Seventy-five years ago, the Allies successfully organized and launched the largest armada in the history of the world in what has come to be remembered as the D-Day Invasion. Operation Overlord was a vast and complex military campaign, and its objective was the successful invasion of German-occupied France via the beaches of Normandy. General Dwight D. Eisenhower of the United States commanded the Allied forces, and he was seconded by General Bernard Montgomery of Great Britain. Of course, many other commanders, admirals, and officers from various branches of service and various countries coordinated with these two men to achieve victory in penetrating Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, hastening the decline and fall of the Nazi Third Reich. All of these men grew in their roles as military leaders through years of fighting.
As America and the rest of the world take time this month to commemorate the achievements of the soldiers who liberated Europe during World War II, we may also take a moment to examine some of the leadership principles the commanders demonstrated in successfully coordinating this massive undertaking and apply them to our own businesses or professions.
1. An organization’s culture is established by its leaders.
The values, routines, and behaviors exhibited by employees are usually a reflection of what leaders will tolerate, encourage, or accept. Therefore, those in leadership positions must always be cognizant not only of how their subordinates carry themselves but also of how they themselves come across to their teams. If the company as a whole is falling short of its goals or seems to be in disarray, perhaps it is an indication of inadequate or insufficient leadership from those in power. In order for systemic changes to take hold throughout an organization, there typically must be a shift in behaviors or expectations from the leadership team. Fortunately, the competence and discipline displayed by the Allied commanders were likewise displayed by their men, and these traits were absolutely essential for success in their monumental mission.
2. Fruitful enterprises are driven by leadership.
In order for a mission to meet its objectives, there must first be a clear vision for success and identifiable, measurable goals. Beyond just establishing goals and visions, leaders must also effectively communicate them and create enthusiasm for attaining them within their teammates if they hope to achieve them. Alignment in the leadership structure is important, for disunity at the top can lead to chaos within the organization as a whole. Those who crafted the invasion of Normandy meticulously planned and collaborated for months, and while they effectively hid their plans from the enemy, they effectively communicated the importance of the mission and the strategic objectives to the many groups, divisions, and regiments working under them. Hundreds of thousands of men from different backgrounds and nations worked together to change the course of history, and they were able to do so because of the thorough planning, remarkable discipline, and effective cooperation of their leaders.
3. Leadership development improves both company engagement and preparedness.
As leaders grow and develop in their roles, individuals working under these leaders will usually experience more success as well. Employees who feel a greater sense of connection to their employer are more likely to embrace the values and mission of the company, and this increased sense of purpose will lead to more substantial preparation and determination for success on the employee’s part. Therefore, as those in leadership positions increasingly demonstrate aptitude and accomplishments, confidence among their subordinates increases and productivity improves. For example, as the Allied generals in World War II proved themselves in battle against the Axis powers, morale among the troops continued to grow, and soldiers believed in the importance of their tasks in defending freedom against dictatorial tyranny. Thus, they were willing to engage in the grueling and often dangerous training that was necessary for achieving objectives during D-Day and other daunting missions. Without the buy-in and readiness of the troops, Operation Overlord would probably have been a colossal disaster, just as many businesses experience disastrous results when their employees lose faith in their leadership or do not recognize the value of their work.
Before the men departed for the beaches of Normandy on that fateful day of June 6, 1944, General Eisenhower shared these words in a statement issued to his invading army: “Let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.” General Eisenhower understood the gravity of the situation, and more importantly, so did his men. He and the other commanders had successfully communicated the momentousness of the task before these brave soldiers, and everyone involved had done all they could do to prepare themselves for adversity and victory through planning and training. Military success for the Allied powers started at the top, and the same generally holds true in private industry.
Developing leadership skills that emulate those of our successful generals may be a good place to begin if you desire to change the culture of your business or institution. Leadership Excellence offers a variety of leadership development programs for Cleveland-area organizations to help your business grow and prosper. Contact us today or schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation to learn how we can help you!
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