“I know plenty of heroes, but I am certainly not one” – Major Dick Winters, commander, Easy Company, 101st Airborne division, World War II
These words are from a man who led his “Band of Brothers” from the D-Day landings to the German Surrender, bravely and selflessly. He was often out-manned in the battlefield, but still prevailed with his deft strategies and coolness under fire (in fact, his successful assault on German guns on Utah beach, 13 men against 50, is still used to teach cadets at West Point).
And yet, he never wanted any credit for what he had done – the credit went to his men, especially those who lost their lives for their country.
I always think of Dick Winters around Memorial Day, ever since I read Steven Ambrose’s great book “Band of Brothers” 13 years ago. He passed away this past January, and I can think of no better way to honor his memory, his service, and his great selfless leadership, then to present his own 10 principles of leadership, from his book, “Beyond Band of Brothers” (affiliate link, proceeds to the National Park Foundation).
He called them “Leadership At The Point Of a Bayonet“. That’s quite a telling perspective, isn’t it? It’s saying, in effect, these are the keys to leading under the ultimate stress – that of losing your life, or the lives of your charges.
Thankfully, we had people like Dick Winters who could practice this kind of leadership when our liberties were at stake, and prevail.
And it’s a leadership model that can, and should, be applied by anyone looking to take their team to greatness, selflessly and honorably.
Here are the Principles *:
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.
(* – From “Beyond Band of Brothers“, by Dick Winters, with Cole C. Kingseed, Berkley Trade)