Thursday, October 24, 2013

Leadership Lessons from Gettysburg

During this year's NJSBA Conference in Atlantic City, one presentation stood out for me. Dr. McGough presented "Leadership Under Fire; Lessons from the Battle of Gettysburg". Aside from being a great presenter with the right balance of visuals to support his presentation, he is a natural storyteller. It was clear he knows his history - and leadership. If you ever see his name on a list of presenters go listen, I will not do his lecture justice here but I will try.

In summary:

For those of us who aren't history buffs, Gettysburg was the critical battle in the Civil War. It lasted approximately three days and in those three days, more than 50,000 men lost their lives. The battle took place in the middle of the civil war and was the result of the second attempted invasion by he confederate army. It was the only major battle on Union soil. Dr. McGough used a McDonald's reference to put into context just how many men were involved in this three day conflict - if you took both sides to McDonalds for lunch, there would be 165,000 of them to feed. 10 tons of hamburger and a whopping cost of $525,000 in today's terms. The spent artillery shells could be melted down to create 46 school buses or 3 Boeing 747's.

One day 1- the confederate army gained the upper hand but even in their day defeat the Union army made the most of their loss by gaining the high ground. Day 2 was a draw, and Day 3 the Union army had the confederates. Dr. McGough was able to use reference to the Generals and Commanders to highlight the list below. How they used these 10 or failed to, and the outcome. Abraham Lincoln, and the Union leaders were example of the 10 and therefore victorious.

Also, as Dr. McGough was quick to point out, I (he) am not picking sides as to who was right or wrong in this War but rather attempting to learn from their commitment to what they believed was right at the time and were willing to die for.

Ten Lessons from the Battle of Gettysburg:

1. Great leaders know the end goal and at all costs pursue it. They disregard personal gain or personal pain. They stick to the end goal.

2. Great leaders attract other strong leaders and they have the power of influence (personal magnetism)- and yes, there are always exceptions to this one.

3. Great leaders make the most of the resources available and never focus on what they don't have.

4. Great leaders demonstrate a force of character and are guided by a strong moral compass - they do what is right because it is right.

5. Great leaders determine and prioritize actions based on data, probability, and organizational risk-reward calculations.

6. Great leaders see the 'Big Picture' and understand their role in it and everyone else's role in it.

7. Great leaders can offer and accept the truth without regard to their power.

8. Great leaders know that rank and title may afford opportunities but it takes effort and performance to produce desired outcomes.

9. Great leaders know what comes next and they are prepared to act accordingly. Never thinking of the checker piece in their hand but the move to come.

10. The best leaders understand and appreciate and use the power of their words carefully.