I spent this past weekend re-watching “Band of Brothers” the HBO mini-series about the men of “Easy Company” during World War II. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it. Besides being an intense, realistic, alternately heart-warming and heart-breaking series, it is also chock full of leadership lessons. These are just a few of my favorites.
“He wasn’t a bad leader because he made bad decisions. He was a bad leader because he made no decisions.”
- Leaders make decisions. The quote above is aimed at Lt Dike who loses men in Easy Company when he won’t make the hard call, or actually any call. He is unavailable to his men when they are looking for direction and leaves decisions up to them. Instead of this making them feel “empowered,” they feel afraid, lack direction and worst of all, suffer many casualties. Unpopular decisions are better than no decision. No one wants to follow someone that is not willing to help forge the path or has no idea where they are going. Being a leader means you have to make the call, even when especially when, it is a tough one. What decisions do you need to make for you or your team?
- Leaders “lead” no matter their title. Soon after, Dike is demoted and next is one of my favorite scenes. Sgt. Lipton tells the newly appointed Captain Spiers (a man who is legendary for his bravery and decisiveness) how glad they are to finally have a leader. Spiers replies that from his understanding they always have had one saying; “I’ve heard they had someone that held them together, kept their spirits up, kept them focused, gave them direction; all the things a good combat leader does.” Lipton has no idea Spiers is talking about him. Without a “title,” or being asked, Lipton saw a need and rose up to lead his company where his commanding officer had fallen short. This is absolutely one of my favorite parts of leadership. You don’t have to have a title to lead! Leadership is encouraging others around you when they need it, helping others focus when they want to complain, keeping the team working as a team when they are going 8 million different directions. Anyone on the team can do that. Where can you be a better leader for your team?
- Leaders lift up others. Lipton knows that his company does not respect Dike (with good reason) but when he overhears Sgt. Luz impersonating Dike in a derogatory way, he handles it; gently. Again, with no title or “authority.” He first pulls Luz aside from the others, then compliments the soldier on a great impersonation, and then asks him never to do it again. Because of the respect Lipton had earned (see above), Sgt. Luz walked away still with his self-esteem in check, understanding the right thing to do, and (even better) a smile on his face. Lipton instinctively knew that putting down Dike would only lower the (already low) morale of the company. He also realized that handling it correctly was the key to getting the proper message across. Does your message lift others up or tear them down?
There are so many more examples of great leadership (and bad) from “Band of Brothers” so stay tuned and you may hear more.
What movie or TV show do you think gives great lessons on leadership? I’d love to hear your thoughts!