Over the 4th of July drive this past week I listened to the audiobook of Conversations with Major Dick Winters: Life Lessons from the Commander of Band of Brothers.
For those of you who have watched the Emmy-award winning HBO Mini-series, Band of Brothers, or read the book of the same name by Stephen Ambrose, you know Major Winters. His life has been well documented to this point through that story as well as his memoirs, Beyond Band of Brothers.
Following the publication of Beyond Band of Brothers, Conversations was a book Major Winters wanted to have written after spending hundreds of hours with Col. Cole Kingseed. There were lessons through Major Winters’ life that needed to be told.
Watching Band of Brothers is something I recommend any person to do whether they are interested in military history, or not. At least do it for the sake of honoring those who served World War II. The book made Easy Company famous. Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg through the mini-series helped make the company legendary. Thousands of baby boomers and people my age were given a unique view into their epic journey from Airborne training, Normandy, Battle of the Bulge, and on to taking Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at the end of the war.
In the audiobook, Winters’ leadership principles were shared, as in Beyond Band of Brothers, and I think it is worth sharing with you. No matter your role in life, it is important to understand what it takes to lead. The military life can teach us a lot of things perhaps because the pressures seem greatest.
I have appreciated Major Winters because of his “quiet strength” as a leader. Actor Damian Lewis played this very well on-screen in the mini-series.
I am humbled because as a leader I have far from mastered these lessons but they are principles that I need to be reminded of and develop on a daily basis. These lessons are applicable to any leader and not limited to the battlefield.
In the words of Major Winters, “Hang tough”.
“Leadership At The Point Of a Bayonet“
1. Strive to be a leader of character, competence, and courage.
2. Lead from the front. Say, “Follow me!” and then lead the way.
3. Stay in top physical shape–physical stamina is the root of mental toughness.
4. Develop your team. If you know your people, are fair in setting realistic goals and expectations, and lead by example, you will develop teamwork.
5. Delegate responsibility to your subordinates and let them do their job. You can’t do a good job if you don’t have a chance to use your imagination and creativity.
6. Anticipate problems and prepare to overcome obstacles. Don’t wait until you get to the top of the ridge and then make up your mind.
7. Remain humble. Don’t worry about who receives the credit. Never let power or authority go to your head.
8. Take a moment of self-reflection. Look at yourself in the mirror every night and ask yourself if you did your best.
9. True satisfaction comes from getting the job done. They key to a successful leader is to earn respect–not because of rank or position, but because you are a leader of character.
10. Hang Tough!–Never, ever, give up.