Leadership Lessons from DC: Detailed Precision

The rain pours down in a steady cadence as a soldier from the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment marches with detailed precision 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns, faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, then takes 21 steps down the mat and repeats the process.

My family watched in silent reverence as the volunteer guards performed their duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. This is a responsibility that has been performed every minute of every day since 1937.

To become a guard, one “must be in superb physical condition, possess an unblemished military record and be between 5 feet, 10 inches and 6 feet, 4 inches tall. During the trial phase, would-be sentinels memorize seven pages of the cemetery history. This information must be recited verbatim in order to earn a ‘walk.’ New sentinels learn the history of Arlington Cemetery and the grave locations of 300 veterans.” These are a few facts about the rigor it takes to be a guard.

Two words strike me as I look back on that experience: detailed precision. Detailed precision is the attention to minute parts with accuracy and exactness. These soldiers embodied detailed precision. In fact, during their down time between shifts, guards take up to eight hours to prepare their uniforms.

As an observer of the guards, I felt both a sense of stability and inspiration. Can you image showing up at the Tomb and seeing a guy sitting in a lawn chair wearing Bermuda shorts and a stained t-shirt eating a BBQ sandwich? I would be very concerned about the security of our country.

My experience, thank goodness, was the opposite. The beauty of the detailed precision of the guards evoked a sense of stability and inspiration instead of concern and despair. In order to fully engage, a person following needs stability and inspiration. Detailed precision is one way to meet these two needs of those you are leading.


As you consider the work you are doing in the next week, where can detailed precision take place to provide a sense of stability and inspiration?

Source: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/Changing-of-the-Guard