Guns and Gear

Leadership 101: Emotion and the Three M’s

Mike Piccione Editor, Guns & Gear
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The first article in our series – Leadership 101 – describes the series going forward, then touches on the five elements of the foundation upon which we build the leader from the ground-up (before getting into the fundamentals of leadership). If you’ve not read Leadership 101: Body, Mind, and Soul Required, I urge you to do so now at

Today we continue building the foundation. But we will also include some red-meat, right-now leadership tools because (despite our building) many of us are already leaders, and – as I learned years ago in U.S. Marine Corps boot camp – all of us may be thrust into leadership positions on a moments notice.

Let’s flash-review the five elements of the whole man (whole woman) that we must master as our basic building-blocks of sound leadership. My good friend, Mark Divine, a U.S. Navy SEAL Res. commander, refers to these five whole-man elements – (1) the physical body, (2) the mind or brain, (3) emotional awareness and control, (4) intuition, and (5) soul or spirit – as “the five mountains.”

(ref. SEALFIT Unbeatable Mind Academy

A lot has been said and written about the body-mind connection, so we won’t spend a great deal of time on the body or the mind right now except to say that a physically sound body and a physically sound mind (or brain) are critical to one’s quality of life.

This is straight out of my old Boy Scout handbook. We cannot take either the body or the mind for granted, though we all have at times in our lives. We have to eat right, exercise daily, and sleep for the body. And we must condition the mind through a mix of reading, instruction (which you are receiving right now), and problem solving. And we have to learn to embrace the connection between the body and the mind. More on this further in the series.

Today, let’s look more closely at the third element (or mountain) – emotional awareness and control.


Just as it is hard work to develop the body and to condition the mind, mastery of our emotions requires focused – perhaps even harder – work daily. We begin controlling our emotions by first becoming aware of emotion, knowing what emotion is, and recognizing those particular emotions which are the toughest to tame (and this will differ from person-to-person).

Emotion is a difficult-to-describe state-of-mind operating at the nexus of the mind, intuition, and soul. And it is both a blessing and a curse.

Emotion is a blessing in that it is the empowering energy found in things like the physical expression of love, passion, pleasure, and the various forms of zeal. It is also a blessing because it stirs the desires of service and sacrifice, both of which are vital callings to any true leader. And it is a blessing – for instance, in the case of properly managed fear – in that it energizes reason, fuels our physiological defense mechanisms and helps trigger those behaviors which enable us to survive in life-and-death situations.

In other words, if the emotion of fear makes a young rifle-squad leader not want to lead his men down a particular route of a dark ravine because (based on good tactical intelligence) he reasonably fears the squad will be ambushed and destroyed, that emotion of fear – fueled by the squad leader’s brain and intuition – may be saving lives by compelling him to choose a different route. And that’s a good thing.

But as marvelous as it is, emotion is like nuclear material. If you don’t fully understand it and learn to control it (particularly as emotion pertains to you in stressful situations), it will quickly flash out-of-control and explode into those unwanted meltdown experiences like panic, rage, and general indecision or poor decision-making.

A leader’s properly conditioned mind and soul (remember emotion is at the nexus of mind, intuition, and soul) will ultimately control emotion, and we will discover ways to manage our emotions when we examine intuition and the soul (spirit) in a forthcoming edition of our series.

In the meantime, assuming most of us are already leaders, we need a bit of “red meat” while we continue building the foundation.


Perhaps one of the most intense leadership incubators in the world is Marine Corps boot camp, which I mentioned earlier. There – nearly three decades ago – I learned what I personally believe to be the most perfect red-meat maxim for military leadership in existence.

If you get nothing else out of this series, I hope you will remember and embrace this maxim, which we’ll refer to as simply “the mission, the men, and me.” And by the way, when we say “men,” feel free to interchange men and women – or make it both – depending upon who you are leading at the time.

The maxim is simple: The heart of it is that in every instance of sound leadership, you must always put the mission first. You have to take the hill. You have to drive the enemy off the high ground. The objective is paramount.

Secondly, you take care of your men. This doesn’t mean the men are taking a backseat to the mission. In fact, many of us like to say, “The mission first, the men always.”

Lastly is “me.”

Yes, “me” definitely takes a backseat to the mission and the men. In fact, as Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, a Medal of Honor recipient, once told me, “the ‘me’ part of the maxim must be far removed from the mission and the men.”

This doesn’t mean you neglect yourself, because that would be irresponsible. But it does mean, leaders eat last, and put their people first.

So we have the five mountains we want to master; and we have the red-meat, right-now maxim – “the  mission, the men, and me.”

Stay with us. There’s so much more. If you have questions or suggestions, I’m at


 W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine rifle-squad leader and counterterrorism instructor who writes about military/defense issues and has covered conflict in the Balkans, on the West Bank, in Iraq and Lebanon. He directs the U.S. Counterterrorism Advisory Team. He is the author of six books, and his articles appear in a variety of publications. Smith’s website is