Won the battle but lost the war
On the morning of January 30, 1968, North Vietnam launched a surprise offensive against the Americans and their allied forces. Over the next 24 hours, over 85.000 North Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong units attacked over 125 targets across the country. The American troops were completely unprepared. Some of the commanding officers were not even in their posts when the attack began. They celebrated Tết in the nearest town. The so-called Tết offensive took its course. Tết marks the beginning of the Lunar New Year and is as important a holiday for the Vietnamese as Christmas is in the Western Hemisphere. And like the Christmas peace in World War I, there was a decade-old tradition in Vietnam that there was no fighting on that day. But seeing an opportunity to take the American forces by surprise and end the war quickly, the North Vietnamese leadership decided to break with tradition and plan their surprise offensive.
The amazing thing about it: The United States was able to repel every single attack. Each. What's more, they noticeably decimated the attackers. By the time the biggest onslaught was over - about a week after the first attack - America had not even lost 1000 soldiers. North Vietnam, on the other hand, had more than 35.000 dead. In the city of Huế, where the fighting dragged on for almost a month, 150 American Marines died, but an estimated 5.000 North Vietnamese. An in-depth analysis of the entire Vietnam War paints a remarkable picture. In fact, the Americans won the vast majority of the battles. 58.000 Americans fell over the decade that US forces fought in the Vietnam War. North Vietnam, on the other hand, lost over three million people. Transferred to America in 1968, that would have resulted in 27 million deaths. The question arises: How can it be that a country decides almost every battle for itself, decimates the enemy and still loses the war?
Why are managers so popular?
I don't know of a single case in which an organization was led out of a crisis by its management. Without exception, all of them were rescued by leaders. Even so, a large part of our training facilities and courses are still focused on training effective managers instead of developing people into leaders. Short term gains are the measure of success, long term growth and viability of an organization fall by the wayside.
This is not meant to be some new theory about proper leadership and its rationale. My goal goes far beyond that. I want to make the world better. I have a clear vision: to bring up a new generation of women and men who understand that the success or failure of an organization depends on great leaders, not good managers.
Employees come first
Executive staff must have absolute priority. In armed forces like the US Marine Corps, there is a strong organizational culture, shared values, and a clear understanding of the importance of teamwork, mutual trust, and focus on one goal; Most importantly, the armed forces understand that people and human relationships are essential to the success of the mission. You have also taken on a task where failure can lead to disaster. The failure of the mission is unthinkable. There can be no doubt, it is people who make our military successful.
As you watch Marines gather food together, you will find that candidate officers are served first, and senior officers last. As you follow this ritual you will also see that no orders are given. Marines just do it that way. And this behavior shows us what leadership means in the Marine Corps. Marines officers are expected to eat last, because the price of leadership is a willingness to subordinate one's needs to the needs of others. Great leaders have a sincere interest in the well-being of those they are allowed to lead and recognize that the price for the privilege of leadership is to put one's interests aside.
Managers need the Purpose know
An organization is only successful if its leaders understand the real purpose of the organization - "the why". This realization is important to understand the phenomenon that some organizations are more successful than others. But what exactly does lead mean? It is not enough to know "the why"; You need to know the people in your organization and realize that they are more than expandable resources. Professional skills alone do not make a leader; good leaders need to have a real interest in the people who are entrusted to them.
Good management is clearly not enough to secure an organization in the long term. Because there are well-founded reasons why some organizations are successful in the short term, but ultimately fail: The management has not managed to create a corporate climate in which the human factor really counts. As Simon points out, organizations are long-term successful in both good and bad times when their people share values and are valued.
Protection from above
A thick layer of cloud shielded any light source. There was no moon or stars to be seen. Everything was black. The unit worked its way slowly down the valley, the rocky ground making it impossible to move faster than a snail's pace. What was worse, they knew they were being watched. Everyone was nervous. It was not a year since the September 11th terrorist attacks. The Taliban government was only recently overthrown after a massive attack by US forces following the Taliban's refusal to extradite the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden. At that time, many commando operations were carried out in the combat area, which are still kept secret today. The unit was one of those special forces on a secret mission. We only know that the 22-man unit operated deep in enemy territory and recently captured a target that the government called a "high-value target." They now worked their way through a deep valley in a mountainous part of Afghanistan to bring the high-quality target to a safe shelter.
