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  July 24, 2015
Leadership and The Medal of Honor...



Success is peace of mind... which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming
                                       ~ John Wooden

In 1861, through legislation introduced in the United States Senate, the Congressional Medal of Honor was created. 

The Medal of Honor is Medal Of Honorthe highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual in the Armed Services of the United States, generally presented by the President of the United States in the name of Congress.

Since the time of its inception, there have been 3,495 recipients of the Medal of Honor, 79 who are still alive today.

One such honoree is Army Captain William Swenson.

While serving as an advisor to the Afghan Border Police in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan, more than 60 enemy Taliban combatants ambushed Capt. Swenson and his combat team as they entered the town of Ganjgal on the morning of Sept 9th.

While under intense attack, Capt. Swenson directed return fire while simultaneously coordinating air and artillery support. 

The combat team was soon surrounded on three sides and taking heavy causalities. 

While still under heavy and accurate fire, Capt. Swenson maneuvered, uncovered, to help administer emergency medical assistance to several wounded soldiers lying in the battlefield. 

As a helicopter evacuation of the wounded ensued, Capt. Swenson led a team in an unarmored vehicle into the forward area of fighting to recover wounded and fallen comrades. 

After recovering 3 wounded soldiers, he returned again to the area of intense gunfire leaving the vehicle and exposing his self to enemy fire to recover 4 more fallen men.

Capt. Swenson offered great leadership and stout resistance during the six hours of continuous fighting eventually beating back the enemy’s assault.

For his great act of Capt. Swensoncourage under fire, extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty, Captain William Swenson was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on October 15, 2013.

After the ceremony, Captain Swenson was asked by reporters why he risked his life to evacuate the wounded and reclaim the fallen soldiers.

He humbly responded, "They would have done the same for me".

Looking after others is what true leaders do.

Captain Swenson wasn’t a leader because he had bars on his uniform or because he was trained; he was a leader because he innately put others before himself... even in the most demanding and stressful of all situations.

Leadership is a choice and exists at all levels of any organization.

Some people at the top of an organization have authority but they are not leaders. 

Instead of sacrificing themselves to help others... they sacrifice others to better themselves...

This is why we have become outraged at the disproportional pay between C-suite executives and front-line workers. 

These same corporate executives continue to extract large bonuses at the expense of reducing their workforce, cutting workers’ pay and benefits, and/or creating toxic work places where employees feel unsafe and underappreciated.

Contrast this to healthy and prosperous enterprises where the company’s leadership puts workers and customers before profits.

In these organizations, people work together in cooperation rather than in competition.  Employees give everything they have... their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears to make their company successful and help to support their leaders.

Why would employees do this?

They do it because they truly believe that their leaders would do it for them if the shoe was on the other foot.

Truly effective leaders create an environment of trust among workers by creating and implementing the following disciplines within their organization:

  • They provide the safety to fail.  Bad companies regularly punish those individuals who take initiative but fail.  In contrast, great organizations want people who can think, create and act independently but yet still want to be a part of a team.
  • They work hard to develop and grow people instead of just growing profits.  Leaders aren’t afraid that they are training and developing people who will ultimately leave the organization to become assets for someone else.  Strong leaders understand that growth in people leads to eventual growth in profits.  They do this by giving honest and constructive feedback in a timely manner.
  • They hire other leaders who also put others before their own interests... regardless of the position being filled.  They don’t allow managers to sacrifice others so that they can gain.  One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch so care must be taken to rid organizations of toxic managers and "diva" personnel... or better yet... never hire them in the first place. 
  • They help to create a clear direction that answers the question, "Why are we here... doing what we are doing?"  This means that there needs to be complete transparency in the organization with clear objectives for everyone to see and understand.
  • They help individuals understand where they fit in.  This doesn’t mean simply giving people a job description, but rather help them to understand what it is that they do to help "complete" the organization. 
  • They lead... not from behind... but out in front.  They lead by example.  They have impeccable character and integrity.  They always tell the truth.  They work harder than everyone else.  They truly care about people and want to help others succeed.  They ask questions and listen intently.  They take responsibility for their decisions and take decisive and timely action.  They always conduct themselves in a professional and respectful manner regardless of the situation.  They are calm under fire.

A great leader sees more in you than you can sometimes see in yourself.

When things are going well, there is a propensity for bad leadership to be masked.  It’s only when it all hits the fan does true leadership rise to the top and step into the line of fire.

Providing leadership is something everyone has the capacity to do... if they choose to do so.

It means making sacrifices.

Ask most parents whether they would sacrifice themselves for the well-being of their children and the answer would be a resounding "YES".

I can’t think of any situation where a parent, if things got really bad, would "lay-off" their kids throwing them out on the street to save the remaining members of the family, yet certain companies do this time and time again. 

Being a good leader is akin to being a good parent.

A good parent provides safety, encouragement, coaching, teaching and discipline when warranted.

...and when our kids succeed, we feel pride in knowing that we somehow played a role in their development...

...in the same way leaders feel pride in knowing that they helped others to grow and succeed.

Today more than ever... we need leaders who actually lead... not people who simple want the reins of power to enrich themselves... at the expense of others...

Captain William Swenson exemplified leadership on the battlefield that day not because it would one day earn him the Congressional Medal of Honor...

...but because it was the right thing to do...

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we hope to lead by example and encourage others to do the same.

Jim Kalb Jim Kalb President

Email -  jimk@optifuse.com
Website - www.optifuse.com
Blog - www.optifuse.blogspot.com 
Twitter - @OptiFuse

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