“Out of every hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” -- Heraclitus
For those working in the warrior professions, Heraclitus’ “warrior speech” is common and familiar. That this is true some twenty-five hundred years after he wrote it is a testament to its unaltered value. The reasons for its continued relevance are many, but two features (one obvious; one more subtle) seem to be of principal importance.
First, it suggests a penetrating performance distribution relative to humans in combat. While not scientific, it seems instinctively to be true. Anyone who has seen a large group of people react to a violent event can surmise that his math is close to correct. Second, it makes a subtle yet profoundly psychological appeal to distinguish oneself in battle.
As young warrior-minded people hear the ancient words of Heraclitus they feel almost instinctively the romantic call to be “the one.” And while for some this may be the indulgence of a narcissistic fantasy, the majority feel stirred to face down the worst the world can throw at them and still maintain the strength to protect the others. I know this to be true as I was once one of those young souls eager to “take up arms against a sea of troubles.”
But as is so common among people that age, my understanding of what it meant to be “the one” lacked nuance and the insight of broader context. At the time I had visions of charging headlong into the worst battles waged in American streets only to emerge heroically by leading my brothers out. Ah, the stuff of young men’s thoughts! But as I aged and took a variety of leadership positions, my thoughts regarding wise old Heraclitus changed.
While there are certainly moments of friction and chaos that require a single person to lead the others through, being the one who “brings the others back” requires a great deal more. It requires care, concern and action. This became readily apparent to me during our recent discussion with this week’s podcast guest, San Francisco County’s Undersheriff Joe Engler.
American Law Enforcement officers are strong, capable and resilient, but they are suffering. As cultural norms shift, the citizenry evolves and political ideologies push and pull, Law Enforcement professionals stand alone at the perilous center of the societal clash. And as the stress of these seismic shifts begins to manifest a crisis in the collective consciousness of cops, few have asked what can be done to mitigate it. This truly is where quality leadership, like the leadership Joe provides, is needed.
Working in unison with San Francisco County’s Sheriff Paul Miyamoto, Joe endeavored to meet his deputies where they are and bring some healing. He made it clear that he thinks of his deputies as family and works on their behalf out of love. It was in this spirit that he had his people participate in our training program called Navigating Adversity. It is one of Pathfinder Resilience’s flagship training courses and is designed to help individuals erect a wellness scaffolding around the most essential areas of their lives. Where some leaders have sought to ignore the strain on American Law Enforcement, Joe Engler has attempted to ease it with care, concern and action.
And it has worked. The men and women of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department are stronger now. Not perfect, but more resilient and well. They have developed a common language centered around their own human strength, healing and concern for one another. They have a new set of tools to do with what cops have always done: improvise, adapt and overcome. I can assure you healthy Law Enforcement professionals can only make the lives of the citizens they serve better. Isn’t that what we all want?
And just as the world will always need warriors fighting to protect those who cannot protect themselves, warriors will need leaders fighting for them. Leaders like Joe Engler who take action to bring the others back. What more can we ask of our leaders?