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Vol. 4, No. 6
(626) 350-1500 Ext 102 

You Must Do This if You Want to Succeed

Extraordinary achievements demand extraordinary leaders.

© 2006 William A. Cohen, PhD  

Because my wife and I are both busy people, we eat out a lot. I got to thinking about it, and some restaurants we return to again and again, while others we go to once, maybe give it a second try a couple months later, and then that’s it. We never go back. Why is this? Yes, sometimes the food is just bad and that’s all there is to it. However, more frequently its something else. It may be that the service is slow, that the glasses or silverware weren’t absolutely clean, that the waiter or waitress weren’t as pleasant or efficient as they could have been, or something else detracted and made this restaurant not such a good value. Sometimes, not only the restaurant, but the entire chain is good or bad. Fortunes have been made or lost because of this.

One restaurant chain in my area was once great. The entrepreneur who founded the chain took meticulous care to make certain that every customer was happy and got great value in every one of his eleven restaurants. Then he retired and sold the chain. It still exists and is moderately successful, but it is no longer what it once was. 

The Cheesecake Factory restaurant is a great value no matter where you go. There are long lines every time they open a new restaurant. Before I had ever eaten at one of their restaurants, I thought this was some kind of marketing gimmick. I don’t like waiting in line, but curiosity finally got the better of me. The long lines were not a marketing stunt. The food, service, everything was a great value. The staff was friendly — always.  The food was well worth standing in line for.

Years ago I did some leadership research into what really caused folks to follow some leaders no matter what. One of the basic principles I found was simple. It could be stated in a single sentence: take care of your people. Now “your people” are really in two distinct groups, and we need to take care of both. The first group consist of our customers. Our customers are clear in business, but in fact, they exist in all organizations. 

A very successful Air Force commander during World War II  was Lieutenant General Pete Quesada.  Quesada commanded the tactical air force that supported General Patton in his drive across Europe. Patton told another four-star army commander that Quesada was the best tactical air force commander he had had. “He always delivers on time and to the maximum of his capabilities,” said Patton. I could easily say that about The Cheesecake Factory, and it would be true, too. Quesada clearly recognized that above all else, Patton and his army was Quesada’s customer.

But we need to take care of the second group, too. These are the folks who help us take care of our customers, those who support us in fulfilling or responsibilities, whatever they are. As good leaders we must definitely take care of this group of “our people.”

How Far Should You Go in Taking Care of Your People? 

There are many instances in battle where a leader has sacrificed his own life so that those he led might live. Fortunately, a civilian career does not normally require a leader to lay down his physical life for others  in order to take care of them. But, make no mistake. You must be willing to go to enormous lengths in taking care of your people if you really expect them to follow you to the same extent as a successful battle leader.


They say that Thomas Watson, who founded IBM and later instituted extensive programs in education, health care, and recreation for IBM employees continually visited his factories and spent hours talking to his employees. On one occasion, he told an employee, “If you have any problem at all, let me know.”

Later, the employee came to New York and asked to see Watson. On being ushered in to Watson’s office, he told Watson that his younger brother had an incurable disease and he had been told he would not live long. Remembering Watson’s promise, he asked whether anything could be done that was beyond the medical resources of his small community. Watson put  the brother in a top hospital under the care of a famous specialist.

After this act, the employee began to feel a little guilty that perhaps he had overstepped Watson’s invitation.  He called to apologize to Watson. But, Watson interrupted him. “When I said bring your problems to me, I meant exactly that,” he said. 1

If You Want to Take Care of Your People, Do These Things :

  • Be the Leader When Things Go Wrong
  • Give Their Needs Priority
  • Really Care
  • Take Personal Responsibility

Be the Leader When Things Go Wrong

When the chips are down and times are difficult is when those who follow really watch to see what you do. Do you really take care of your people, or is it all for show, all just talk?


This principle of leadership is made more difficult in that it can conflict with other laws. For example, the leader must always use his judgment to determine the difference between compromising his integrity and taking care of his people. So the leader is always walking the knife’s edge balancing a readiness to sacrifice himself for his people with doing what is right. And as we will soon see, sometimes the call is a close one.


