I sincerely believe that to be a successful commander, you must care.
—Major General Melvin Zais, U.S. Army
On a bleak and windy night on the remote island of Orkney off the northern coast of Scotland, Sergeant Major Jim Prentice of the Gordon Highlanders—a Scottish regiment of the British Army—was leading 36 soldiers in maneuvers to prepare for the World War II battles soon to come in far-off Burma. A sudden snowstorm had made it too dangerous to return to their camp, so Prentice enlisted the hospitality of the nearest farmhouse’s inhabitants to provide a place for his men to sleep in the adjacent barn.
Happy to help, the farmer insisted that the soldiers be fed before retiring for the night. He and his family prepared an inelegant feast of ground beef, potatoes, turnips, carrots, and pancakes. Six at a time, the soldiers warmed themselves and filled their insides in the modest farmhouse’s kitchen, while the others waited appreciatively in the barn.
The farmer’s nine-year-old son watched curiously as Prentice, obviously the ranking soldier among them, ushered each sextet into the house. Only when all the troops had been served did the sergeant major sit down and eat. Curious at this unexpected behavior, the boy, who had been invited by the sergeant major to join him at the rough-hewn table, asked, “Why’d you go last? You’re the leader!”
Prentice looked the young man in the eye and said with both conviction and instruction, “Lad, first you feed ...