However, one military organization that’s NOT having any trouble recruiting is the French Foreign Legion. Not only do they have no problem filling their numbers, they have to turn a lot of qualified candidates away. There’s just too many young men wanting to join.
It could be because, unlike some militaries, they stubbornly refuse to change with the times. Joining the Legion has always been a grim, nasty business, and they like it that way. Do they have the best equipment? Absolutely not. Most advanced training? Nope. Great pay and benefits? Ha.
What they do have, however, is a certain way of doing things. A very unique, proud, brutal culture, born out of hardship, being uncompromising, being world class bad-asses, and being able to instill genuine fear in anyone going against them.
In December 1883, General François de Négrier said to his men, as they were embarking from Algeria to Indonesia:
“You, Legionnaires, you are soldiers meant to die, and I’m sending you to where one dies!”
That attitude still largely remains, and it certainly appeals to some young men. They WANT it to be hard because they want to test themselves at the most extreme level possible. It’s not for everyone nor should it be, and this exclusivity is the key. It says, people like us, do things like this. And these things matter. They have meaning. They belong to something larger than themselves. And if they make it out alive, they’ll have a helluva narrative that few men can claim.
This came to mind when reading a Business Insider piece about the recent trials and tribulations that have affected Goldman Sachs.
Apparently it recently tried to trade in its “adamantine” (diamond hard) image for something kinder and gentler, in order to make the brand more accessible to main street, consumer-facing banking. This didn’t seem to go down very well.
Their former hard-ass culture may have put off a few sensitive souls, but culturally, we believe it was also their secret weapon. For those people who LIKE banking with tough-as-nails firms and working for them, trying to be more cute and cuddly doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Nobody joins the Legion for an easy ride. Nobody works for Goldman to be average and unthreatening. If you’re going to swim with the sharks, removing your teeth is the last thing you need to do.