Leading from a Whole Life

Gettysburg...

…The name and place evokes such powerful emotions in Americans. A good friend of mine develops current leaders by exploring examples of past leaders—great, good and otherwise—at the Battle of Gettysburg. (See his program, “If Properly Led” here.) What becomes clear from the study of any good leader is the need to lead from a whole life and see those we lead as whole people.

Here is one of the principles of leadership he draws from studying Gettysburg:

A Leader Must Exhibit
both
Courage in the Cause
and
Care for the Community

Few exhibit this idea better than Joshua Chamberlain, Colonel in the Union Army and Commander of the 20th Maine. Chamberlain, a professor at Bowdoin College in Maine prior to the Civil War, joined the Maine Militia, was appointed the Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment and promoted to Colonel and appointed as 20th Maine commander just six weeks before the battle at Gettysburg.

His first challenge as a leader was to deal with mutinous troops from the 2nd Maine. These soldiers had endured two years of hard fighting since the very beginning of the war and, due to a misunderstanding, 120 of them had enlisted for three years rather than two years like the rest of their regiment. In May of 1863, the army released the two-year enlistees to go home, disbanded the 2nd Maine and assigned the 120 three-year enlistees to the 20th Maine. Many refused to join the 20th and refused to fight, believing that their enlistment and loyalty was to the 2nd Maine and, if that unit disbanded, they also should be allowed to go home.

General Meade, at the time Chamberlain’s Corps commander, ordered him to “make them do duty or shoot them down the moment they refused. Chamberlain sought and received permission to resolve the problem in his own way without executing fellow soldiers from Maine.

In leading through this perilous incident, Chamberlain exhibited Care for the Community of his soldiers while Calling them to the Cause: he cared for their physical needs, including food, ignored by others for several days. He empathized with their emotions in being separated from their own comrades and their anger at what they saw to be injustice. He appealed to their vocation: their already demonstrated excellence as soldiers, and he appealed to the core of who they were: good men and good soldiers. Alice Raines Trulock records the story on pages 114-116 of her seminal biography of Chamberlain, In the Hands of Providence.

Michael Shaara, in his excellent historical fiction work on Gettysburg, Killer Angels, writes an account of Chamberlain’s address to the mutineers that, while fictional and closer in time to Gettysburg than it actually occurred, captures the historical tenor of how Chamberlain addressed them:

Chamberlain saw to their physical needs, providing food, telling them of the order to shoot them if they didn’t obey but assuring them he would not. (“Maybe someone else will, but I won’t.”) He reminded them of the various emotions behind their decisions to join the army and fight (“some…because we were bored, some…because we were ashamed not to.”) He appealed to their intellect in understanding the cause for which they were fighting (“this hasn’t happened much in the history of the world. We’re an army going out to set other men free.”) He acknowledged the role of family, but told them men they would not be judged by their family but by their core (“Here you can be something…it’s the idea that we all have value.”) He appealed to the social dimension of soldiering (“What we’re all fighting for, in the end, is each other.”) Finally, he called them back to their vocation as soldiers (“If you want your rifles…you’ll have them back and nothing else will be said.”) The movie Gettysburg records Shaara’s account in film and is worth six minutes of your time.

Why, you might ask, would this obscure military event be captured and recorded for history? Because only a little over a month after Chamberlain, leading from a whole-life care for his followers, fought with them, loyal 20th and mutinous 2nd soldiers together now in the 20th Maine, in the desperate fight at Little Round Top in the second day of the three-day battle at Gettysburg. Their actions at Little Round Top are credited with saving the day, the battle, and perhaps the entire war for the Union cause.

And how did the mutinous soldiers from the 2nd Maine perform? One of them, Andrew J. Tozier, won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his courage while carrying the 20th Maine colors that day.

How about you? Are you leading from a whole life? Are you following as a whole person? What improvements do you need in seeking the welfare of all of your followers’ 8 Dimensions of Life? How do you develop and appeal to the core of who they are and who they will become? At Leadership Design Group we are passionate about leading and developing leaders this way. We’d love to help you develop the same passion.

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Written by

Tim is uniquely designed to think strategically into the future and build plans to move an organization from the present to that future. He has a passion for developing young business and military professionals. In his role as CEO for LDG, Tim exercises his unique personality to serve, help form and co-lead LDG’s new initiatives. He has the creative responsibility for delivering world-class leadership design through mentoring to a variety of business, educational, government, arts, sports and non-profit organizations. Tim also helps to oversee the selection, training and management of a network of Leadership Master Mentors for Leadership Design Associates.

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