When Things Went Wrong,  This Leader Went All the Way

For many reasons reasons, restrictions on what kind of targets and under what circumstances these targets can be attacked are usually controlled very closely. This is so now in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was never more so as during the Vietnam War. Even many targets that would normally be attacked during a war could not be attacked for political reasons.         In our armed forces, the rules of any given fight are called “The Rules of Engagement” or ROE. They are our rules, but those who violate these rules, even accidentally, are held accountable. They can be disciplined and sometimes court-martialed. Violators of the Rules of Engagement  face punishment that may include a dishonorable discharge, and even prison.  



 One June 2, 1967, two American F-105 pilots on a mission over Hanoi came under attack by guns protecting a ship unloading its military cargo in Haiphong Harbor. This was in an area in which Secretary of Defense McNamara had declared a sanctuary for the enemy for political reasons. The ship, and the area surrounding it could not be attacked under the ROE. However, to save themselves, the two pilots instinctively fired back. They didn’t identify the ship, they simply opened fire to get away. The whole incident took less than five seconds. But the consequences could not have been severe. It turned out later that the ship unloading munitions for North Vietnam and that had taken them under fire was an armed Russian freighter. 



The commander responsible for these pilots was a colonel by the name of Jack Broughton. Broughton was on the fast track to make general. He was a graduate of one of the most prestigious senior service schools in the armed forces, the National War College. He was smart, aggressive, and an outstanding leader. While many senior officers flew an occasional mission and spent most of their time behind a desk, Broughton scheduled himself to fly the tough ones. If there was a difficult combat mission over North Vietnam, you could bet Broughton was on it.  



When the strike force returned from the mission, the flight leader asked to see Broughton in private and told him what had happened. As Broughton commented, “That made his problem, my problem.”      



Complicating the matter was the fact that due to bad weather, the two pilots had landed first at another American base. Still somewhat punchy from combat and frightened by the potential consequences of the unauthorized attack they had made, one of the pilots made a statement that he had not fired his guns at all. Both Broughton and his pilots knew that  this report constituted a false official statement. Under military law, it in itself could lead to a dishonorable discharge even if made under the pressures of the moment and without time to reflect.  



As Broughton said later, “This was not an easy decision nor was it made lightly.”2 The only evidence against the two pilots were their own gun camera film. Broughton took the film and exposed it to a truck’s headlights. Then, he burned it. Then he called his commander and told him that he had intentionally destroyed the evidence of their breach of the ROR. Broughton was not in favor of violating orders, and certainly not in making false statements. However, he believed that while what these pilots did was wrong, it was understandable and forgivable. Moreover, he knew that combat or not, in this war, such accidental mistakes were not forgiven. Pilots violating the ROE in the past had been punished severely for far lesser mistakes. He was raised in an environment that said that you take care of your people. He made the personal decision that he would take the punishment, and not the two pilots. He knew this would end his career, and at best he would escape prison.


As a result of Broughton’s actions, military authorities could not prove which pilots were involved in this incident. Broughton was court-martialed. He freely admitted burning the film. He was found guilty. He was sentenced to discharge and imprisonment. On appeal, a board of high-ranking civilians from the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force set these findings aside and Broughton was forced to retire from the Air Force in the last grade of rank he had served satisfactorily, that of Lieutenant Colonel. Obviously he was never promoted to general.  On Broughton’s last combat mission over North Vietnam, one of the pilots he protected on the ground saved his life in the air. As Jack Broughton said later today, “That’s a type of poetic justice and in a real sense made it all seem worthwhile.”3

Were his actions in destroying the gun camera film right or wrong? I don’t know. You have to make your own call on this one. The point I want to make is just how far this leader went in being willing to take care of his people. He was willing to sacrifice his career, even go to jail, if necessary, to protect them from what he felt would be unduly harsh and unjust punishment for an accident while under fire from a ship which was actually supplying the enemy.


How puny this makes other leaders look! Is it any wonder that many of their followers are unenthusiastic about working for them? Some of these so-called leaders go as far as to try and avoid responsibility when things go wrong by blaming subordinates. Others think nothing about inconveniencing those they lead, or are untroubled by their workers’ working conditions or whether their work schedules are causing family hardships or in firing them to cut costs and bolster the bottom line a little. So far as they are concerned, their people are so much fodder for the system, and if a subordinate doesn’t like it, he or she can go elsewhere! Is it any wonder that these corporate executives are not considered leaders by those they lead?



A 70-Year Old Leader Takes Care of His People When Times Are Tough

Age or civilian clothes have little to do with the concept. You either take care of your people, no matter how bad the situation, or you do not. A man from Lawrence, Massachusetts named Aaron Feuerstein did. On the night of December 11th, 1995, while Feuerstein was celebrating his 70th birthday, his factory, Malden Mills, burned down.


