Our Spartan Shield

The Spartans would fine a soldier who lost a helmet or breastplate in battle. However if a soldier lost a shield, he would be put to death. By their logic, the helmet and breastplate were worn to protect the individual, but the shield, that was borne to protect the whole army. There was no excuse to drop it or lose it except in death.

If unfamiliar, the military style of the time was to form a line with shields out and overlapping. Think of a turtle shell with every panel tightly connected into the next. This was the purpose of the shields. Moving as one, they were impenetrable. If a single shield was missing, the enemy could break their formation. This is why shields were never to be dropped.

Every group, team, and organization has its own version of the shield. Beyond our individual protections, there’s power in a collective armor. It’s one part uniform and another part behavior. When we think about culture, we want to look for ways a group protects each other. We want to look for a symbol and an action.

During COVID-19, and as Steve Pressfield pointed out (and inspired this riff), our modern shields are to wear face masks and to be mindful of social distancing. If we think about work cultures, we might think about both the policies that keep everyone above the line or the team level bonds that carry projects to completion.

The whole uniform matters, but for a group to understand the why behind the what and how, leaders should look to define their shields. The group that moves together, wins together.

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