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Vol. 3, No. 8
(626) 350-1500 Ext 102 

Declare Your Expectations  

Adapted from the Stuff of Heroes: The Eight Universal Laws of Leadership

 © Copyright by William A. Cohen 2005

John Paul Jones was a young Scotsman with significant sea experience. He asked for and was given a commission as a lieutenant in the Continental Navy during America’s War of Independence. He soon gained command of a newly commissioned ship purchased from France. In honor of the French, and in honor of Benjamin Franklin, Jones named his ship the Bonhomme Richard. In French, that means “Poor Richard,” which was the name of the publication famed colonial American Franklin founded and published in Philadelphia.

Jones was highly successful right from the start. He captured seventeen English merchant ships on his first patrol. On September 23, 1779 he located a convoy of British merchant ships escorted by two British ships-of-war. He immediately attacked the larger, the HMS Serapis. Jones lashed his ship to his larger enemy so it could not escape and began to fire into her. However, he had failed to reckon on the efficiency of the Royal Navy. The Serapis fired broadside after broadside into the Bonhomme Richard. Soon, it was the American vessel that was on fire and in danger of sinking.

The British captain demanded that Jones surrender. Jones’ answer, given more for his own men than the British, set a tradition for all time in the fledgling United States Navy. It was an outstanding example of a leader declaring his expectations. “I have not yet begun to fight,” he declared. Jones’ crew rallied and they went on to prove him right. They sunk the Serapis and won the battle.


Followers Expect Leaders To Declare Where All Are Going

Peter Drucker has spent years working and consulting with Japanese companies. Commenting on “Theory Z” back when it was thought this was the solution to managing American companies, Drucker maintained that it wasn’t so much “quality circles” or some other unique technique used in Japan that changed the quality of Japanese goods. Rather, Deming, Juran, and others made Japanese leaders aware of the problem. Then, Japanese business leaders declared their expectations regarding a focus on quality. This redirected the emphasis in their companies to a subject that had previously been ignored or thought unimportant. “Quality circles” and other techniques that became total quality management in this country simply supported that effort.

Said Drucker: “The foundation of effective leadership is thinking through the organization’s mission, defining it and establishing it, clearly and visibly. The leader sets the goals, sets the priorities, and sets and maintains the standards . . . What distinguishes the leader from the misleader are his goals. Whether the compromise he makes with the constraints of reality – which may involve political, economic, and financial or people problems – are compatible with his mission and goals or lead away from them determines whether he is an effective leader. And whether he holds fast to a few basic standards (exemplifying them in his own conduct), or whether “standards” for him are what he can get away with, determines whether the leader has followers or only hypocritical time-servers.” 1

Some years ago I did extensive research in attempting to uncover the very essence of good leadership. This research resulted in the book, The Stuff of Heroes: The Eight Universal Laws of Leadership. One of the eight universal laws that I uncovered, a secret followed by top leaders in and out of the military, was that they declared their expectations. That is, they communicated what they expected to those in their organizations every day, and in every way that they could. These expectations included their visions, missions, goals, ideas, and values. Such leaders excite us and motivate us. Soon, their expectations become ours as well and together we go on to achieve what these the expectations that leaders declared.


What Frederick Smith Does at Federal Express

The story of how Smith grew Fed Ex with a marketing plan that earned a “C” grade from his professor in college has become a part of business folklore. Less well known is Smith’s considerable leadership talent. It’s not surprising. Frederick Smith served not one, but two, combat tours in Vietnam as a Marine Corps officer. Early on, a battle-hardened Marine sergeant took him aside and told him: “Lieutenant, there’s only three things you gotta remember: shoot, move, and communicate.”2 Smith carried the communication advice into business. He declares his expectations to his employees very clearly. Declaring his expectations and communicating them helped Smith to father a new industry.

When they meet his expectations, Smith follows through with a dramatic form of declaring his pleasure. New employees are taught that the highest compliment that can be given is “Bravo Zulu!” That’s Marine Corpsese for “Job well done, your performance rose above the call of duty.”

During a massive UPS strike, Fed Ex was swamped with almost a million extra packages every day. Thousands of employees came forward at midnight, weekends, and other odd times after their regular jobs to put in extra time to help sort packages. After it was all over, Smith ordered bonuses and took out full-page newspaper ads congratulating his employees. All ended with the phrase “Bravo Zulu!” Some say it meant more than the bonuses to Fed Ex workers. Smith knows how both to declare his expectations, and reward his followers when these expectations are attained.  


An Appendectomy Performed in Combat, By a Untrained Seaman 

Recently, Wheeler B. Lipes passed away at the age of 84.  Only months earlier he had received a Commendation Medal for something he had done more than sixty years previously while a young hospital corpsman aboard a submerged submarine  120 feet below the China Sea  during World War II. 

