On a November night years ago, troops of the 101st Airborne Division were bivouacked in a remote US location. Most of the soldiers did not have winter gear and it was cold. About one in the morning I crawled out of the sleeping bag to respond to Mother Nature and to pay the price for drinking so much coffee. I saw a young lieutenant going from sleeping bag to sleeping bag rousting the GIs and ordering each one to do some exercises. When I asked him what he was doing, he replied, “It’s so cold I want to make sure my men are okay.” He did this all night until dawn.
Fast forward to the Central Highlands of Vietnam. It was June 1966. The enemy had heavy machine guns and automatic weapons dug in all along the valley wall and they used the cover of the monsoon rains to mount a major offensive. All the infantry companies of both paratrooper battalions of the 101st Airborne were heavily engaged. It was then that one of the most heroic actions of the war took place. Captain William S. Carpenter, Commander of Co. “C”, 2d Battalion, 502d Infantry found his unit surrounded and being overrun by what was later estimated to be a North Vietnam Army battalion.
As he spoke to his battalion commander the voices of the screaming, charging enemy could be heard over the radio. Captain Carpenter called an air strike on his own position. “They’re all around us and in us – let’s take them with us – put it right on top of us.” The enemy attack was broken and the company was saved. However, it was still surrounded until “A” Company pressed through the thicket of bamboo and heavy enemy fire to relieve the pressure on “C” Company. Captain Carpenter was decorated with the nation’s second highest award for bravery (http://www.screamingeaglesthroughtime.com/id105.html).
Earl “Red” Blaik, the famous West Point football coach, amazed the football world with a new idea, “the lonely end.” This became synonymous with the 1958 Army team. Hugh Wyatt describes it this way, “And then there was the far flanker himself, the person the formation was inspired by and designed for. Bill Carpenter, a 6-2, 205 pound junior from Springfield, PA, had missed most of the 1957 season because of an injury suffered in a military jeep accident, but he was 100 percent recovered and ready for 1958. He was a marvelous athlete, ?possibly the best offensive wingman in Army history,’ in Blaik’s words.”
People may remember Bill Carpenter as “the lonesome end” from West Point or as the hero in Vietnam. I remember him as the young lieutenant who took care of his men on a cold November night so many years ago.
In this and my next two articles we will take a closer look at defining leadership. Definitions of leadership have changed and evolved over the years:
- 1920’s: “… the ability to impress the will of the leader on those led and induce obedience, respect, loyalty, and cooperation.” (Steward)
- 1930’s: “… interaction between specific traits of one person and other traits of the many, in such a way that the course of action of the many is changed by the one.” (Bogardus, 1934)
- 1940’s: “Leadership … is the art of influencing … people by persuasion or example to follow a line of action. It must never be confused with drivership … which is the art of compelling … people by intimidation or force to follow a line of action.” (Copeland)
- 1950’s: “… the process (act) of influencing the activities of an organized group in its efforts towards goal setting and goal achievement.” (Stogdill, 1950-58)
- 1960’s: “… acts by persons which influence other persons in a shared direction.’ (Seeman, 1960)
- 1970’s: ” … a process in which an individual takes initiative to assist a group to move towards the production goals that are acceptable to maintain the group, and to dispose the needs of individuals within the group that compelled them to join it.” (Boles and Davenport, 1975)
- 1980’s: “Leaders lead by pulling rather than pushing; by inspiring rather than ordering; by creating achievable, though challenging, expectations and rewarding progress toward them rather than by manipulating; by enabling people to use their own initiative and experiences rather than by denying or constraining their experiences and actions.” (Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus)
- 1990’s: “Leadership means establishing direction: developing a vision of the future and the strategies to create it; aligning people: communicating direction in words and deeds to everyone whose cooperation is needed to create the vision; motivating and inspiring: energizing people to overcome major political, bureaucratic, and resource barriers to change by satisfying basic, but often unfulfilled, human needs.” (John P. Kotter)
In October 2003, Frederick W. Hill, an African American, and the EVP of Marketing and Communications at J.P. Morgan Chase delivered a talk, Leadership, A Personal Journey, to the Harvard Business School African American Alumni Association. Hill said, “Napoleon called a leader a dealer in hope. But that’s only part of the truth. Leadership is about raising the hopes, calming the fears, firing the imagination, and strengthening the resolve of real people.” As John P. Kotter wrote, “A peace-time army can usually survive with good administration and management up and down the hierarchy, coupled with good leadership concentrated at the very top. A wartime army, however, needs competent leadership at all levels. No one yet has figured out how to manage people into battle; they must be led.”
