Lean into a Crisis Rather Than Retreat

Late in the afternoon on July 2, 1863, when the 20th Infantry Regiment of Maine was out of ammunition, exhausted, and nearly defeated, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, the newly appointed regimental commander, ordered a bayonet charge down the steep slopes of Little Round Top just south of Gettysburg Pennsylvania against a much superior force. His courage, audacity, and leadership preserved the Union’s flank at the Battle of Gettysburg, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. Joshua Chamberlain, a college professor at Bowdoin College in Maine, later received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his leadership on that hot, muggy afternoon.

In times of crisis, challenge, and change, I often look into my portfolio of mentors and role models for inspiration and guidance. The current times in which we find ourselves warrant such considerations. “What would Chamberlain do?” I ask myself. Well, he would embrace the situation and work tirelessly to ensure the success of his mission and remain faithful to his values. I believe he would lead towards the situation, not away from it, to achieve his vision.

Between the COVID-19 pandemic, societal unrest, global uncertainty, and the looming financial crisis, I doubt any of us have faced a time of more significant turmoil and tests of our leadership. For me, it has been a period of reflection and consideration of the lessons learned so that we do the right things, personally and organizationally. A new normal is emerging for us all, and few truly understand what that will look like in the next six to 12 months. The best we can do, however, is lean towards the situation, learn from what has happened, and anticipate what might come so that we can lead our teams, business units, and organizations to the best of our abilities and honor the commitments we have made to each other and our partners. Joshua Chamberlain, and others like him, would expect nothing less.