Raising the level of your leadership

Valley Forge Leaders

I have just finished reading Valley Forge by Newt Gingrich & William R. Forstchen. Approximately 2500-3000 American soldiers died from exposure, disease and starvation during the winter of 1777-78. Yet, in June of 1778, they came out of that winter and held their own against a well-trained, well-fed and well-equipped British army at Monmouth Court House (NJ). It was at Monmouth that the Continental army learned that they could win on the battlefield and could in the end win their independence.

The British expected the Continental army to fold after their devastating winter at Valley Forge. Instead, the army came out stronger and eager to fight. Why? Leadership. Excerpts from the book:

About General Marquis de Lafayette:

“…he sought no rank whatsoever and would fight as a private volunteer.”

“While other generals were quick to find dry, warm quarters, Lafayette could often be found out on the picket line in the very eye of a driving storm….”

About Baron Friedrich von Steuben:

“You do not win allies by berating them and showing them their shortcomings. You win them by offering your hand.”

“…a good officer will find that a private sees far more than an officer at times.”

About George Washington:

“He had long drilled himself…to not think of himself….”

 “One ill-chosen response, one flash of temper, of self-serving behavior or blame-casting, one day of failed leadership could shatter the fragile core that held this army together.”

These excerpts speak for themselves. Lafayette, Steuben and Washington. Don’t you wish we had leaders like this in Washington…in corporations…in churches?

© Copyright 2011 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

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6 responses to “Valley Forge Leaders”

  1. Matt Austin says:

    Dick, you’ve always said the leader can’t have a bad day. I can see why that was so important to Washington…and even though they had a much greater risk (their very lives), I’m inspired even more to apply that to my daily work. Great blog!

  2. Scott Layden says:

    It too often has amazed me the results of “one bad day” of leadership.

    One can have months or years of strong leadership, but those occassional flashes of exasperation or temper from the leader, even if the reaction is not overt at the time, always come back…with negative interest.

    What can one do to ferret out damage done and forgotten by mistakes in leadership, and rectify this with those we lead?


    • Dick Wells says:

      Scott, hard to answer your question without knowing more about the “one bad day” – call me and let’s get together to discuss – coffee, breakfast or lunch all work for me. Dick

  3. Yollie says:

    Check your dates it does not seem creditable when you say 1777 and jump to 1978….

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