Winning over the troops
In response to this week's On Leadership question: Last year was a tough one for many organizations, with fewer employees required to do more with less. How can leaders of such organizations motivate their people as they head into 2010?
No leader faced greater adversity, and inspired his troops with greater effectiveness, than King Henry Vth. That's why Winston Churchill modeled some of his greatest War II addresses after Shakespeare's greatest speech, the St. Crispin's Day speech.
This frequently-performed Shakespeare play is not only great drama but great history too. It's the tale of Britain's greatest king, and England's greatest triumph against tremendous odds.
On the morning of the Battle of Agincourt, October 25, 1415, young Henry faced French forces that outnumbered him by more than five to one and that had a cavalry and armor while Henry had neither. Nonetheless, the king motivated his 6,000 exhausted, starving men with two key elements of motivation: He bound them together as a group -- "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers" -- and then attached a higher cause, a nobler mission, to their efforts.
Along the way, Henry painted a picture of victory by bringing the future into the present. He turned his greatest liability -- too few troops -- into a great asset, arguing that if more men were present, they'd only have to share the glory wider. Those "now abed in England," on this historic day, would forevermore regret they were not there, with them, in Agincourt.
Henry praised his top staff by name. He overcame objections raised by his troops the night before, when he practiced an early version of "walk-around management." He offered anyone doubting the mission a way out, even saying he would give such (cowardly or unwise) men cash and a passport.
He implied great incentives after their victory, by turning these commoners into real gentlemen with land and title. He transformed his noisiest and disruptive doubter into a vociferous supporter.
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