"This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
from this day until the ending of the world,
but we in it shall be remembered;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day who sheds his blood with me
shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
this day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whilst any speaks
That fought with us upon St. Crispin's day."
- Henry V addressing his troops (from Shakespeare's Henry V)
I am captivated by history. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm a history buff, since that would imply that I know my history well and that I actually paid attention in all of those history classes in school. I don't and I didn't. In fact, one of my biggest regrets from my years in school is that I didn't pay closer attention and that I didn't take more history courses when given the opportunity. Now I feel like I'm catching up. But I digress...
One of my favorite historical topics is World War II. Specifically, I'm drawn to D-Day and the battles that were fought in Europe. This week (June 6th) marks the 68th anniversary of D-Day so I thought it was only fitting to extract a leadership lesson from this event and make it make sense in our world today.
In 2001, an amazing TV series was made entitled, Band of Brothers. It was a ten-part series that tells the story of Easy Company (2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment assigned to the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army) from the beginning (Camp Toccoa, GA) to Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Germany. The TV series was created based on the book, Band of Brothers, written by Stephen Ambrose.
Allow me to introduce you to Captain Herbert Sobel. He was tasked with training Easy Company in the states, before they shipped off to Europe. Here's a clip from Part 1 (of the ten-part series)...
If you've seen the movie, read the book and listened to the interviews, Captain Sobel was, by most accounts, a prick. But here's the rub, Easy Company would not have been the Easy Company we know today had it not been for Captain Sobel. As much as those men hated and disrespected him, as their leader, many of them went on to say that he was an integral part of their journey together.
I'm sure that we can all think of leaders and managers that we've worked with and worked for who were flat out ogres. I know that I can. Thankfully, I can't think of too many, but I can certainly rattle off a few on one hand. You know what though? As tough as those times were and as frustrated as I was, I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. I feel that I'm a better HR pro, manager, leader and employee for it.