Malden Mills was a complex of nine buildings, and it employed 2400 semi-skilled workers. Most of them were immigrants. The company, which manufactured upholstery and synthetic winter wear fabrics was a $400 million dollar company and one of the largest employers in the region. Feuerstein’s grandfather, a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe founded it in 1906. Feuerstein had earlier problems with Malden Mills. He had laboriously worked the company out of Chapter 11 reorganization and saved the company in the early 1980’s.  He had a reputation for taking care of his people and in paying what some termed “the best wages in the textile industry.” Productivity had practically tripled prior to the fire.


His losses in this fire were significant. One of three boilers exploded in a building where nylon velvet materials for chairs and other furnishings were made. Not only was this building destroyed, but three of his nine buildings were leveled. Thirty-three workers were injured, 13 of them severely. Almost half his work force  had no work.


At a time when leaders of bigger, wealthier, stronger companies were firing employees simply to cut costs and improve their profit picture, Feuerstein pledged to continue paychecks and health benefits for as long as it took to rebuild even though many of his workers had no work to perform. This cost him $1.5 million a week just to meet his payroll. He even paid the previously announced holiday bonus of $275 to each employee. Rather than take the insurance money and run, he vowed to rebuild on the same spot.


Interviewed on TV to explain why he was did this while other “smarter” and more prominent managers of large corporations smiled and said that Feuerstein should cut his losses, he quoted Hebrew and said this was in the Jewish tradition.


“Why am I doing it?” he asked aloud. “I consider the employees . . . the most valuable asset Malden Mills has. I don’t consider them, like some companies do, as an expense that can be cut.”


When questioned, the response of Richard Lizotte, who was a machine operator prior to the fire, was typical. He said that he wasn’t surprised by Feuerstein’s actions because “he’s a man of his word.”4


Eventually, it cost Feuerstein $15 million to keep his word. But later, he rebuilt a $100 million factory on the site of the destruction. At the ceremonies, U.S. Representative Martin Meehan, commented, “Feuerstein showed the difference when you have somebody who is passionately committed to his workers. It would have been easier for him to retire.”5


Again, bean-counting managers at larger companies said he should have pocketed the insurance money, and if he wasn’t going to retire, rebuild where labor costs were lower and forget about his current workers. Would that be a good business decision? I’m not so sure. I know it would have been a poor leadership decision. Feuerstein agrees. “Why would I go south to cut costs, when the advantage that I have is quality? And that comes from focusing on people, not cutting costs.”


But Feuerstein is a businessman and nobody’s patsy. Drawn into a discussion of Al Dunlap, who fired a third of the work force at Scott Paper, Feuerstein said, “If one-third of the people of that company were wastefully employed, then Dunlap did the right thing. Legitimate downsizing as the result of technological advances or as a result of good engineering? Absolutely. I’m in favor of it. And we do it here all day long . . . We try to do it in such a way as to minimize human suffering, but the downsizing must be done.” However, Feuerstein says that the trick is to do it “without crushing the spirit of the workforce.” Continues Feuerstein, if all you are after is cutting costs, if you “just have a scheme to cut people – that sort of thing is resented by labor and never forgiven.”6


Speaking at MIT, Feuerstein said, “Within four months, we had 85 percent of the people back. Were it not for the slow payments of the insurance company, we would have over 100 percent back today.”


It would be nice if this kind of thing always had a happy ending. But that’s not real life. Malden Mills’ did make an amazing recovery due to incredible efforts by Feuerstein and his workers. However, in 2001 problems caused originally by the fire caused the company to become mired in debt and Feuerstein had to declare bankruptcy. He worked his way out by 2003, but had to sell the company.


An Air Force Captain Learns to Give Their Needs Priority

If you are the leader, you’ve got to learn to give the needs of those you lead greater weight than those of your own personal needs. Again, you must balance this with your mission. This again sometimes makes it a difficult judgment call. Is it the mission you are primarily concerned with in ignoring or disregarding your people’s needs, or is it your own? If its really your own needs, and taking care of your people it just makes your job a little tougher, or a little riskier, than maybe you better think again.


