Today is Independence Day in Israel, and I want to share a short story on leadership. It is a story my dad told me many years ago.
My father served during and after the War of Independence under the direct command of General Sadeh, by then a highly acclaimed military officer. Following the war there was a major military exercise, and, as army exercises go, there was a recess for lunch. A temporary camp was set up; large tables were set with big vessels containing food. Soldiers queued up, mess-tin ready in their hands, and, when reached the large tables, those on duty served them.
Military Mess-tin. Credit goes to Collectors and Collections Forum in Tapuz (Hebrew)
Nearby another table was set up: chairs on either sides of the table, soldiers on duty serving the people sitting at the table. These were the officers, in charge of the exercise.
And then the command car arrived. General Sadeh, along with the rest of the people in the command car got out of the vehicle, and went, mess-tin in hand, to queue with the rest of the soldiers.
Needless to say that the rest of the officers, the ones being waited by other soldiers, did not know where to hide.
To this day I recall the sense of awe when my father told me the story. Not the kind associated with fear, rather with respect and trust.
General Sadeh did not stay with the army much longer afterwards. The story goes back to 1948, and Sadeh left the army in 1949, possibly due to some kind of political disagreement. He remained a much respected leader until and after his death in 1952.
There are many kinds of leadership, matching various conditions. It is often said that in the military a coercive, command-and-control is typically more suitable. Here’s one example of a leader that combined many styles of leadership, at times counter-intuitive, and yet has won the trust and respect of many, with unquestionable achievements. No doubt his opponents had much contribution to his retirement from the army service. Maybe even to his early demise. His legacy as a leader remains long after some of them.
This story tells me that it is not enough to sit at the officer’s table to become a respected leader. Sometimes, the opposite is true.