Tough Times Demand Tougher Leaders
By Master Sgt. Terrence Krips, The Paul H. Lankford Enlisted Military Education Center
/ Published October 07, 2009
McGhee Tyson ANGB, Tenn. --
These are tough times to be a leader! Just take a look at the front page of any newspaper and you'll see why. Wall Street is a mess! Unemployment is sky-high and rising! Detroit auto makers are about to go bankrupt! The economy is in a recession! Where does it all end? As someone once said, "These are the times that try men's souls!" Words you would expect from a modern day expert commenting on the mess our country is currently in, right? On the contrary, these words were first spoken 233 years ago by the famous pamphleteer, Thomas Paine, author of a more important book entitled Common Sense, whose words inspired the American Revolution and our country's drive for independence from Great Britain.
At the time Thomas Paine uttered his memorable phrase in December of 1776, our country was indeed in dire straights, arguably worse off than we currently are. Heck, we weren't even a country yet! The yoke of British control over its American colonies was strong, and it threatened to strangle a fledgling independence movement that was teetering on the edge of disaster. General George Washington and his rag-tag army of Continentals and militia were near total defeat, suffering in winter quarters north of Philadelphia. Worse yet, Washington knew that most of his small army would dissolve on December 31 as enlistments for many of his veteran troops came to an end. With very little food, ammunition, warm clothes, and morale; it's a wonder that Washington just didn't quit. But he didn't! On the edge of total despair, Washington reached deep into his resolve and decided to attack. That's right, ATTACK! With everything on the line, and with practically no hope of victory, Washington crossed the ice clogged Delaware River and launched a surprise attack against the Hessian outpost at Trenton on Christmas night. Caught totally unaware, the Hessians quickly surrendered. Days later, enthused with a new spirit, Washington directed his forces to attack a small British garrison at the college town of Princeton, N.J. Once again, the Americans were victorious. The impact of these incredible victories was miraculous to the American cause. Thanks to Washington's daring leadership and the fighting spirit of his soldiers, the united colonies would go on to greater victories at such places as Saratoga and Yorktown, and win independence in 1783.
Had General Washington given up in that terrible winter of 1776, where would we be now? The broadsides at the time may have read like the headlines of today, reflecting total despair. Our independence movement mostly likely would have failed, and our history totally different. So today, we can all take solace as leaders in knowing that there have been plenty of Americans who have come before us who had to deal with situations beyond what many of us can imagine, and they survived! As a leader, you may not be able to control many of the current problems plaguing our nation, but you can control how you react to them. We can all take a lesson from General George Washington and his valiant troops on how to handle the tough times ahead!