Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Giving Up

"If leaders have to give up to go up, then they have to give up even more to stay up."
-- John Maxwell in The Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Difficult Environment



This department requires no physical fitness program: everyone gets enough exercise jumping to conclusions, flying off the handle, running down the boss, knifing friends in the back, dodging responsibility, and pushing their luck…Anonymous


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thinking On Your Feet

A guide at Blarney Castle in Ireland was explaining to some visitors that his job was not always as pleasant as it seemed. He told them about a group of disgruntled tourists he had taken to the castle earlier in the week.

"These people were complaining about everything," he said. "They didn't like the weather, the food, their hotel accommodations, the prices, everything. Then to top it off, when we arrived at the castle, we found that the area around the Blarney Stone was roped off. Workmen were making some kind of repairs." "This is the last straw!" exclaimed one lady who seemed to be the chief faultfinder in the group. "I've come all this way, and now I can't even kiss the Blarney Stone."

"Well, you know," the guide said, "according to legend, if you kiss someone who has kissed the stone, it's the same as kissing the stone itself." "And I suppose you've kissed the stone," said the exasperated lady. "Better than that." replied the guide. "I've sat on it."

Saturday, April 30, 2016

E.F. Hutton

Years ago, there was a financial services company named E.F. Hutton. Their motto was: "When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen."

Some of you remember their old television commercials. The setting was typically a busy restaurant or other public place. Two people would be talking about financial matters, and the first person would repeat something his broker had said concerning a certain investment. The second person would say, "Well, my broker is E.F. Hutton, and E.F. Hutton says..." At that point every single person in the bustling restaurant would stop dead in his tracks, turn, and listen to what the man was about to say.

That's what I call leadership. Because when the real leader speaks, people listen. Is your leadership characterized by this type of response from those around you?

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Civil Dozen -- Part 5(b)

After all the drama and excitement of the battlefield, Chamberlain found the professor's occupation at Bowdoin tame and uninspiring. Despite receiving an honorary doctor of law degree from Pennsylvania College in 1866, and later from Bowdoin in 1869, a restlessness prevailed within him.

Chamberlain decided to pursue a political career, and in September 1866 was elected governor of Maine by the largest majority in the state's history. He served four one-year terms in all, concluding his last term at the end of 1870.


As governor, Chamberlain continued to do what he thought was right, despite objection. He chose to carry out the law and enforce controversial measures as capital punishment even though there were great objections raised by other officials and citizens.


In 1871, Chamberlain was elected president of Bowdoin by the trustees of the college. His presidency, which would conclude in 1883, found him being Chamberlain-like. His reign saw him introduce progressive and occasionally unpopular ideas to the conservative institution. He endorsed studies in science and engineering, de-emphasized religion, and became involved in student demonstrations over the question of ROTC (due to him having students participate in military drills in preparation for the possibility of war). To the end, Chamberlain stood for his ideals despite the opposition.

The later years of Chamberlain's career found him pursuing business ventures, serving as U.S. Surveyor of Customs at the Port of Portland, Maine, and writing about his wartime experiences. Chamberlain passed away on February 24, 1914 at the age of 86, having died of the war wound he received so long ago in Petersburg.


“In great deeds something abides.”

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Civil Dozen -- Part Five(a)

After the Union's victory at Gettysburg, Chamberlain was given command of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, Fifth Corps, and participated in the Culpepper and Centreville campaign in October. By now, after having undergone his baptism of fire and many trials with the 20th, Chamberlain had earned the respect  and loyalty of his men. The soldiers admired his skill and bravery.

They appreciated his humility and willingness to endure the same conditions as them, sleeping on the ground in the harshest of climates. They appreciated his acts of kindness and courtesy towards them. The attention he paid to the sick or wounded in his command was seen over and over again. The time and care he took in sending home the personal effects of those who died was remembered as well.

By mid-June, 1864 Chamberlain became the commander of the 1st Division’s new 1st Pennsylvania Brigade which fought valiantly at Rives' Salient on June 18, 1864. At one point in this battle, he bore the flag after the color bearer was killed at his side, until he too was shot by a miniĆ© ball. Though the wound was severe, Chamberlain maintained his composure until every one of his men had passed from view. Even in his grave condition he refused preferential treatment, insisting that others with far more serious wounds be tended to first.