Lipes had been assigned duties aboard the U.S.S. Sea Dragon as a navy corpsman. He was there as an emergency doctor – not so much to treat serious wounds. If it came to that, the submarine would probably be more in danger of being sunk.  Lipes was expected more to treat the crew under the normal stress,  illness, or  disease  that might be encountered almost incidentally while on combat patrol.

It was the Sea Dragon’s fourth combat patrol against the Japanese, when with no warning, Seaman Dean Rector came down with acute appendicitis. The Sea Dragon was too far from base to return in time to save him.  Lipes was not a doctor. He had never performed an appendectomy or any other type of operation. He had been trained in emergency medicine, but not for major operations. By sheer coincidence, he had seen an appendectomy performed while on hospital duty. 

The Sea Dragon’s skipper, Lt. Commander. William Ferrall asked Lipes what he was going to do. “Nothing,” Lipes responded. Lipes did not want to operate. Can you blame him? He was neither trained for this nor qualified in any way.

However,  Ferrall had a long talk with Lipes. He asked Lipes if he knew what to do. Lipes told the captain he had watched an operation. Ferrall declared his expectations as he explained that if Lipes operated, it could be that Rector would die. But if he did not operate, Rector was going to die for sure. “When I fire a torpedo,” he said, “I don’t always hit the target — but I always fire because that is my duty. You are our corpsman. You are all we have. It is your duty to operate to try to save Rector. I expect you to do your duty and I order you to operate.”

Rector was placed on a mess table. Pharmcist Mate Lipes was assisted by the ship’s officers. He gave the orders, and they did what he instructed. A tea strainer covered with gauze which was used for an ether mask, and the anesthesia was administered by hand dropping directly into the mask. The anesthesia made the sub’s whole crew woozy because no one knew how much to use. Later it was learned that an appendectomy could be done while using just three ounces of ether. The Sea Dragon’s amateur medical team had had used three pints!

Metal spoons bent at right angles became muscle retractors. Lipes made  the incision with a scalpel and the spoons held the wound open so Lipes could search for the swollen appendix and amputate it. Sulfa pills were ground into powder to use as an antiseptic. Boiled water and alcohol taken from the torpedo mechanism were used to sterilize the operating instruments and the “medical gowns” worn by the team. The gowns were actually issue crew pajamas.

Once he had taken out the infected appendix, Lipes cauterized the stump with phenol. Phenol was used on the sub as an industrial cleaning solvent and when diluted with alcohol, was also the fuel used to propel the torpedo motors.

Lipes removed Rector’s appendix in about two and one half hours, with enemy ships overhead. It was the first appendectomy ever performed onboard a submerged submarine in or out of combat. Rector returned to consciousness a half-hour after he was stitched up.  He was not only healthy but hungry. Thirteen days later, Rector was back on duty.

The USS Dragon went back on duty and sunk more Japanese ships right away. It’s war report from this day’s patrol was headed: “One Merchant Ship, One Oil Tanker and One Successful Appendectomy.”

Lipes deservedly became an instant hero, and the event was immortalized in two Hollywood films: “Destination Tokyo” made in 1943 only months after the incident and “Run Silent, Run Deep” some years later in 1958. But hero, that he was, Lipes probably would have done what he said — which was nothing except make Rector comfortable as he died — had his captain, Lieutenant Commander William Ferrall not declared his expectations, looked Lipes in the eye, and said: “Operate!” 3, 4, 5


How To Declare and Achieve All Your Expectations

It doesn’t matter whether the expectation is a task, goal, objective, or vision for your organization. The steps in declaring and achieving them are the same. They are:

·        Get your expectations clear

·        Make your expectations compelling

·        Communicate your expectations in every day in every way that you can

Do this, and you will be surprised at how readily others will support and follow where you lead, and how frequently you will be successful.


1  Drucker, Peter F., “Leadership: More Than Dash,” Drucker Management (Spring 1994) p. 3.

2 Grant, Linda, “Why FedEx is Flying High,” Fortune (November 10, 1997) p 158, 160.

3. Goldstein, Richard “Corpsman Who Performed 1st Submarine Surgery Dies,” The New York Times (April 21, 2005).

4.Hartsoe, Steve, “Navy honors sailor who performed lifesaving surgery aboard submarine in World War II,” (February 20, 2005) 

5. Perry, Tony, “Navy Will Honor Veteran’s Lifesaving World War II Action,” Los Angeles Times (February 20, 2005)


Good news for many of you who have written me that they were unable to get a copy of The Stuff of Heroes: The Eight Universal Laws of Leadership  because it went out of print with the previous publisher.  Through the efforts of my good friend, Heiko Fauss in Germany, and his company SupraSucess, the book will be available soon from and in a downloadable version. The ISBN is 1-905-362-00-5.




“Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing in it.”

Jesse Owens
1913-1980, Gold Medal Olympic Track Athlete