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Gettysburg Lessons

Byrd Baggett

May 2016

"This is the last you may ever hear from me.
I have time to tell you that I died like a man.
Bear my loss as best you can.
Remember that I am true to my country
and my greatest regret at dying is that she is still not free
and that you and your sisters are robbed of my youth.
I hope this will reach you
and you must not regret that my body cannot be obtained.
It is a mere matter of form anyhow.
This letter is stained with my blood."
– A dying Confederate Soldier's last words to his mother, Friday, July 3rd, 1863

When I sat down to write this month's newsletter, I was reflecting on the impact of our True Growth Academy that we host in Gettysburg, PA. It's been less than a week since the May session, when our team and 28 client leaders gathered to explore the transformational power of authenticity. I still get emotional when I think of the ultimate sacrifice that was paid by eight thousand men at the Battle of Gettysburg. Of those casualties, more than 3,000 were Union Soldiers fighting for the rights and freedom of slaves as well as the unity of our Nation, and almost 5,000 were Confederate Soldiers fighting to sustain their way of life. Even though people will continue to debate which side was most honorable, no one will disagree that these men were committed to a cause greater than self. For me, a proud Texan, I am grateful for the way the Civil War ended, as the outcome preserved our country and is why we are blessed to be living in the United States of America.

We always end the True Growth experience on Thursday with a tour of the battlefield – the purpose of which is to study the various leaders and how they led, both successfully and unsuccessfully, during the three days of battle. Our guide for the day is Len Fullenkamp, an imminent expert on the Battle of Gettysburg. During the eight stops, Len brings to life the respective battle, insights into the lives of the key leaders and the impact that their leadership styles had on the outcome. Len does a masterful job of aligning his message to bring to reality the impact of both authentic and inauthentic leadership, as the purpose of the True Growth experience is to help our clients embrace the transformational power of authenticity to improve themselves and the lives they touch. After Len's narration, the 28 leaders break into groups with one of our coaches to discuss lessons learned from Len's analysis. Most importantly, our coaches encourage their group of 4-5 leaders to apply one of the lessons learned that will help them become more authentic in their leadership roles both at home and work. Following are the group's takeaways from the May 2016 True Growth Experience:

  • Surprised as to the leadership relativity/lessons learned from the ‘Battle' and how they apply today.
  • Thoughtful, thought provoking, reflective opportunity to learn lessons on this battlefield, that not only help us to understand our nation and government but give us leadership lessons from then that apply to today.  Also, personal appreciation of what my ancestors did for our country.
  • Conceptually, it was a top down, bottom up way to look at leadership and apply it to our lives.
  • Great focus on leadership.
  • Everyone learns one's own life lessons from someone else or your own experiences.  It was a great application of what we learned in class.
  • The reality/importance of dealing with uncertainty.
  • The realization that decisions have to be made even when you don't have ‘all' the information needed.
  • The importance for leaders to be flexible, willing to change plans/adapting.
  • Surprised as to the leadership relativity/lessons learned from the ‘Battle' and how they apply today.
  • Leadership challenges don't always come when you're ready for them.  Expect the unexpected.
  • Not all leaders are the ones in charge.  Subordinates are leaders too and can make a difference at critical times.
  • A leader has to know himself/herself and other leaders too if they, as a team, are going to achieve success.
  • Small decisions make big waves (ripple effect).  Said another way, "Tactical decisions can have strategic consequences."
  • Leaders discussed the importance of being there for their people especially when confusion, rapid changing situations were occurring.
  • We had some dialogue about delegating and motivating – how to transfer their passion and emotion.
The last stop on the battlefield tour is the cemetery where Abraham Lincoln gave his inspirational Gettysburg Address. When I reflect on the time we spent on that hallowed ground, words will never be enough to express my gratitude for the dead, wounded and missing American soldiers who, 153 years ago, willingly sacrificed their lives and futures for a cause greater than self. I, as one who never had the privilege of serving in the military, am so thankful for all the men and women wo made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms that I too often take for granted. My hope and prayer is that we never forget the debt we owe these true heroes - their sacrifices saved our great Nation.

Class of May 2016

True Growth Takeaway: Never forget why America is "the land of the free and home of the brave."

True Growth Journal Question: List three blessings of being an American.

About the author: Byrd Baggett has been helping organizations develop authentic leaders and passionately engaged teams since 1990. He is a Member of LWM III Consulting LLC and the creator of the True Growth brand. Byrd is the author of 15 books on the topics of sales, customer service, leadership and motivation. A former All American sprinter at the University of Texas at Austin, Byrd is also a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), the highest earned designation presented by the National Speakers Association.

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