” of a Stockdale leader?

The leader (or leader to be) must endorse the following:

1. You are your brother’s keeper
2. Life is not fair
3. Duty comes before defiance
4. Compulsion and free will can co exist
5. Every man can be more than he is
6. Freedom and absolute equality are a trade off
7. People do not like to be programmed
8. Living in harmonious “ant heaps” is contrary to man’s nature
9. The self-discipline of stoicism has everyday applications
10. Moral responsibility cannot be escaped.

It all seems so simple, simply put, clear. But it is not easy to be the moral leaders Stockdale wants. (Having a clear conscience is the foundation of Stockdale’s presentation.)


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