Captain Dave Whitmore was the navigator of a “select crew ” flying the giant nuclear B-52 bomber during the height of the cold war. The bomber crews of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) had an unusual motto for a group of warriors. Their motto was “peace is our profession.” The reason for their motto was that these crews were our nuclear retaliatory force. The idea was that SAC crews were so well-trained and the weapons at their disposal so powerful, that no enemy in his right mind would dare to start a nuclear war because of our retaliatory capabilities. So while “combat ready,” and prepared for war, these crews were indoctrinated with the belief that if they trained hard and maintained high standards of proficiency, there would be no war. Thus, “peace is our profession.” And while, Vietnam and a host of bloody wars did erupt during the cold war period, no one attacked the United States with nuclear weapons, and the world avoided a nuclear holocaust.


SAC select crews were considered the crème of the crop. Up to 10% were designated as “select” based on their performance. Bomb and ground-to-air missile scores, accuracy on long-range navigation legs and aerial refuelings measured performance. Scheduled times including take-offs, time on targets, and times to rendezvous with aerial tankers were required to be met within seconds of the times set and planned days previously.


The punctuality of these times were demanded not on the whim of some senior officer, but for real and practical reasons. SAC had calculated how much warning its alert force had in the event of enemy missile attack. In the event these aircraft could not get off the ground and away from their bases within minutes, incoming nuclear-tipped missiles would destroy them.


Moreover, in a real nuclear war, detonations of weapons from other airplanes, missiles, submarines, ships, and surface forces were integrated into one gigantic plan. If planned times were not made within certain narrow limits on a nuclear battlefield, a SAC aircraft could be destroyed by a “friendly” detonation. Therefore, despite weather, aircraft or equipment malfunction, ground maintenance, crew illness, or any other factor, these scheduled events had to be made within minutes of scheduled time. Thus crews were constantly training, being evaluated, and were under great stress.


As reward for their exceptional performances, many select crews held so- called “spot” promotions. This meant promotions to higher ranks without the normal time-in-grade at the previous rank required of other Air Force flyers. For example, an individual could hold a spot promotion as a major with as little as six years service, while normal time-in-service requirements required as much as fourteen years to attain that rank.


All SAC crews earned their pay. Crews were either flying training missions, flying airborne alert, or on ground alert continuously. Even planning a 12-14 hour training mission took up to two days of preparation on the ground. 


Having spent five and a half years in SAC myself, I can attest to the fact that SAC duty during the height of the Cold War years was no picnic. During two particularly rigorous years in a B-52 standardization division in which there were additional responsibilities for training and evaluating other aircrews, I recall that the sum total of all holidays Christian, Jewish, birthdays, and weekends which I spent off-duty totaled less than ten days!


When the Vietnam War heated up, SAC crews did rotating duty flying combat missions with non-nuclear weapons from Guam. That heated things up for them even more. David Whitmore flew several rounds of these combat tours as well as training to go to a nuclear war.


Even though Whitmore spent so much time on his job, his real interest was in engineering, not flying. When he had first volunteered for flying duties, he anticipated a couple years “in the cockpit” before being sent for an advanced degree in engineering and then applying this knowledge to aviation problems.


However, shortly after Whitmore completed flying training, the Air Force more than doubled the amount of time a new flyer had to remain flying. Even so, he took tests and qualified for the Air Forces master’s degree program in astronautics.


Unfortunately, there was considerable pressure on unit commanders not to release individuals like Dave for other Air Force programs. Every trained SAC crewman replaced by one less experienced meant increased difficulties and problems for their commanders. Since promotions for commanders were highly competitive and these crews were constantly being tested, there was no question that Whimore’s loss represented a significant career risk to his commander and other commanders at higher organizational levels. Would Whitmore’s commander allow him to leave SAC to get his master’s degree?


Said Whitmore, “Despite this, my commander supported me 100%. He told me, ‘Dave, if you wait around until the time is perfect for us you will never get your master’s degree. That’s important to the Air Force, too!’” So Whitmore left SAC and entered a master’s program. Later, Captain Whitmore discovered it hadn’t been so simple. A higher leader had tried to block his transfer for graduate training. However, his immediate commander had dug his heels in and stuck his neck out, literally guaranteeing no drop in crew performance despite Whitmore’s leaving. Whitmore realized that his commander had taken risks for his sake. He had placed Whitmore’s needs above his own, and Whitmore vowed, to do the same as a leader, himself.


