Archer would disclaim two memorable nicknames: “Sally,” for his youthful feminine-like features while a student at Princeton, and “The Little Game Cock,” for his bad temper. Before his first battle he was despised by his own men for being cold and tyrannical. But the temper of combat changed him considerably. After his Tennessee men saw how well he performed in a fight and the courtesies he extended to the lowliest soldier, he became a leader they respected and admired. One of his subordinates commented that he had “wonderful judgment and conduct on the field…”
On the first day of the battle, he was somewhat resistant to his commander’s order to move forward because he saw that support was too far in the rear. Still confident about his men’s ability to thrash the enemy, he forged on but into a surprise enemy advance, which was a virtual ambush. Sick with a fever and physically exhausted, he could not escape fast enough and became the first of three Confederate generals to be captured during the three days. For Archer the war was over.
It was customary for a captured officer to hand over his sword to a capturing officer of equal or higher rank, but on this day his offer was rejected. To add insult to indignity, he was forced to give his sword to an excited private from Wisconsin who simply wanted a trophy. Then Archer came face-to-face with an old acquaintance who was now his adversary. Extending his hand with a smile, the Union commander Abner Doubleday was decidedly amiable: “Archer! I’m glad to see you.” Not in a mood characteristic of a festive reunion, Archer snapped, “I’m not glad to see you by a damn sight!” When victory smiles, defeat growls.
Improve yourself with adversity.
It was not until Archer was faced with deadly situations that he became “human” to the men who detested him. By enduring the same fears as his own men in combat, he was able to relate to them in ways he had never known. Once his subordinates sensed that he understood them and their needs, they gave everything they had. Now he was influencing his men’s behavior in response to his men influencing him with theirs. Archer also proved that you can treat adversity with peers as a personal improvement opportunity.
Keep a sense of humor.
Humor is attitude with latitude, the ability to handle difficult moments with a positive frame of mind. When you look at your situation in a negative light, as Archer did, you will not see the positives. It is worthwhile to associate with people who influence you to be positive and make you laugh. In addition, rent your favorite movie comedy. In short, recharge yourself.
Copyright Paul Lloyd Hemphill 2012
The Definition Of Leadership