The belief that Chamberlain's wound was mortal led to his swift promotion to Brigadier General
by General Ulysses Grant. This was the only instance of a promotion on the battlefield given by Grant in the entire war. Chamberlain was admitted into the Naval Academy hospital at Annapolis with little hope for his survival. Chamberlain proved them wrong. His will to live was strong. By November he again reported for duty, despite the fact that he could not yet ride a horse or walk a great distance.

On March 29, 1865, Chamberlain and his 1st Brigade were engaged in a hot fight in which they had to employ their bayonets. Chamberlain was again wounded, having another one of his many horses shot under him. Chamberlain was nearly taken prisoner but eluded his captors
by posing as a Confederate officer.

Finally, on April 9th, General Robert E. Lee called a truce to halt the four-year bloodshed between the two armies.

Chamberlain was summoned to Union headquarters on April 10th, where he was informed
that he had been selected to preside over the parade of the Confederate infantry as part of their formal surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 12th.

Thus was set up one of the most poignant scenes of the war: Of his thinking, Chamberlain wrote: “The momentous meaning of this occasion impressed me deeply. I resolved to mark it by some token of recognition, which could be no other than a salute of arms. Well aware of the responsibility assumed and of the criticisms that would follow, as the sequel proved, nothing of that kind could move me in the least. The act could be defended, if needful, by the suggestion that such a salute was not to the cause for which the flag of the Confederacy stood, but to its going down before the flag of the Union. My main reason, however, was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness.
Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve;
standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond; was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?”

As the first group of Confederate soldiers prepared to march by Union forces and surrender their arms, the sound of the bugle peeled. Instantly, from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, the Union forces changed from “order arms” to the old “carry arms” marching salute.

General Gordon was the Rebel commander at the head of the column. Riding with a heavy spirit and downcast face, he was stunned to hear the sound of shifting arms. He looked up and saw the salute. He immediately understood the meaning. The victors were showing honor to the defeated.

The Rebel commander, in a profound salutation, dropped the point of his sword to the toe of his boot. Then facing his own command, gave word for each successive brigade to pass by the Union troops in the same “carry arms” marching salute. They were to answer honor with honor.

With no sound of trumpet – no roll of the drum, no cheer, no word, no whisper, no motion of on the part of the Union forces – brigade after brigade of Confederate soldiers marched through the Union forces on both sides of the road in an awed stillness. It was as if everyone was holding their breath. It was as if it were the passing of the dead!

In his speeches and memoirs, Gordon would always remember Chamberlain’s decision that day.
He called Chamberlain "one of the knightliest soldiers of the Federal Army."

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Civil Dozen -- Part Four

Part Four

On June 3, 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee began the Army of Northern Virginia’s second invasion of the North. Lee’s main objective
was to move across the Potomac River and try to separate the Union forces from Washington.

When the Army of the Potomac’s commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, belatedly became aware of the Confederates’ movement, he began to force-march his army north, trying to keep Lee to the west and screen Washington from the Rebel troops.

On June 28, as the bulk of the Federal troops enjoyed a brief respite near Frederick, Md., Meade replaced Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac.

Lacking adequate intelligence from his scouting forces, Lee directed his army to gather at Gettysburg. The general did not want to fight at Gettysburg, but alert Union horsemen had reached the area — a fact that would put a wrinkle in Lee’s plans.

On July 1, Major General Henry Heth headed toward Gettysburg with four brigades of infantry to drive off the reported Union troopers and secure the town.

To Heth’s surprise, waiting for him was Union Brigadier General John Buford, who had dismounted and deployed his cavalry on McPherson’s Ridge, west of Gettysburg. Buford’s forces fired first, temporarily halting Heth’s force and starting the Battle of Gettysburg.

The Confederates managed to exploit weaknesses in the Federals’ deployment, and their attacks caused heavy losses to the Union troops, who were forced to retreat. Confederate General Ewell’s failure to carry out his orders and attack Cemetery Hill on the afternoon of July 1 wasted a golden opportunity for a quick, decisive victory. The Union had lost 4,000 men by that time — and the town of Gettysburg itself — but Meade quickly moved reinforcing divisions onto the high ground south of Gettysburg. The two armies spent a restless night.

