Washington and the Corporal

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[vimeo id="136464639"] In the early days of the American Revolution, leadership was severely lacking. Only a few officers had any experience at all, and the recruits were not used to obeying orders. In one instance, a corporal told a private to get some water. The private responded, "I won't. Get it yourself." The bottom line was that the soldiers had no reason to respect their officers’ authority.

So how was Washington to lead this force? Well there’s a story that gives us a valuable insight into Washington’s leadership. One day, while he was riding around the army’s camp in civilian clothes and inspecting their fortifications, he came across a group of men struggling to lift a wooden beam into place with their corporal standing on the side shouting orders. He asked the officer why he wasn’t helping the men lift the beam. The officer – not recognizing Washington – responded, “Sir, I’m a corporal!” Washington apologized to the officer, got off his horse, and went and helped the men lift the beam into place. When he was done, he got back on his horse and told the corporal the next time he needed assistance, he should call his commander-in-chief, and he’d come to help him…I can’t imagine how that corporal felt.

What was the point of Washington’s action? He could have preached at the corporal or commanded him to help his men, but he did something far more powerful. He showed the corporal what to do and taught his officers how to earn the respect of the men they were leading. Washington knew that his army’s success was built on the shoulders of those men under his command. His victories on the battlefield were empowered by his servant-leadership in the campsite.

So ask yourself a few questions. What are you willing to do to accomplish your dream? Are you willing to stoop down and do the little things like clean the church restrooms? Do you use your position as a way to serve or be served? Do you invest time and energy into training and empowering those under you? As a leader, what values are you modeling through your actions?

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