Whitmore Gives His Peoples’ Needs Priority at IBM

When his Air Force service was over, Whitmore joined IBM. Some years later he was promoted and became an IBM marketing manager for a new region in New York that serviced utilities and telephone companies. The two largest accounts in Dave’s area were serviced up by two of his most senior marketing team leaders. These accounts represented a considerable amount of money, and the pressure was incredible. It reminded Whitmore of SAC. If any of the computers went down, Whitmore could lose his job.


One day Dave became aware of a serious problem. Neither one of his senior team leaders had ever held a staff job. He was told that if they weren’t assigned staff positions outside of his organization within the next few months, the chances were they would never get them. If they never got a staff job, their future careers at IBM were limited. It was unlikely that they could ever get promoted to a more senior position. Yet, these were talented hard working people, their timing was just bad.


First Whitmore talked to over with his two team leaders. He explained the situation to them. What did they want to do? Both expressed a willingness to stay if they had to, but both understood the necessity for obtaining staff experience. Both wanted to go.


Whitmore was inexperienced in his new job. He had no other experienced team leaders and none would be available if Whitmore let these two go to staff positions elsewhere in the company.  Yet it was Whitmore’s decision, and it was his responsibility to take care of his people.


Whitmore’s boss, a branch manager, counseled him. “Who cares whether they become managers or not? It’s your fanny on the line. If you let them go, you’re taking a chance on losing everything you’ve worked for. Screw up, and I can’t guarantee whether you can ever become a branch manager. Your sending them to staff positions may help them, but it may limit your future in the company.”


But Whitmore remembered the lesson he had learned in SAC. He knew what he had to do. He saw that both team leaders were offered staff positions in IBM immediately. They both accepted and left.


What happened to Dave Whitmore? He made do without the two experienced team leaders. Later, due to his success at this job, he was offered what he called “my dream job”: international account manager in Brussels. Before retirement from IBM, he was promoted to Branch Manager and served in that capacity in Saudi Arabia. 7


“Pat” Patterson Learned From a Leader Who Cared

The commander of Lieutenant Pat  Patterson’s squadron in Korea was a major by the name of Herb Mann. Pat describes Herb Mann as “ . . . a leader because he cared for his troops and knew what he was there for. He did change his leadership style to fit the occasion. He could be very tough and demanding, yet always showed that he cared about his kids, whether pilots or ground crew.


“One day I had my third consecutive ground abort. They were all right according to the book, but I might assumed a little more risk and gone anyway on the first two.  However, this time due it was to fuel backing up in my pressurization system which was a major hazard either in the air or on the ground. While I was climbing down the ladder, Herb came storming up in a jeep, with a cigar stub clenched in his teeth. His first words were, ‘What’s the matter, Pat, losing your nerve?’


“I replied, ‘If that cigar is lit, keep away from me.’ I unzipped my G-suit and poured out two gallons of highly inflammable JP-4 jet fuel.


“He didn’t say a word. In a minute he had that plane swarming with specialists to fix the problem. He gave it first priority. I knew this was his way of showing that he was sorry for his question and that he really cared about me.


 “And I never let him down by aborting unless I had a really major problem. In fact, I never aborted again for any reason.”8 


Pat didn’t forget his lessons either. After retiring from the Air Force as a brigadier general, be built a company by taking care of his people.


They Are Other Ways to Show You Care

There are many other ways to prove to those you lead that you truly care about their welfare, in or out of uniform. On a flight to New York last week I happened to read an article about a company and a woman I had first encountered some years ago. Motek is a software company located in Beverly Hills that designs inventory-control software for warehouse/distribution centers. It’s founder and CEO is a remarkable woman and leader by the name of Ann S. Price. I wrote about Ann in my book, The Stuff of Heroes, because unique among most company heads I know, she had the smallest office of any employee. She told me that for meetings they had the conference room, and other employees needed larger offices – she didn’t. 


Ann’s  background is unique. Her company is high tech, but she boasts no advanced degrees. Nor is she a graduate of a prestige business school. Instead, Ann’s vita includes the fact that she served two years in the Israeli Army and then worked on a Kibbutz before returning to California. 


