Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Cowpens- Excellence in Leadership

Battle of Cowpens - 1781 - Excellence in Leadership!
History, especially military history, provides many examples of effective leadership. Daniel Morgan, a relative unknown by name, is attributed with managing the most tactically creative and effective battle during the American Revolution. (Mel Gibson sort of portrayed him in his movie 'The Patriot'). This, as in many cases, is an example of fact being more interesting then fiction. Daniel Morgan was one of the wilder ones of his time, tough, fighter, business man, etc. - no real military training outside of experience. He was involved in MANY American adventures and battles. What makes him such a good example, especially during the Battle of Cowpens? The basics: Communication, knowing his resources, knowing what he was up against, understanding risk, being brave and leading.

  • He knew the overall Strategy of the American side: Don't be destroyed, fight only when you have a high probability of winning.
  • He knew the local strategy: Make them come after you, stretching out their communication and supply lines - wear them out.
  • He knew his men: The militia could/would not stand up to a determined British attack.
  • He knew his opponent: AGGRESSIVE!
He was able to formulate a plan, that took weeks (or months) prior to the actual battle, he was patient and focused on the goal and he instilled faith in his command even when they spent most of the time 'running' (or advancing in the other direction). For a great book on the battle read: A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens. The most important leadership quality of Daniel Morgan was his knowledge of communication: he did not rely on memos, others speaking for him, standing on a stump and talking at the troops - he went from person to person - over and over - and communicated directly with them. He told them what to expect, what they needed to do and what the results would be if they did their job - in person. WOW! What manager can say that - in person - eye to eye. Did it take a lot of effort and time? Yes. Did it take him away from the tent and 'big picture' thinking? Yes. What it did do was reduce risk and increase the probability of succeeding in the area of importance. It's hard to argue with success.

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