“So much of the progress that would define the 20th century, on both sides of the Atlantic, came down to the battle for a slice of beach only 6 miles long and 2 miles wide.” – President Barack Obama
Today marks the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, a series of events and heroic actions that changed the course of the war in Europe, and ultimately the direction of the modern world.
For good reason, this has been one of the most chronicled stories of the modern era.
With that in mind, I want to give you three great quotes from this day in history and how these can shape and increase your influence in your world today.
1.) Major Richard Winters
“I cherish the memories of a question my grandson asked me the other day when he said, ‘Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?’ Grandpa said ‘No… but I served in a company of heroes.'”
One of the defining characteristics of great leadership, and often the hardest to maintain, is that of humility. Staying grounded in the disciplines and morality that led to success is often difficult.
What is great about this quote from Major Winters is the clear humility in his voice. By his admission, he was not a hero, but he was lucky enough to know and serve with them.
Many of us would likely tell a different tale of his story. A hero to us, and a great leader, he reminds us of the need for humility.
2.) Winston Churchill
“And what a plan! This vast operation is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever occurred.”
Leadership is difficult work. There are thrilling emotional highs and devastating lows.
It requires sacrifice, commitment, and foresight.
And it requires the group to buy into the vision that they may not be able to see. That’s a hallmark of great leadership.
Churchill, along with other military leaders, was able to accomplish that in D-Day.
The plan was difficult. Would require great commitment and even greater sacrifice. Lives, countries, ideologies, and futures were on the line.
Yet, as we see with great leadership, the vision is communicated and the heart is conveyed with it. People from the Allied forces bought in, stormed the beaches and secured a future free from Hitler’s reign of terror.
Was it easy? No.
Was it costly? Absolutely.
Did the commitment of the leadership increase the commitment of the followers? Without a doubt.
May our leadership be as bold, as influential, and as rewarding (but not as bloody!).
3.) General Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely…..I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory! Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
Leaders are often tasked with seeing a vision that others can’t. Their goal, to recruit others to pursue the dream with them.
In this particular case, the stakes were high. The fate of the world rested on the hands of general and soldiers, men and boys, who were committed to fighting for what they knew was right.
And publicly, they were committed, bold, and daring.
But what I also find highly fascinating is the letter General Eisenhower wrote: “In Case of Failure.” In part, it reads, “My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
It the great course of this war, he was willing to accept full blame for its failure. No excuses. No wavering. No lack of integrity. A man full of valor, grit, and resolve. He knew what was right, and he was committed to doing it.
He was also committed to his men and protecting them. On the battlefield and in life.
He was also committed to his own morals.
Truly outstanding leaders own every decision and every outcome. Eisenhower showed his commitment to the plan in the preparation, the action, and the follow through.
(For a great modern read on this, check out Jocko Willink’s book Extreme Ownership).
As a history fan, particularly World War II, I enjoy studying and learning the lessons of history. This day especially is one that can teach us a great many lessons.
D-Day Leadership is something that we should all strive for. Commitment. Honesty. Integrity. A willingness to sacrifice. Humility. This is leadership at it’s finest.
To the men and women did far something greater today than blogging about this great event, I say thank you.
My hope is that my leadership may one day emulate yours.