A player of solitaire affectionately known as “Uncle John,” he was so well respected by his own troops that beginning on the night before the battle, they marched an uncommon thirty-four miles in nineteen hours. It was no easy accomplishment for many soldiers in either army to carry fifty-pound packs for such a distance. During the march, bands were playing and a chorus of some ten thousand voices sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic. “Whoever was responsible for it,” said one soldier, “it was certainly a happy inspiration and helped the men wonderfully.” Grown men felt inspired with the emotional footing of patriotic music and song to quicken their pace toward the days ahead. Sedgwick was the type of leader to provide the right environment for soldiers to do such things.
When Sedgwick arrived at Gettysburg, he was ordered to turn his men over to other units. He simply parceled out groups of men who were needed to support other commanders. Eventually he was a general in command of nothing more than his orderlies.
Sedgwick did not go down in history for any notable defeat of the enemy, it was not his destiny. He did not make any moves to advantage his position above his peers, it was not his inclination. He did not show extraordinary valor, it was not his circumstance. By performing simple administrative duties he made it possible for his fellow commanders to perform for maximum results. Sedgwick was the ideal team player – unglamorous and unnoticed – and his team won.
Be a team player.
When you perform activities that are not part of your job description, as Sedgwick did, it may be to test your ability to perform other tasks. Perhaps you were chosen because your past performance impressed someone with your capabilities. Complete the most seemingly unimportant activity to the best of your ability, and you will influence your employer, your association, or your group toward goals everyone shares. The team succeeds partly because of what you do to influence the outcome.
Expect to do the unexpected.
Sedgwick was called upon to perform tasks that were contrary to what are typically required of generals. At Gettysburg he had to forego what he was trained to do in order to provide another service that benefited the entire team. If you become the owner of your own company, expect to perform every task at some point, including sweeping the floor. Even though you graduate at the top of your class, expect to start at the bottom rung of the organizational ladder.
Create a productive atmosphere.
Many companies provide background music, specific color schemes and lighting in the work environment. Some even include flexible working hours, or provide the option to perform some or all their duties from remote locations. The purpose is to provide a pleasant working atmosphere that influences productivity, increases the overall cohesiveness of the working group, and ultimately amplifies the probability of attaining goals. Sedgwick was not one to discourage his men from having simple pleasures if he thought it would influence their morale and performance.
Copyright 2013 Paul Lloyd Hemphill
Gettysburg Lessons and Gettysburg Leadership