The article’s title was ” “The Best Company to Work for in the World – Period.” The author spoke of Ann’s berating her marketing manager because she only took three weeks vacation rather than her full authorization. All employees at Motek (Motek means sweetheart in Hebrew) get five weeks paid vacation plus another $5000 to enjoy themselves while absent. Ann gives employees another two weeks vacation for paid holidays throughout the year. After 10 years service, Ann leases a luxury car for the employee’s use. Moreover, she won’t let anyone work past 5:00pm nor over the weekends – and you are not allowed to take a laptop home. As you might imagine, turnover is almost zero at Motek and productivity is way above the industry average as measured by dollars of revenue earned per employee.9


If You Really Care, You’ll Treat’em Right

Erick Laine, CEO of Alcas, Inc. manufacturers and markets some of the highest quality kitchen knives in the world under the brand name “Cutco.” One division makes the K-bar knife, the official knife of the U.S. Marine Corps since World War II. Its sales today are over $100 million worldwide. But when Laine took over as CEO in 1982, sales were only $5 million. That’s a 2000 percent increase in a field that older, established brands from Europe once dominated.


When Erick became CEO of Alcas, his manufacturing arm was in disarray. In a nine year period prior to his becoming boss, there wasn’t a single contract that was settled without a strike! There were no less than 270  outstanding grievances on the books!


Now Erick is tough. He was born in Finland, and in addition to integrity, his parents taught him something that doesn’t translate easily into English. The word in Finnish is “Sisu.” “Sisu” means a sort of stubborn persistence wrapped up with sheer guts. He knows what he is doing, and he is no pushover. But he truly cares about his people and he insists on treating them fairly.


So Laine met with his union in a spirit of openness and listened. And when the union was right, he acknowledged it. And when he thought they were full of bologna, he told them that, too. But then, a strange thing happened. They proceeded to work things through. Over a period of years they’ve developed great trust, and when they have a problem, they work together to solve it.


Does your union present you with a yearly gift of cash collected from your workers? Every year at Christmas time, a very unique thing happens at Erick’s plant. It’s not mandated, and neither Erick nor any of his managers thought it up. No, this comes from his workers and their union. And though its become a yearly tradition, there is no guarantee that it will continue. What happens is this. The union leaders call him. They request to meet with him and the other owners. At the meeting, the union representatives present cash to their management . . . money they have collected from the workers on a volunteer basis. Erick always accepts the money on behalf of management, but then he always uses the money to purchase something that will benefit the workers like TV for the cafeteria or a clock . . . that type of thing. 10


Now why do you think the workers and their union do this? Obviously they could just collect the money and go out and buy something themselves. Erick Laine didn’t tell me this, but I believe this informal ceremony during which Laine is presented with this money is a symbol of the trust between Alcas’ union and management, between the company leaders and their workers. It is rare and unprecedented. It happens only because Erick Laine really cares. 


Take Personal Responsibility

Every combat leader I have ever spoken with tells me  in some way about the importance of taking personal responsibility for his actions and for the actions of his organization. Whenever something went right, these leaders gave credit to their people. But when they didn’t go right, they took personal responsibility. Most of the time, this was simply like General Lee after Pickett’s Charge failed at the Battle of Gettysburg. Lee didn’t participate in the attack personally. He was the overall commander. Nevertheless, he told everyone, “It’s all my fault.” He took personal responsibility for the defeat.  Sometimes, taking personal responsibility must be expressed in the physical sense. Other times, in the moral sense. The heroic leader does either, or both, in taking care of his people.


You Can Bank on This Banker

 Marshall Carter was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The State Street Corporation. The State Street Corporation is a bank. Well, not just any old bank. It is the largest processor of pension funds in the world. It has some four trillion dollars under custodianship. Yes, that’s trillion with a “t.”


During the Vietnam War, Captain “Marsh” Carter spent some 26 months in Vietnam where he served as a Marine Corps company commander. On January 14th, 1967, the Marines discovered secret orders for a conference of senior Viet Cong officers to be held in a certain village behind enemy lines. Carter’s company was given the job of a surprise attack on this conference. He and his company were transported by helicopter and landed right on top of the concentration of enemy officers. A terrific firefight broke out. Two of Carter’s lieutenants and nine of his sergeants were hit in the first few minutes. But Carter’s company got the job done and inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy.


However, as Viet Cong in the area became aware of the attack and ran to support those that Carter was attacking, Carter was in trouble. As the Marines withdrew to their helicopters, they came under increasing fire from small arms, automatic fire, and mortars. Having successfully crossed this hell of gun fire, and now ready to depart in a helicopter,, Carter heard that one of his platoons was pinned down.


