I suppose there are several definitions of leadership and as many sets of recommendations whether which “leader” you talk to. I suppose a platoon leader, a political leader, a tech industry team leader won’t have the same perception of leadership since the stakes are not exactly the same. Still, Major Richard Winters‘ vision of leadership seems worth spreading.

Richard “Dick” Winters was not a career soldier. He enlisted in the Army in the Summer of 1941, shortly after graduated from a business college where he had completed his studies with a high academic standing. In April 1942, he was selected to attend Officer Candidate School and graduated a second lieutenant in July 1942. He decided to join the parachute infantry and that’s how he arrived with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment PIR. This was an experiemntal unit, the first to undertake airborne training as a formed unit. During that time, Winters went from second to first lieutenant. In 1943, the 506th was attached to the 101st Airborne Division and sailed to England where they continued training for the Normandy invasion. Winters, at that point, was first platoon’s leader in Easy Company. Winters had already gained the respect of the men of the Company during training but his commanding skills would be discovered in action.

Then, D-Day came. Easy Company’s commander died when his plane got hit. On June 6th, Winrters was asked to lead an attack on a German battery which was firing on the causeways that served as the pincipal exists from Utah Beach. This action is known as the Brecourt Manor Assualt, a great success over a full german platoon by a team of 13 men. The manoeeuver led by Winters that day is still taught at West Point. When returning to his company, Winters learned he now was Easy’s commander.A few weeks later, he was promoted to captain.

During Operation Market Garden, Winters led another successful surprised attack on a force of at least 300 men after which he became battalion XO. The 101st Airborne fought in the Bulges (it’s the 101st commander who replied “Nuts” to the German’s offer to surrender) and Winters, as battalion XO, held the position overlooking Foy and finally led the attack on that village in the Winter of 44-45. After the Bulges, he was promoted to Major.

Major Dick Winters’ story and contribution to World War II is well known as Easy Comapny is the center of the HBO mini series Band of Brothers and the book of the same name by Steve Ambrose. Winters also wrote a book which he concludes by his insight on leadership. He explains one of the last things Steve Ambrose had told him was “From now on, Winters, if you talk about anything, talk about leadership”. Richard Winters, born in January 1918, died on January 2nd 2011.

  1. Strive to be a leader of character, competence, and courage
  2. Lead from the front. Say “Follow me!” and then lead the way.
  3. Stay in top physical shape – physical stamina is the root of mental toughness
  4. Develop your team. If you know your people, are fair in setting realistic goals and expectations, and lead by example, you will develop teamwork
  5. Delegate responsibility to your subordinates and let them do their jobs. You can’t do a good job if you don’t have a chance to use your imagination or your creativity.
  6. Anticipate problems and prepare to overcome obstacles. Don’t wait until you get to the top of the ridge and then make up your mind.
  7. Remain humble. Don’t worry about who receives the credit. Never let power or authority go to your head.
  8. Take a moment of self-reflection. Look at yourself in the mirror every night and ask yourself if you did your best.
  9. True satisfaction comes from getting the job done. The key to a successful leader is to earn respect – not because of rank or position, but because you are a leader of character.
  10. Hang tough! – Never, ever, give up.

Excerpt from Beyond Band of Brothers by Major Richard Winters and Colonel Cole C. Kingseed

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2 Comments to "Leadership by Major Dick Winters"

  1. Trackback on Samantha Halfon on February 20, 2011 at 8:01 am

    New blog post: Leadership by Major Dick Winters:
    I suppose there are several definitions of leadership and as m… http://bit.ly/g3E6Sv

  2. Comment by Fliey on March 14, 2012 at 9:16 pm Reply

    Inspiration of inspiration!

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  • About Me

    photo of Samantha Halfon Samantha Halfon
    Software Engineer
    blueKiwi software
    Paris, France
    I enjoy playing with my computer(s), listening to Bob Dylan (and related artists) and watching movies (especially if they were directed by Martin Scorsese or John Cassavetes). Sometimes, I play a little guitar... If not doing any of the above, I am either riding a small red bike around Paris, or, making videos. About my videomaking please check out World Wide Angle and its blog.