At some point, leadership demands that you develop and refine an ability to be in two places at once.
First, to remain completely and utterly engaged in a precise moment despite the distractions, the doubt and the anxiety. To prevail – mind over matter – regardless of your fear, potential danger or the unknown.
And then, with an extraordinary level of dexterity and focus, leadership commands that you must continue to work, to effect, and to direct – both yourself and others – towards maintaining the course. Moving towards a much bigger picture. To press on for the desired and lasting outcome. .
Yet before leadership can hone this particular talent in you, one must acquire and develop another complimentary capability.
That of vision. The ability to see the opportunity that ultimately resides in all form of adversity, whether great or small.
Once a leader has adapted to the challenges of acquiring this line of sight, they will find themselves able to embrace uncommon adversity with common courage. Dissipate the urge to flee with steadfast discipline. Find the wherewithal to hold on. And reap victory hidden in what appears to be certain defeat.
For it is adversity that provides you with an opportunity to put your true character in action.
Fluent in nine languages, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was a young rhetoric and modern languages professor at Bowdoin College in Maine when he joined the Union Army. Yet despite lacking military experience, being wounded six times and having six horses shot out from under him, Joshua Chamberlain made himself into an exemplary battlefield commander, leader of men and national hero serving his country during the Civil War.
“Late in the afternoon of July 2, 1863, on a boulder-strewn hillside in southern Pennsylvania, Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain dashed headlong into history, leading his 20th Maine Regiment in perhaps the most famous counterattack of the Civil War. The regiment’s sudden, desperate bayonet charge blunted the Confederate assault on Little Round Top and has been credited with saving Major General George Gordon Meade’s Army of the Potomac, winning the Battle of Gettysburg and setting the South on a long, irreversible path to defeat.” JAMES R. BRANN
Despite being presented with overwhelming odds on that field, in a truly harrowing life or death situation, Colonel Chamberlain remained precisely where he was.
Whether it was out of duty, courage, or character, he chose to be fully engaged, even in peril, within that moment. His moment.
Now no one can say for sure, but I would imagine that every thought, word and action taken was meant not only to stem an immediate onslaught, but to reverse their fortunes and to win that minute, the hour and then the day.
Colonel Chamberlain recognized the gravity of that moment from a much larger perspective.
Exhibiting extraordinary courage under fire, steadfast constancy in purpose and the resolve to see things through no matter what, Colonel Chamberlain changed the momentum, becoming a central figure in a pivotal moment in time.
Perhaps at some level, he understood just how much was at stake. Maybe he imagined the impact he and the 20th Maine would have on our nation’s history.
A stirring lesson that resonates yet today.
Now, you may never have to face volley upon volley of musket fire, a barrage of cannon balls, field artillery shells or a full frontal attack with bayonets fixed.
But at some point, you could be confronted by your own Colonel Chamberlain moment.
An instant that cries out for the highest level of leadership.
The adversity that provides you with an opportunity to put your true character in action.
You, your line-mates, your unit, or even your team may find yourselves on your own Little Round Top . In a tenuous, position out there on the field. In the open. Perhaps even on the verge of being overwhelmed.
Resources may be spread thin. Fatigue and pain may have sapped your resolve. And doubt, your shadow. But circumstances will demand – and then extract – the best that is in you. Whether by duty, courage or character – you know that you must not falter. That you must hold that line.
That not only must you repel the next attack, but that you must then staunch the flow and turn back the tide.
That you lead the charge – both from within and from without – to retake momentum and win that instant, then the minute, next the hour and finally – the day.
Keenly aware that each thought, word and deed are genuinely and courageously crafted to lift and inspire others to extract the best that is within themselves.
Beckoning all to let go of the limitations they impose on themselves and elicit the greatness that lay within each of them.
In a message that conveys to all the urgency of this instant.
Creating a vision of how they can and will impact the larger picture.
A brand of leadership that is fully engaged. Character in action .
Your Chamberlain moment.