Before the Civil War this humanitarian did much to help the Mormons of Utah avoid violent confrontations with the US government. He never became a Mormon, but affection for him resulted in a statue of his likeness as one of only two to be displayed today in the state house in Salt Lake City.
Like his Southern counterpart, Johnston Pettigrew, he was one of the most cultured and educated men of his time. The son of a federal judge in Philadelphia, Kane learned the law from his father after a period of study in Paris. Subsequent to accepting a federal job as a US commissioner, he resigned his position in protest, refusing to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act that required federal officials to return fugitive slaves to their owners. His own father had him arrested and thrown in jail for contempt. Eventually freed, he dedicated much of his time to helping slaves escape on the Underground Railroad.
When the war started, he recruited hearty men from the backwoods of Pennsylvania. Contrary to the gruff image of an officer, he never hesitated to use an umbrella for shade while drilling them. A free thinker not given to following standard military rules, he insisted on the uncommon and unrequired activity of target practice to develop sharpshooters of his men. He would later name his unit the “Bucktails,” because they wore part of a deer’s tail on their caps.
Having been shot in the face and leg in prior battles, and severely bruised by a rifle butt to the chest, he was ill enough to finally leave the army. Yet when he learned there was going to be a major engagement in his home State, he struggled from his sickbed, disguised himself as a citizen to avoid capture, and ventured back to his old command. Courage left him completely resistant to rest and recuperation.
When he arrived in Gettysburg in an ambulance wagon at 6 a.m. on July 2, he became sick with pneumonia. He soon realized he could not command and must step aside. He could have withdrawn to the protective shelter of a field hospital, but when the bullets started flying he kept his head down and stayed ready to offer advice to the officer in charge.
Kane suffered with his diminished physical capacity, but his good sense gave dignity and honor to the word “advisor,” not to mention that he was giving courage its finest exhibit. Most importantly, he defined a “hero” as someone who ought to do the right thing in the face of extraordinary adversity. Out of necessity and with grace, he gave up his authority that day while becoming his country’s ideal American, Citizen Kane.
Get out of the way.
Take yourself out of the lead position if you become a hindrance to the success of the team. To remain an asset and functional, get out of the way and allow others to tap into their own experiences and knowledge. Like Kane, assign authority to someone else if you do not want to lose involvement. Effective managing is directing others to do what you are unable to do. To lead is to trust individuals or teammates to use their talents for their benefit and yours. As a contemporary equivalent of Kane, Lee Iacocca once remarked, “I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.”
Copyright © 2011 Paul Lloyd Hemphill
The Definition Of Leadership