I had dinner the other night with a very special friend of mine. Him and I spent some time together in the Army and he taught me a thing or two about leadership.
We were in a discussion about work places and went back and forth about different types of leadership and the people that we knew that best exemplified those styles. Then the subject of leadership at Gettysburg came up. During that battle many of the commanders, on both sides of the fight, relied heavily on their subordinates to achieve success.
The eyes of the Army’s, the Scouts were so decentrialized that commanders had to trust in the subordinate leaders that first the information they were gathering was correct, and second that they understood the intent. Leaders needed to know how to read terrain. They had to understand what the objective was. If they did not, they would surely put their Army in jeopardy.
In the skirmish at “The Angle”. Longstreet had to make it clear as to what he wanted the battlefield to look like when his units completed the attack. He pointed to a “Clump of Trees” and that became their focal point. Reach the trees and they would have effectively over run the Union Army.
The Scouts needed to understand this as they evaluated the terrain and sent back information to the commanders so they could ready their Army. Longstreet had to provide clear Purpose, Direction, and Motivation to his subordinate commanders. This is leadership. He could not manage them, he had to lead them. They were not resources that he could move around and punch in codes and they would do the task.
If you have ever been to Gettysburg and visited site, you could see that while attacking at “the Angle” the Confederate Army would be walking in a draw, exposed on the right, through open terrain. The ground ungulates with rolling hills, small enough to keep them visible, deep enough to provide some cover.
When Picket made his famous “Charge”. He had to know that he was leading the men and not managing them into the battle. He led from the front and set an example as he moved his Division down from Seminary ridge on the third day of the battle and into the jaws of the Union’s center.
His men understood that if they could break the center of the Union line, and if the Divisions to their left and right could accomplish their attack then the Union Army would break.
Leadership can be seen in countless actions at Gettysburg. On both sides of the battle acts of leadership were demonstrated stemming from the understanding that leaders do not manage, they lead. They know that you manage resources… Food, supplies, water, and material. You have to provide Purpose, Direction, and Motivation to people. That is how you lead them.
Success or fail, the leader must understand that basic principle, or he will never be effective.
We can learn a lot of lessons about leadership by reading and knowing what great leaders have done. They do not have to be military men, they can be astronauts, statesmen, or even Scout leaders like Baden Powell. It is important though that we do learn from them and see leadership in action. This will make us all better leaders. What you will find in every case of leadership is that they the lead the people and manage the resource. They lead by providing Purpose and showing the led Direction, and giving them the appropriate motivation to instill a willingness to do something. That’s leadership.
Have a Great Scouting day!