by Michael Holland    

Joshua Chamberlain found himself at the Battle of Gettysburg, leading the 20th Maine Regiment on the end of a battle line as they defended a strategic location: Little Round Top.  The Confederates charged again and again and again, decimating Chamberlain’s regiment to just a few soldiers, each with little or no ammunition.  In the face of uncertainty, yet knowing that inaction was the worst possible decision, Chamberlain ordered his men to charge the enemy with bayonets. Though they were outnumbered at least 10 to 1, they overtook the larger force, causing the surrender of hundreds of Confederates as well as sparking their precipitate retreat.  According to some historians, Chamberlain’s decisive action was the turning point in the battle and the war.

Indecision is ultimately a decision.  We can wallow in the uncertainty of leadership without ever fully knowing what the future holds, allowing fear and risk to lull us into inaction and rationalization.  Leadership in its natural form, on the other hand, is taking action to seize an opportunity when fear and risk reveal a cloud of uncertainty for what the future may hold.  Great leaders move forward into this uncertainty to seize the opportunity.

For all you aggressive, overbearing, dominating, take-the-hill-at-all-costs leaders, this does not mean you are right or even good at your role.  You must lead in ways in which employees will follow you.  Your natural energy and leadership bravado allow you to more easily face the abyss of uncertainty and to see the opportunities that await you. Just make sure the opportunity is more than your ego.

For all of you more reserved, cautious, thoughtful, methodical leaders, this does mean that you must decide if you are built to be courageous or if you have to work to muster the energy and soul to be courageous, as Chamberlain did.  Your balanced approach to situations provides tremendous insight and steadies others, but it lacks the call to action and the courage to move forward in spite of the uncertainty. This may cost you the hearts and souls of your employees.

Great leaders find the courage to lead forward in spite of, if not because of, the uncertainty.   Find a way to lead forward in your daily battlefield.

Coaching Thoughts- For You and Your Peers

  • Into which of the two categories of leaders would you place yourself? Why?
  • In the third paragraph, go-getter leaders are cautioned with this advice: “You must lead in ways in which employees will follow you.”
    • What does this mean for more energetic leaders?
    • Can it be applied to more reserved leaders as well? How so?
  • The second paragraph opens with this statement: “Indecision is ultimately a decision.” Is it ever a good, healthy decision? Why or why not?