Trench Leadership

Close to a battlefield over 200 years ago, a man in civilian clothes rode upon a small group of exhausted, battle-weary soldiers digging an obviously important defensive position.  The section leader, making no effort to help, was shouting orders and threatening punishment if the work was not completed within the hour.

“What are you doing?” asked the stranger on horseback.  “I am in charge of leading these men.  We must fortify this position — the orders came directly from the top!” said the section leader.

“So, why aren’t you helping them?” inquired the rider.  “I’m the ranking officer here — these are my men,” the officer shot back indignantly, adding, “You can help them yourself if you feel so strongly about it!”

To his great surprise, the stranger dismounted his horse, removed his jacket, jumped into the trench along with the other men, and helped until the job was finished.

Before the stranger climbed out of the trench, he walked down the line to congratulate each of the men for their success, thanked them for their hard work, and then approached the section leader, “You should notify higher command the next time your rank prevents you from supporting your men, and I will happily provide a more permanent solution.”

As the officer began to mutter a snappy retort, he found himself standing face to face with the stranger – who turned out to be General George Washington.  Today, we know him as the Founding Father and First President of America.

Often, it is the abundance of trench leadership that makes an organization stand out.  For blessed are such institutions that are brimming with hands-on bosses.  Wherever the mid-managers “dig-in” and work shoulder to shoulder alongside their teams, fortification in tough times is a natural outcome.

Adapted, Hands-on, Leader


  1. Great writing style, getting better with time like old wine

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Trench Leadership