Saturday, June 6, 2009

D-Day

After preparing for the invasion of northwest Europe, with nothing but the action remaining, General Eisenhower had to come to terms with the possibility that the invasion would fail. So, he penned a short speech taking blame for the failure of D-Day and Operation Overlord.

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

There are leaders who live for the glory. There are those who seek, above all, to receive the credit for success. And where there is success, there are many admirers. There are many that want to walk in their shoes and learn from their wisdom. Those leaders are more than happy to share how their own, individual labor has been responsible for the success.

And yet, in the face of failure, their contribution is more difficult to pin down. Failures and shortcomings are, instead, the result of incompetent underlings, faulty information, or simply someone else. For them, problem solving begins and ends with placing blame. Or more precisely, placing blame elsewhere.

In this instance, General Eisenhower resolved to take the blame, even before there was blame to pass around. Perhaps he was concerned about his career. Maybe he was worried about ruining his legacy. Or maybe not. I really don't know. What I do know is that whatever battle was raging in his mind, he stood by his troops. He chose to publicly protect their honor--at the risk of sacrificing his own. He refused to blame those who followed his orders to the best of their ability.

Today, the 65th anniversary of D-Day, is a great time to reflect on that and to remember the thousands who lost their lives that day.

Though it would never be spoken, it is one of my favorite speeches. It would not be needed, but at the time it was written, Gen. Eisenhower did not know that.

That is leadership.

2 comments:

Brigid said...

Well put, and worthy of another generation taking the time to read. thank you.

Lawyer said...

Brigid,

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read! I love your blog and appreciate your compliments.