Embodiments of leadership

7 Apr

A common business bromide is “Management is doing what’s right. Leadership is doing the right thing.” Its embodiment is a 2003 Wall Street Journal article, “For Lt. Withers, Act of Mercy Has Unexpected Sequel: U.S. Officer Broke the Rules To Let His Men Take In Young Dachau Survivor.” For Lt. John Withers, doing what’s right as a manager — the safe route — would have been to turn in Martin “Peewee” Weigen, né Mieczyslaw Wajgenszperg. Withers chose to do the right thing, help him, despite the risk it presented to his own future.

Withers and his men demonstrated compassion for Peewee and another Holocaust refugee, Salomon. As Withers puts it, “I think I identified with them very strongly and instantaneously,” referring to his own background as a black American in the South.

Bryan Gruley’s article demonstrates something beyond the beauty of the compassion itself: the economic impact of compassion. Withers’ compassion led to Wiegen’s emigration to the U.S., where he ran businesses and raised children who then went on to run businesses themselves. Generosity and compassion for others make us a better nation morally, socially and economically.

Col. Joe Dowdy, like Lt. Withers, also embodies leadership in practice, not just principle. Unfortunately for Dowdy, things were not so fortituous for him. As detailed in another Wall Street Journal article, How a Marine Lost His Command in Race to Baghdad, Dowdy is a consummate servant-leader who put his men before the mission, and paid dearly for it.

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