The Power of “We”

This is a photo of Winston Churchill, along with some American soldiers, crossing the Rhine River in Germany in March 1945. This is an example of what can be accomplished when a leader focuses their efforts and inspiration on the idea of “we,” and “us,” not “me” and “you all.” This is the first installment of a leadership series, which will focus on some of the different qualities that make leaders memorable.

We all admire great leaders. Whether they are real leaders who brought nations together in times of war, or leaders in great fantasies who… also brought nations together in times of war. Not that war is the only circumstance that brings out great leaders, it just makes an easy point. The best leaders seem to emerge when times are hardest, and give us  inspiring examples to look towards and emulate. In these next couple of blog posts, we are going to look at a few different qualities of superior leaders. John Maxwell has many great quotes about leadership, and I think this one is particularly telling and relevant to this topic: “If you are a leader, the true measure of your success is not getting people to work. It’s not getting people to work hard. It is getting people to work hard together. That takes commitment.”

Men and women who lead armies and nations are required to bring people together during even the most trying circumstances and their ability to do so is often the most important measure of their success. They use both their words and their personas to bind together broken people and broken cities and broken faith in a way that little else has the power to do. Winston Churchill was known, among other things, for using his unique leadership ability to bind together a people on an island being bombarded by “a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime,” to use his own words. He demonstrated Maxwell’s point in every practical way, and using his ability as an orator in speeches like the one commonly called, “We Shall Fight on the Beaches.”

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

Notice the emphasis on “we shall fight,” and “we shall go on.” A true leader motivates the people under him by emphasizing the importance of unity and by putting themselves in the same situation as their people. If England had fallen, Churchill would not have been spared. And if Churchill had not consistently brought his people together, England likely would have fallen. Turning from a very real situation, to a fictional one, (because two examples are always better than one) in the final installment of the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, we find Aragorn, the returned King, trying to hold his beleaguered army in place in front of the gates of Mordor, facing down an overwhelming enemy that none of them – having just faced an assault of epic scale – are prepared to face.

Hold your ground, hold your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you *stand, Men of the West!*

Both of these quotes then, illustrate the Maxwell quote given at the beginning. What both the very real Churchill and fictional Aragorn were trying to do was ultimately to inspire their people to work in unity for an uncommonly difficult cause against an uncommonly horrible enemy. Aragorn associated himself with the fearful and the courageous, and became a leader by standing with his men at the end of the world – bringing together fighters from all different races to work for the same cause.

You may not have an army to hold in place at the end of the world, but maybe you have a workforce that needs the same basic type of leadership – one who both works with them, and reminds them that some things can only be accomplished together. If you are using Scoreboard Buzz as one tool to motivate your team, consider looking at your Team Tracking game again. Make sure your goals are clear and up-to-date, and your team members know that the Scoreboard represents an office goal, something they can only achieve if they work together as a team. It doesn’t matter if one person gets their daily expectations. On the office level, everyone wins or everyone loses. They might not lose England, or all of Middle Earth, but dramatic examples are never a bad thing, right?

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