I read the following article this morning and had to share it with you. As you know, I consider the development of Leadership a key element of our mission of empowering lives through martial art. This excellent article on the power of leading by example is a good reminder for all of us that what we do speaks much louder than what we say.
Lieutenant Norman Dike froze in the face of fire. Dike led Easy Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne, during the wintery attack on the Nazi-occupied town of Foy, part of the overall Battle of the Bulge during World War II.
He was a replacement officer who’d allegedly been sent down from higher offices to receive some combat experience before he could be promoted. Behind his back, his men, the elite paratroopers later known as the Band of Brothers, dubbed him “Foxhole Norman”—a man who’d rather cower than fight.
During the attack on Foy, with enemy bullets slicing toward them, Dike wrongly positioned himself and his soldiers behind a haystack. There, he and his men sat as defenseless as hunted ducks. If Dike was ever going to achieve his objective, he needed to lead his men to surge forward and liberate the town. He needed to move! But Dike sat, petrified, panicked, already defeated.
From haystack to attack
From high on a hill, Captain Dick Winters, then battalion executive officer, surveyed the debacle. He spun on his heel and spotted the capable Lieutenant Ronald Speirs, leader of Dog Company, who stood poised in reserve. Winters ordered Speirs to run to the haystack, relieve Dike of his command, and lead the men to victory.
Lieutenant Ronald Speirs
Speirs sprinted forward, took control, and rallied the soldiers up from behind the haystack and onward. But before they could fully take the town and succeed, one more of Dike’s messes needed to be cleaned up.
Earlier, Dike had ordered one platoon to circle the town and see if they could flank the enemy. It might have sounded good at first, but it proved a lousy plan. The men were exposed to sniper fire during the run. Plus, without a radio, they couldn’t receive further orders. Sure enough, five E Company soldiers had taken bullets and gone down.
To countermand Dike’s initial order, Speirs ran alone straight through the town, chock full of weaponized Nazi soldiers. At first, miraculously, the Nazis held their fire, thinking perhaps he was a medic. Then the truth became clear. Shocked, their mouths hung open. Why was this one American officer running straight through their midst?! Didn’t he know he was now their number one target?
Shots rang out, right and left. Undaunted, unphased, and focused like a laser, Speirs ran straight to the lone platoon and set them straight. The truly astonishing thing, reported the men who were there, was that after Spiers ran through the highly dangerous town—he turned around and ran straight back to finish the job.
The power of example—for better or worse
When I think of the differences between lieutenants Dike and Spiers, I’m reminded of the adage that more is caught than taught. Overt instruction works to lead people, yet influence makes the strongest impact. The best leaders lead not only by instruction. They lead by example.
Lieutenant Dike wore the uniform of a leader. He certainly instructed his men to do things. But Speirs showed his men how to do things, and in doing so displayed true courage and empowered his men to successfully complete their objective. He kept cool under fire, and as much as he barked out the correct orders to keep moving forward, he effectively led his men by sheer example of his bravery.
Have you ever considered how your actions can speak louder than words? Whether it’s your management on the battlefield, in the workplace, in your volunteer organization, or within your family, your actions help set the tone, establish the mood, and create values and biases within the people you lead.
This realization can cause us to double check our work ethic, attitude, and management style, because both our good and bad habits rub off on others we care about.
Article by Michael Brotherton
And taken from Michael Hyatt Leadership Training
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