Marshall Carter took personal responsibility and fought his way back to the platoon alone. He found that the platoon wouldn’t leave because they couldn’t get to one of their number who was wounded. Under heavy fire, Carter himself crawled forward and got the wounded man to safety. Then, he personally protected the platoon’s evacuation by single-handedly hurling grenades at the enemy in close combat. Back at the landing zone, he supervised the loading of the entire company before he himself would leave..


Explained Carter, “I didn’t think much about it then, or even later. We had been in tighter spots before. But an artillery officer assigned to me for the operation and an enlisted man from another unit went to higher headquarters with the story. I heard later that they wanted me to get the Congressional Medal of Honor, and I was very surprised. A leader must always take personal responsibility for the welfare of those he is responsible for.” 11


After leaving active duty, Carter continued to serve as a Marine Corps reservist, eventually rising to the rank of colonel. Meanwhile he began to build his career in banking. Starting first with Chase Manhattan Corporation, he rose to become head of its global securities services.


When Carter took over State Street Corporation, there were severe challenges. There were talks of deep cost cutting. There were talks of lay-offs. But Carter didn’t see things that way. He expected positive results and he declared his expectations. “We told people, ‘ We’re going to change, but not by losing people. Who care’s about losing people? I’m interested in hiring.’” Others were concerned that Carter was being overly optimistic. But he took the responsibility. He did everything necessary to make sure his ideas of expansion worked. And when they did, he gave the credit to his subordinates who carried out his vision.


“I knew I was on the right track,” he says. “If we were wrong, it would have been my fault, my responsibility. I didn’t want to be wrong, but if I were, I would have taken responsibility. I would have done whatever was possible to take care of my people. A leader doesn’t have that as a choice.” In six years, revenues at this bank  tripled while the number of employees doubled.12


A couple years ago, Marsh retired — but not for long. In 2005, they brought him out of retirement to become Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange where he is today. 13



 A real leader takes care of us people, both his customers and those that work for him. If you take care of your people, they will perform to the maximum extent within their capabilities. If you fail to do this, you won’t be their leader for very long. If you want to be a real leader, you must:

·         Be the Leader When Things Go Wrong

·         Give Their Needs Priority

·         Really Care

·         Take Personal Responsibility

1 Hay, Peter, The Book of Business Anecdotes (New York: Facts on File, 1988) p. 168.

2 Broughton, Jack, Going Downtown, New York: Orion Books, 1988). P. 218.

3 Broughton, Jack,  Telephone interviews with the author, December 4 and 8, 1997.

4 No author listed, “After the Fire At Malden Mills,”, May 5, 1996.

5 Convey, Eric, “Malden Mills Celebrates a Special Day,” Business, Sptember 15, 1997.

6 Teal, Thomas, “Not a Fool, Not a Saint,” Fortune (November 11, 1996).

7 Whitmore, David, Interview with the author, November 8, 1997.

8 Patterson, G.K., Letter to the author, July 28, 1993.

9 Greengard, Samuel, “The Best Company to Work For – Period,” The American Way (March 15, 2006)

10 Laine, Erick, Telephone interview with the author, December 22, 1997.

11 Carter, Marsh N.,  Telephone interview with the author, December 16, 1997.

12 Ibid Carter, Marsh N.

13 Carter, Marsh N.,  Telephone interview with the author, May 12, 2005.



Published by AMACOM recently, SECRETS OF SPECIAL OPS LEADERSHIP: DARE THE IMPOSSIBLE – ACHIEVE THE EXTRAORDINARY represents my recent massive study into special operations leadership techniques — not just one special ops organization, and not just U.S. special ops, but foreign as well. So there are techniques gleamed from U.S. Special Forces, Delta Force, SEALS, Marine Recon, Air Commandos, Rangers, SAS, Israeli Sayeret Makal and more going back not just to World War II, but through 7000 years of warfare. This is NOT a “business is war” book, but you will learn how to apply these eye opening concepts directly to business and other organizations.

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Immediately engaging. Immediately useful. Invaluable insights for business leaders who want to gain a competitive advantage by taking ordinary resources and using them extraordinarily.”

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Also, I’m happy to announce my new seminar, not yet described elsewhere on this web site. Its name says it all: “Dare the Impossible; Achieve the Extraordinary: 14 Special Ops Leadership Practices That Really Matter in Your Organization.” Contact me about my speaking to your organization at or (626) 791-8973.



. . . People are only too glad to obey the man who they believe takes wiser thoughts for their interests than they themselves do. – Xenophon

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