That night, Captain Mike Drowley, also known as Johnny Bravo after his call signal and nickname, circled above the thick cloud cover. Apart from the buzzing machines, it was completely quiet and peaceful up there. Thousands of stars twinkled in the sky, and the moon lit the top layer of the cloud so brightly that it looked as if snow had fallen. It was nice.
No other choice
Johnny Bravo and the pilot of the escort plane circled in their A-10s, ready to intervene when needed on the ground. The A-10, affectionately known as the warthog, is technically not a fighter pilot; she is a ground attack aircraft. It is a relatively slow, armored single-seater designed to provide close air support to the ground forces. It's not as fast or as sexy as other jet fighter (hence its nickname), but it does its job efficiently. The two A-10 pilots in the air and the ground forces would have preferred to stay in visual contact. It builds the soldiers' self-confidence when they see the planes in the sky and know that they are protecting them. And it gives the pilots the assurance that they will be able to help when necessary.
But given the thick cloud cover and the mountainous terrain, the only way they could ascertain the other's position was through occasional radio contact. Without visual contact, Johnny Bravo couldn't see what the troops were seeing, but he could tell from what he heard over the radio how they were feeling. And that was enough for him to take action. He followed his instincts and decided to take a dive, that is, to drop down through the cloud cover to see what was going on on the ground. It was a daring maneuver. The thick, low cloud cover, the storms in the area, and the fact that Johnny Bravo would descend into a valley even though his field of vision was restricted by the night vision device made flying blind through the clouds a highly dangerous undertaking for even the most experienced pilot . Nobody had ordered Johnny Bravo to perform this risky maneuver. At most, he would have been ordered to follow events closely and to intervene when he was called for help. But Johnny Bravo is not like most other pilots. Though he was in a safe cockpit thousands of meters above them, he could feel the great restlessness of the men below. Despite the danger he was putting himself in, he knew the dive was necessary. For Johnny Bravo that meant he had no choice.
What makes real leaders
And then, just as he was preparing to dive down through the clouds into the valley, his vague instincts were confirmed. Three words came through the radio. Three little words that make a pilot's blood curdle: "Troops have contact with the enemy." "Troops have contact with the enemy" means that someone is in trouble down there on the ground. It is the radio call that the ground forces use when attacked. Although Johnny Bravo had heard these words many times during training, he heard "Troops are in contact with the enemy" that night, August 16, 2002, for the first time in a combat situation. Johnny had found a way to empathize with the men on the ground. To feel what they felt. On every training flight over the combat area, he played the scene from the film Saving Private Ryan, in which the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy on a stormy night. He imagined the landing craft's ramp falling and the men wading to the beach under German fire.
The bullets whistled around them. Stray bullets struck the steel hull of the boats. There were the screams of those who were hit. Johnny Bravo was calibrated to remember this scene every time he heard the radio call, "Troops are in contact with the enemy." With this image vividly before his eyes, Johnny Bravo responded to the call for help. He instructed the escort aircraft to fly close to the cloud cover, announced his plans to the flight controllers and the troops on the ground, and dived his aircraft into the darkness. As he passed the layer of cloud he was tossed wildly back and forth. A hard push to the left. A sudden air hole. A jerk to the right. In contrast to the civil aviation aircraft with which we fly, the A-10s do not take into account the comfort of the occupants, so the aircraft jumped in the air and was shaken strongly as it dived through the cloud cover.
How to deal with unfamiliar situations
When Johnny Bravo plunged into the unknown, not knowing what to expect, he concentrated on his instruments to absorb as much information as possible. His eyes wandered from one measuring device to the next, interrupted by brief glances through the windshield. Altitude, speed, course, and again the windshield. Altitude, speed, course, windshield. "It. Got to. Well. Go. You're welcome. It. Got to. Well. Go. Please, ”he whispered. When it finally broke through the cloud cover, it was barely 300 meters above the ground in a valley. He had never experienced what awaited him before, neither in training nor in the cinema. Enemy fire came from both sides of the valley. Massive barrage. It was so intense that the trail of light - the streaks of light that followed the spheres - illuminated the entire area. Bullets and grenade fire aimed in the middle, all firing directly at the special unit that was pinned down deeper in the valley.