The Union defensive line on Cemetery Ridge resembled an inverted fishhook, extending from Culp’s Hill on the north, down Cemetery Ridge and southward toward Big and Little Round Tops. Although the 650-foot-high Little Round Top was overshadowed by its larger neighbor, its position was more important because much of the hill was cleared of trees and it could better accommodate troops. Strategically, Little Round Top held the key to the developing battle. If the Southern troops could take and hold the hill, they could theoretically roll up the entire Union line.

Robert E. Lee, with his eerie sense of a battlefield, was hastily assembling a force to attack the Union left on the morning of July 2nd. Unfortunately for the South, it took him the greater part of the day to get his men ready to strike.

Meade, realizing the danger of not holding the high ground on his left flank,
sent his chief of engineers, Brig. Gen. Warren, to assess the situation. To his utter chagrin, Warren found Little Round Top completely undefended. He hastily sent messengers to Meade and Sickles, requesting immediate assistance.  Colonel Strong Vincent, who commanded the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division of the V Corps, received word from a harried courier about the threat to Little Round Top and led his men to the hill at the double-quick.

Vincent’s brigade included the 358-man 20th Maine under Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.


The afternoon of July 2nd, the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, found the Twentieth Maine on the extreme left of the Union line. Colonel Vincent said to Chamberlain: “You cannot withdraw under any conditions. If you go, the line is flanked. If you go, they’ll go right up the hilltop and take us in the rear. You must defend this place to the last.”

Chamberlain thought of that statement as he toured his Regiment’s preparations. Hold to the last. To the last what? Last man? Last shell? Last foot of ground?

Then he saw the Rebels. Gray-green-yellow uniforms, rolling up in a mass. They seemed to be rising out of the ground. Suddenly he heard the terrible scream – the infamous Rebel yell. The wave of Rebels hit the stone wall and stalled.

This gave Chamberlain the opportunity to move towards the right side of his line. He saw that the casualties were significant. He knew he could not remain for long  Because the emptiness to his left was a vacuum drawing him back that way.

The second attack broke before he could get back to the left side of his line. The attack came all down the line, a full, wild, leaping charge. This time three Rebels came over the low stone wall. It took some hand-to-hand fighting to take care of the intruders but the second attack was beaten back.

As Chamberlain moved to a set of boulders to get a better view of the battlefield, he felt an explosion under his right foot. The foot hurt and he felt the blood but did not see a hole in the boot. Thank God!

Chamberlain clambered up on a high boulder. He knew that he gave the Rebels a big target but he needed to see what was coming. From rock to rock, from tree to tree, the third attack was coming. It was not as wild as the first two but the masses of men and flags were coming. To his alarm, he saw that many were moving out to encircle his left. He yelled: “They are going to turn us!”

Bam! He was knocked clean off the rock. The blow in his side felt like a lightning bolt. Hands pulled him up. He looked down. Blood? No. But the hip, oh the hip hurt. He steadied his mind. He remembered: “They are flanking us!”

He yelled to his aide: “Get all of the company commanders.” What was the phrase in the manual? Oh yes, refuse the line.

The commanders were arriving. Chamberlain for the first time, raised his voice: “We’re about to be flanked. Now here’s what we do. Keep up a good hot masking fire. That will force the Rebels to keep their heads down. Keeping up the fire, I want to hold very tightly to the 83rd on our right. Men will sidestep to the left, thinning out to twice the present distance. See that boulder on the far left? When we reach that point we’ll refuse the line and form a new line at right angles. That boulder will be the salient. Any questions?”

The third attack struck the angle at the boulder and lapped around it only to run into the new line. The charge collapsed again. Chamberlain looked around. Everywhere were bodies, smoke, and the sound of guns firing.

The fourth assault came against both flanks and at the center all at once. Chamberlain dizzy in the smoke, began to lose track of events. The assault so pressed the Twentieth Maine that there was only a few yards between the line on the right and on the left.

