THE JOURNAL OF LEADERSHIP APPLICATIONS
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Dare the Impossible – Achieve the Extraordinary.
Vol. 11, No. 1
www.stuffofheroes.com
(626) 791-8973
©1998, 2014 William A. Cohen, PhD


If You are the Leader You Must be Where the Action Is

© 2014 William A. Cohen, PhD

In the summer of 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early commanding the II Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, invaded the North during the Civil War. In response, Grant, who was General-in-Chief formed the Army of the Shenandoah and put 33 year old Major General Philip Sheridan, who had formerly commanded his cavalry, at its head. By mid-October, Sheridan had beaten Early’s Corps and forced it to retreat. Sheridan was recalled to Washington for a conference to decide what to do next

Not so fast. Unknown to Union Intelligence, Lee had scraped together enough men to significantly reinforce Early’s defeated corps. While Sheridan was in Washington, Lee moved these troops into position. Early launched a surprise attack against the Union forces at a point on its left flank called Cedar Creek. The attack was highly successful. One Union Corps stampeded and wasn’t completely reformed until two days later. What was left of Sheridan’s army fought successive delaying actions. It was clear that Early had won a great victory for the South. The Union Army was not only defeated, but in a sudden turnabout, the capitol of the United States was in danger of falling to Early’s victorious forces. Can you imagine the havoc and dismay it would have caused had this happened? It could have even forced the United States to a negotiated peace with the Confederate States which would have meant two separate countries occupying North America.

It was at this point that General Sheridan, returning as fast as he could from Washington, galloped up the Pike from the city of Winchester, Virginia. His mere presence when he arrived at the front rallied his army. He regrouped on the battlefield and drove Early from the field. His victory was so decisive that this was the last great battle fought in the Shenandoah Valley.

The poet, Thomas Buchanan Read immortalized this military turn-around in a poem entitled “Sheridan’s Ride.” The poem was not entirely accurate. At every mile, Buchanan threw in another stanza. Read had Sheridan galloping for twenty stanzas. The distance was actually a little less. But, close enough. Even Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, was sufficiently motivated to write a poem entitled “Sheridan at Cedar Creek.” They knew that the difference between victory and defeat was the leader being out in front where the action was on the field of battle.

This is true in all activities. Those who are subordinate want to see the leader up front sharing the lot of the troops on the battlefield or the stress and sweat in the board room. So don’t think that you can just have good plan, give clear instructions, pat a couple of people on the back, and leave the scene of action to go do your own thing. To win you have to be up front where the action is.

 


THIS MONTH’S THOUGHT FOR LEADERS:
“Officers of the Israeli Army do not send their men into battle — they lead their men into battle” – Lt. General Moshe Dayan, Chief of Staff, Israeli Defense Forces

 

Recent Linked Articles by Dr. Cohen, not Published in the Journal of Leadership Applications:

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