Byron's Babbles

Leading With A Constant Presence

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Presence by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on July 2, 2022
General William Tecumseh Sherman by L.M. and Max Rosenthal

In his memoirs, General Ulysses S. Grant told us that Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman’s constant presence is what made his troops so successful even with troops that had no previous battle experience or even been shot at. His army was largely made of volunteers and not professional solders like himself. So he drilled, trained and led right along side them to develop them into a formidable fighting force. Notice I said develop. In doing more studying on this I found that he developed his men through challenge, and by remaining available nearby as their coach. He was using what we today would call scenario and case study facilitation.

I loved learning about this from General Grant’s own words. Additionally I found more information about General Sherman in Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman, by Robert O’Connell. O’Connell said, “…the variety of missions they would undertake precluded turning them into any one thing. So he became a guiding hand, presenting them with a series of challenges and basically letting them figure out how to meet them. Yet he never lost contact; he was always among them, completely approachable.” Here is the man that would perfect the “scorched earth” tactic being described as “completely approachable.” I love it!

In 1862, Sherman was modeling acting as a guide or coach to support the problem solving activities of those he served, rather than giving commands and answers. That was truly radical for the time and I have encountered or worked for very few who truly practice this. In fact during my career I have had one principal and one superintendent that I would put in the great category related to the topics being discussed here. General Sherman believed in giving respect, autonomy, and the chance to grow to all he served. Sherman said, “Every soldier of my command comes into my presence as easy as the highest officer…. They see me daily, nightly, hourly.” Wow, a constant presence – let’s all keep working on that!

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