Yet again, a media storm in a tea cup. A few words that were said in jest by the Defence Minister Ehud Barak, the Chief of Staff Major General Bennie Gantz and the commanding officer of the Golani brigade during an exercise on the Golan Heights, and which were aimed at the backward elements calling for prohibiting women from singing in public and not at IDF female soldiers, became the media’s talk of the day. They overshadowed the much more important news item – Golani’s live fire exercise as a counter weight to the large Syrian live fire exercise that took place a few days ago.
There were two lessons here for the Defence Minister and the Chief of Staff.
The first lesson – if you drag the media behind you everywhere you go, so that it covers your every move – do not expect it to be obedient to you. The media has its own agenda, the agenda of scoops and ratings, and you are no longer the masters of words that had left your mouths.
The second lesson – leadership begins with personal example. Rather than blether nonsense within range of the microphones, do something that educates, encourages and instils confidence. Rafael Eitan, a former Chief of Staff and before that General of the Northern Command, also used to visit many live fire exercises on the Golan Heights. On those occasions he kept his famous sense of humour to himself. When the exercises ended and after a debrief took place, Eitan would walk down to the firing range and pick up spent ammunition cartridges into his wide rimmed Australian hat so that they can be recycled. Officers of all ranks and of course the soldiers who had just finished firing that ammunition would join him immediately in picking cartridges without a word being said. There were no TV cameras and there were no microphones – but there was a clear understanding of what personal example was all about.