Last in Line for Reward
American history is filled with examples of leaders who have made personal sacrifices for the good of other people. A primary example is George Washington. He was surrounded by brilliant minds - Franklin, Madison, Jefferson, Adams - but Washington possessed a unique trait. He had the rare ability to earn the trust of people by sharing his vision of a better future. He demonstrated that a great nation would be born if people were willing to follow his lead and, like him, make the necessary sacrifices.
In his own case, Washington put himself in harm's way many times as commander of the army during the Revolutionary War. He used his considerable physical presence to stop a retreat of the American troops at the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. After the war, he put his personal integrity on the line when he took action against the Newburgh conspiracy of military officers who demanded to be paid. He presided over the Constitutional Convention, and then he served as first president of the country. He was a rich man who had already performed many services and could easily have retired to his farm. But he always answered the call -- sometimes with reluctance -- because he knew the result would justify the personal sacrifice.
Lincoln, Gandhi, and King were leaders who made the ultimate sacrifice, losing their lives for the cause of equality. These men faced the constant threat of assassination; yet each understood he had to give up a great deal personally if the people were going to follow and make sacrifices of their own. Indeed, personal sacrifice is the currency of leadership.
As for leaders who haven't understood this concept, we don't have to look too far into the past. Just consider the CEOs who took immense bonuses while their employees were losing their jobs, their benefits, and their homes. These executives failed to see that a leader is someone who is first in the line of duty and last in the line for reward.
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