In my career I have grown through a galvanizing plant, the church, the army, teaching, the government, counseling, the placement business, a brief retirement, and now back to the diversity placement business. My bet is that some of you have experienced many new directions in your life. Some of my work and life experiences have taught me about both good and bad leadership
When it comes to a job or a career, the thing I remember most about my mother and father, my uncles and aunts, was that they worked very hard to provide for their families. The men worked in the trades, on the docks, as merchant seamen, milkmen, in sales; the women were telephone operators, waitresses, domestics and factory workers. They instilled in all of their children a strong sense of responsibility, the goodness of hard work and self-reliance, and the value of getting an education that no one could take from you.
After stints as a stock boy in a shoe store and a soda jerk, my first real job was as a laborer in a galvanizing factory during summers and school vacations. My lifelong study of leadership had begun. The foreman and bosses were direct and gave explicit commands in clear and colorful language. You knew instantly when you made a mistake or were goofing off; the whole plant heard your chewing out, and fellow workers busted you all day with mock reprimands. Flexibility, doing it your way, being creative, pushing back were yet to be invented in factory life.
Seminary training was eight years of boot camp, rigorous discipline, and blind obedience to rules that should have been outdated in the Middle Ages. No such thing as excuses or dialog. Disobey and you were out. The qualities of leadership were rarely mentioned in this hierarchical autocracy.
As an assistant pastor you had little or no input about the leadership or direction of the parish unless you were fortunate enough to have a pastor who believed in shared responsibility, who empowered, trained, and genuinely listened to you.
When I went into the army, I remember thinking, “Now I’m going to see some real leadership.” I did come face to face with all types of leadership in all varieties: exceptional, outstanding, excellent, good, average, and how did he ever get promoted to this job? Some officers and NCOs were memorable, great teachers who made a lasting impact on my life and growth.
The same is true of the world of education, government, non-profits, business, and the placement industry. In all these changes I hoped to find an environment where there was perfect leadership. The quest goes on.
Sure, there are always some great leaders and many not so great. I won’t bore you with examples of poor leadership. You have all experienced the intimidators, the ones who play one worker against the other, the shouters and screamers, the petty, the cowards, the ?my way or the highway’ types, the back stabbers, the power seekers, and on and on ad nauseam. I have to mention two because besides being ridiculous and childish, their actions were laughable. One was a typewriter thrower; the other would punish someone by ordering the rest of the staff not to talk to the one being punished for a week. Can you believe it?
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Back to Frederick Hill’s talk at Harvard. Many of the lessons he learned about leadership in his career are shared by most of us:
- Be friendly but not friends with the people you lead.
- Be observant; trust and listen to your instincts.
- Check and re-check details; if you’re not good at this, have someone on your staff do it.
- Question everything – even the experts.
- When you teach you have to motivate, set clear goals, fairly evaluate people and provide constructive feedback.
- Communicate clearly and often. Keep people informed.
- One of the easiest things to do is praise; one of the hardest is to criticize.
- Give direction. Change bad attitudes.
- Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks.
- If you have to be the bearer of bad news, get it out quickly. Only then can you get out of the bunker and begin to move forward.
- Wherever possible, don’t forget to have some fun.
I’ll conclude this month’s article with a few words on leadership and diversity, and then list the distinctions between leadership and management.
I genuinely believe that it is impossible to be a good leader in today’s world without a sound knowledge and understanding of diversity and without sensitivity to diversity issues. Whenever I write about leadership I think of a young priest in Passaic, New Jersey whose pastor was an old Irish monsignor. The younger priest worked with the poor and homeless. One day he went to the old monsignor and said: “There’s a man out here who says he is Jesus Christ, what should I do?” The monsignor said: “Look busy, son; look busy.”
Diversity celebrates and uses the differences in people. Diversity empowers people and takes advantage of the strengths and differences of each team member. The worst mistake a leader can make is to be insensitive to the benefits of diversity. Today’s leaders forge effective teams to compete and win. Today’s leaders will not be successful without a genuine acceptance of diversity.
Warren Bennis in On Becoming a Leader wrote: “Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing. Managing is about efficiency. Leading is about effectiveness. Managing is about how. Leadership is about what and why. Management is about systems, controls, procedures, policies, and structure. Leadership is about trust – about people. Leadership is about innovating and initiating. Management is about copying, about managing the status quo. Leadership is creative, adaptive, and agile. Leadership looks at the horizon, not just the bottom line.”
Bennis and Jean Goldsmith provide this chart of distinction between managers and leaders:
- The manager administers; the leader innovates.
- The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
- The manager maintains; the leader develops.
- The manager accepts reality; the leader investigates it.
- The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
- The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
- The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
- The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
- The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader has his or her eye on the horizon.
- The manager imitates; the leader originates.
- The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
- The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
- The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.
Teddy Roosevelt said it this way, “The difference between a leader and a boss: the leader works in the open and the boss in covert; the leader leads and the boss drives.”
General John J. Pershing believed, “A competent leader can get efficient service from poor troops, while on the contrary an incapable leader can demoralize the best of troops.”
Continued next month…