July 28th, 1918 – Near Breuvannes, France
When his platoon commander and platoon sergeant had both become casualties soon after the beginning of an assault on strongly fortified heights overlooking the Ourcq River, Cpl. Manning took command of his platoon, which was near the center of the attacking line. Though himself severely wounded he led forward the 35 men remaining in the platoon and finally succeeded in gaining a foothold on the enemy’s position, during which time he had received more wounds and all but 7 of his men had fallen. Directing the consolidation of the position, he held off a large body of the enemy only 50 yards away by fire from his automatic rifle. He declined to take cover until his line had been entirely consolidated with the line of the platoon on the front when he dragged himself to shelter, suffering from 9 wounds in all parts of the body.
You aren’t a leader because of your rank, Corporal Manning had none.
You aren’t a leader because you went to school, he only went to basic training. You aren’t a leader because you write a book on leadership. Or because an organization calls you its leader. Or because your daddy was a leader. Or because you aspire to be a leader.
You are a leader when you take people where they would otherwise not go alone.
When the plan falls apart. When the bad news comes. When fear takes hold. When the enemy is advancing. When there is no where to go but the scary, dangerous place. When what needs to get done is dangerous.
Only then will you find out who the leader is. He or she looks you in the eye and says, “I will take you where we need to go.”
That’s a leader.
Accept no imitation.