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In his book “Jack Welch on Leadership” the former Chairman of GE writes:

“Of course sometimes there are good reasons to be down.  The economy is bad, competition is brutal — whatever.  Work can be hard.  But your job as leader is to fight the gravitational pull of negativism.  That doesn’t mean you sugarcoat the challenges your team faces.  It does mean you display an energizing, can-do attitude about overcoming them.” 

Welch and Hal are clearly on the same page.  In The Band of Brothers speech, Hal is faced with just this sort of negativism.  Westmoreland is complaining, lamenting the men they could have had.  Hal acknowledges the challenge and establishes the positive of victory, and does so in an energetic manner. 

As a bit of a sidebar, Welch continues:

“It means you get out of your office and into everyone’s skin, really caring about what they’re doing and how they’re faring as you take the hill together.” 

Obviously, Hal establishes the together part quite well (“band of brothers”) but the part about getting out of the office also resonates.  Remember Hal walking around the camp the night before the big battle.  Leadership by walking around (in a cloak… acting like you are not the king…)


I’ve been re-reading the Band of Brothers speech from Henry V.  In it, Hal rallies a tired and frightened force of English warriors trapped behind French lines and vastly outnumbered.  There is no choice but to fight through to the only port which will allow them to return to England.   The clarity of that desperate situation is mirrored by the powerful clarity of Hal’s persuasive leadership. 

Hal has two points — he is confident of the possibility of victory and victory in the face of such overwhelming odds will mean eternal glory.  The entire speech shows a great leader instilling confidence and promising an enormous carrot to his men.  As much as I would like to offer some brilliant analysis, sometimes the best thing you can do is move aside and let the man move through:

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Notice the use of so many names?  It’s like Hal had been reading his Carnegie.  He involves the lieutenants directly.  And the men too numerous to name are given a clear and enticing vision of the future where they are brothers with the king and where they are accorded honor above all else. 

Notice the evocation of both Christian and Roman gods?  Hal consecrates the action to whatever deity will hold sway with his men.  It is a saint’s day (although it is the 15th century, they were pretty much all saint’s days right) and Hal uses that to create a vision of a sacred holiday, a future where their goal has already been achieved, and he and his men are legends.  Hal’s shared vision is beyond compelling.  Like the great leader he is, he clearly articulates his vision, aligns his men to that vision, and evokes a powerful sense of shared purpose.