In 2002 the on-board electronics were not as sophisticated as they are today. His instruments couldn't keep Johnny Bravo from hitting the mountainside. Worse still, he had old Soviet maps, relics from the invasion of Afghanistan in the 22s. But under no circumstances would he abandon the troops. "There is a fate worse than death," he would find out later. “A fate worse than death would be the mistaken killing of one's own comrades. It would also be worse than death to come home unharmed when twenty-two others have fallen by the wayside. ”So on that pitch-black August night, Johnny Bravo began to count. He knew what speed he was flying at and he knew the distance to the mountainside. He did his calculations quickly, then counted aloud the seconds he had until he hit the valley wall. "One thousand, two thousand, three thousand ..." He aimed his gun at a point from which a large number of enemy blasts were being fired and pulled the trigger of his Gatling automatic autocannon. "Four thousand, five thousand, six thousand ..." When he ran out of space, he pulled the stick and made a sharp turn. His engines roared as he plunged back into the clouds to avoid colliding with the mountains. The acceleration of gravity pressed his body into the pilot's seat as he started the next lap. But the radio stayed silent. It was an unbearable silence. Did that mean his bullets had done nothing? Did it mean the operator had been incapacitated? Worse, did it mean the whole squad had been taken out?
Just did the job
Then came the call. »Direct hit! Direct hit! Keep it up! ”And he carried on. He flew a second lap, counting again so as not to hit the mountains. "One thousand, two thousand, three thousand ..." Another sharp turn, and then another passage; another one; and another one; he landed good hits and had plenty of fuel. His problem was that he was running out of ammunition. He steered his plane up through the clouds, back to his escort plane, which was still circling above the clouds. Johnny Bravo quickly told his partner how the situation was downstairs and then just told him, "Follow me." The two A-10s plunged into the clouds, wing to wing, three feet apart. When they emerged from the cloud layer, less than 300 meters above the ground, they launched joint attacks. Johnny Bravo counted, the escort pilot followed him and fired. “One thousand. Two thousand. Three thousand. Four thousand ... ”one cue, and the two planes made turns with extreme acceleration; and they went round and round, again and again. “One thousand. Two thousand. Three thousand. Four thousand. ”That night twenty-two men returned to base. There were no losses on the American side. The Value of Empathy That August night, Johnny Bravo risked his life to give others a chance to survive. He didn't get a bonus payment.
He was not promoted and received no award in front of the assembled troop. He didn't seek undue attention, he didn't need a reality TV show to put his merits in perspective. For Johnny Bravo it was just his "JOB," as he put it. The greatest reward for his service was meeting the people to whom he had provided such excellent air support that night. Although they had never seen each other before, they embraced like old friends when the time finally came. When we work in hierarchical structures, we want the people at the top to see what we have achieved. We stand out to earn recognition and a reward. Most measure their success by the attention they get from the top of the hierarchy. This is a system that only works as long as a certain superior who leads us stays in the company and does not feel excessive pressure from above - but that is precisely what can hardly be avoided in the long term. Johnny Bravo and his ilk are not motivated by top-down recognition to succeed and serve the interests of the organization; they are essential components of a culture that has self-sacrifice and service to the cause and in which protection is offered at all organizational levels. There is something, according to Johnny Bravo, that gives him the courage to venture into the unknown, sometimes knowing that he may not return. It's probably not what you'd expect. As valuable as it was, it's not the field training. Despite all the training he went through, it is not his training either. And as extraordinary as the technical equipment he had at his disposal, his aircraft and sophisticated systems are not either. It's not the technology he has at his disposal, says Johnny Bravo, it's his empathy that enables him to do his job or risk his life for others.
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German edition: ISBN 9783965965584
English version: ISBN 9783965965591 (Translation notice)
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