On June 19, Marine Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter, age 24, will be presented the Congressional Medal of Honor for falling on a grenade in Afghanistan in November, 2010, to protect and save a fellow marine.
What has this to do with leadership? A lot, says Simon Sinek in his recent Ted Talk “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe.”
Cpl. Carpenter was severely wounded, sustaining a depressed skull, a collapsed right lung, multiple facial fractures, the loss of a third of his lower jaw and fragment injuries to his arms and legs.
Yet according to the report, out of respect for his comrades who died in combat he is reluctant to receive and display the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military honor awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.
Back to Sinek – a young thought leader worth following.
In his Ted Talk he tells of another Medal of Honor recipient from Afghanistan and observes
“In the military they give medals to people who are willing to sacrifice themselves so others may gain.”
“In business,” by contrast, “we give bonuses to people who sacrifice others that they may gain.”
Two questions come to mind from Cpl. Carpenter’s story and Sinek’s talk.
“Who would fall on a grenade for you?” That’s a question of community and friendship.
Where do you feel safe? Who are the people who will protect you from the grenades, the danger surrounding you? Good leaders make us feel safe.
And then, “For whom would you fall on a grenade?” That is a personal values question.
These are leadership as well as personal questions. Who do we follow and who is following us?
“I know many people at the senior levels of organizations,” Sinek says, “who are absolutely not leaders. They are authorities and we do what they say because they have authority over us but we would not follow them.”
By contrast, “I know may people at the lower level of organizations who have no authority and they are absolutely leaders because they have chosen to look after the person to the left of them and to the right of them. This is what a leader is.”
Since Cpl. Carpenter is self-conscious about receiving the Medal of Honor he probably would be even less inclined to consider himself a leader. He would likely say that he was simply doing what others in his unit would have done for him.
This Memorial Day weekend is a good time to learn from those we honor.
They took an oath of “unconditional liability” so that their comrades and we may live in a safe place.
Given the opportunity to ask why – the answer says Senik was always the same – “because they would have done it for me.”
Bob doesn’t believe in head count – he believes in heart count. It’s much more difficult to reduce the heart count.
Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank.
I know many people at the senior levels of organiazations who are absolutely not leaders. They are authorities and we do what they say because they have authority over us but we would not follow them.
And I know may people at the lower level of organizations who have no authority and they are absolutely leaders because they have chosen to look after the person to the left of them and to the right of them. This is what a leader is.
We call them leaders because they are willing to sacrifice themselves to that their people will be safe and protected – that their people may gain.
Who would fall on a grenade for you? And who would you fall on a grenade for?
Whatever the verdict on our recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this Memorial Day weekend is a time to remember military personnel, active, retired, and
I often drive by a military cemetery in Annapolis with row upon row of white gravestones marking the final resting place of – my grandson Luke has often asked me what this all means.