As the assault again failed, Chamberlain asked what the state of ammunition was. “We can’t get any ammunition, sir.” Chamberlain ordered: “Send out the word to take ammunition from the wounded. Make every round count.”

He heard the fifth assault coming. Up the rocks, clawing through the bushes, through the shattered trees – it struck the left flank. Men fell all around him. Chamberlain himself had to shoot two Rebels at point blank range.

Chamberlain thought: “They can’t keep coming. We can’t keep stopping them.” He limped along the line. There were signs of exhaustion everywhere. He thought: “We cannot hold.”

He checked with two of his aides. One said: “We’ve lost a third of the men, Colonel. The left is too thin.” Chamberlain asked: “How’s the ammunition?”

The other aide answered: “Some of the boys have nothing at all. Should we pull out?” Chamberlain said: “We can’t. If we don’t hold, they go right on by and over the hill and whole flank of the army caves in.”

“Colonel, they’re coming again.” Chamberlain marveled. We can’t go back. We can’t stay where we are. The Rebels coming up the hill for the sixth time stopped to volley. The Union weakly returned the fire.

An idea formed in Chamberlain’s mind. “The Rebels have got to be tired. They’ve got to be close to the end.  We’ll have the advantage of moving downhill.”

Chamberlain said: “Fix bayonets! I want a right wheel forward of the whole Regiment.”

One of the lieutenants said: “Sir, excuse me, but what’s a right wheel forward?” One of the other lieutenants answered: “He means charge.” Chamberlain added: “Not quite. We charge, swinging down to the right.

We straighten out our line. The right end holds to the 83rd and we swing like a door sweeping them down the hill. Let’s go.”

The Rebels were just coming into plain view, moving and firing.  Chamberlain raised his saber, let loose the shout that was the greatest sound he could make: “Fix bayonets! Charge!”

He leaped down from the boulder, still screaming, and all around him his men were roaring animal screams. The whole Regiment arose and poured over the wall and charged down the hill.

Chamberlain saw gray men stop, freeze, crouch, and then quickly turn. He could not believe it. The Rebels were turning and running. He had never seen them run. The Regiment was driving the line and men in gray were moving down the hill. The Regiment swung in front of the 83rd on the right but kept chasing the Rebels down the long valley between the hills. Rebels had stopped everywhere and were surrendering. Up the hill, the soldiers of the 83rd were waving and cheering.

Chamberlain said to his aide: “Go on and stop the boys. They’ve gone far enough.” The aide said: “Yes, sir. But they are on their way to Richmond.” “Not today,” Chamberlain said. “They’ve done enough today.”

Part Four Lessons

There is one additional lesson that we can take from the Battle of Little Round Top and apply them to ourselves:

8. Be willing to be audacious and do the unexpected.

Dare to be different! That’s what made Churchill, Reagan, and Lincoln tower above the crowd. Leaders don’t play it safe. Leaders don’t always follow the script. They do the unexpected. They pull surprises. They catch their audience unawares.

What did Reagan do when he met Premier Gorbachev at Berlin for the 1986 conference? Did he observe the usual niceties of negotiation? Did he follow the traditional dictates of diplomacy? Was his speech type bureaucratese? No, he was blunt: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!” Reagan knew that what the situation called for was not some bland cant of banalities but words that would move and shape history.

An unconditional display of courage can send an unusually strong message. When the Japanese surrendered in 1945, General McArthur flew to Japan, landing at Narita Airport, which is close to thirty miles from the center of the metropolis. An armored car had been selected as his conveyance into the city. MacArthur chose instead an open limousine. Staff members who were traveling with him inspected their rifles and pistols, but MacArthur said: “No firearms.”

Then the slow drive into Tokyo commenced. MacArthur stood in the back of the open car, arms raised high as he passed by hundreds of thousands of Japanese troops lining the road, all standing at attention. The Japanese were awed by this display of courage. MacArthur dared to be different.

Chamberlain’s charge – a nearly defeated, inferior foe against a nearly victorious, superior foe – was bold. It was audacious. It was different. Learn from Chamberlain. Be bold. Act audaciously. Dare to be different. Do the unexpected.