Sunday, November 8, 2015

Lessons from Gettysburg

Paul Merrild has an essay worth reading, an excerpt given below:
It’s impossible to visit the battlefield of Gettysburg without being deeply moved. The Union and Confederate armies together suffered more than 50,000 casualties during the three-day battle. The course of American history was changed forever by leaders making strategic decisions under grueling circumstances.

[I] recently spent three days wandering these hallowed grounds as part of a leadership retreat ... Here are a few insights that I gleaned:

Convey the leader’s intent. Union Army General George Meade would sit down with his war council sometimes three or four times per day during the battle. This continual “confirmation of understanding” allowed Meade to better to communicate with his commanders and soldiers the tactics and strategies needed to survive the Confederate push.

...The concept is simple: everyone in the chain of command must know clearly and concisely the mission’s objectives two levels above them and be able to communicate this information two levels below them. This understanding enables anyone in the army to make decisions “in the moment” that are consistent with the overall strategic objective set by the general

Be prepared to kill what you love. General Lee once said: “To be a good officer you must be willing to offer the death of what you love.”

He was a calculating strategist who was willing to sacrifice soldiers if it meant the numbers would play out in his favor for the greater good of the Confederate Army. Certainly, Lee’s was an extreme view born of war, but it does underscore the importance for leaders to be decisive when executing the mission and vision of their organization.

Stand behind the gun. Joshua Chamberlain was a college professor with no military background or training when he volunteered for the Union Army. He became a highly respected Union officer, earning the Medal of Honor for his gallantry during the Battle of Gettysburg after defending the southern flank of Little Round Top with a risky bayonet charge he personally led.

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