Honoring the Leadership Legacy of our Veterans – What is Your Leadership Legacy?

As we celebrate Veteran’s Day this week and honor all those service men and women who have served our country, some with their lives, I have been reflecting on the kind of leadership that it takes to lead troops into combat. The kind of leadership that engenders followership when the ultimate price, our lives, is on the line.

How many of us can say that we demonstrate the kind of leadership that inspires our “corporate” troops to willingly follow us into “battle,” not just in the easy times, but when times are tough?

The good news is that our leadership mistakes don’t result in life or death consequences as they do for those on the front lines. However, perhaps you and I, and all business leaders for that matter, can learn something from the leadership principles of one of our great military heroes of WWII, Major Dick Winters, the commander of the legendary “Band of Brothers”. Dick was a man who led many successful military missions, among them leading a tiny group of 13 men to defeat 50 German soldiers at the D-Day beaches of Normandy, a feat that is still used as an example in military training today. A man whose leadership was honored in the erecting of  a “Leadership” monument featuring a statue in his likeness in Sainte Marie-du-Mont, Normandy.

Clearwater Consulting Group honors all of our veterans and their service with Dick Winters 10 principles of leadership, from his book, BEYOND BAND OF BROTHERS: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters (commander and leader of WWII 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division) By: Major Richard “Dick” Winters with Colonel Cole Kingseed.

Leadership at the Point of the Bayonet

  1. Strive to be a leader of character, competence, and courage.
  2. Lead from the front.  Say, “Follow me!” and then lead the way.
  3. Stay in top physical shape–physical stamina is the root of mental toughness.
  4. Develop your team.  If you know your people, are fair in setting realistic goals and expectations, and lead by example, you will develop teamwork.
  5. Delegate responsibility to your subordinates and let them do their job. You can’t do a good job if you don’t have a chance to use your imagination and creativity.
  6. Anticipate problems and prepare to overcome obstacles. Don’t wait until you get to the top of the ridge and then make up your mind.
  7. Remain humble. Don’t worry about who receives the credit. Never let power or authority go to your head.
  8. Take a moment of self-reflection. Look at yourself in the mirror every night and ask yourself if you did your best.
  9. True satisfaction comes from getting the job done. They key to a successful leader is to earn respect–not because of rank or position, but because you are a leader of character.
  10. Hang Tough!–Never, ever, give up.

Dick Winters left us an incredible legacy of leadership. In honor of Veteran’s Day and all those “troops” who count on you to lead them – competently, fearlessly, inspirationally – consider the following: Are you leading from the “front” or from behind? Are you developing your team? Are you humble, self-reflective? Do you “hang tough” and inspire your team to do the same? What is your leadership legacy?