Good Leaders Articulate The Vision; Great Leaders Inspire Others To Manifest The Vision

“Sir, so you’re really going to do this?” typified the response General Robert VanAntwerp recalled from the front-line soldiers when they learned that their commanding officers scheduled themselves into a shift rotation to help complete the cold, dirty work that was being performed in the middle of the night in the Saudi desert, after Desert Storm. VanAntwerp later shared with me that this single experience was among his most important lessons in leadership and the process of getting others to manifest the leader’s Vision.

“That was very interesting, because you had a bucket loader operator telling the battalion commander what to do, how to clean the vehicle.” General Robert VanAntwerp continued, “we went into our shift not knowing what we were doing at all. We went into it knowing that they were the experts. They taught us.”

At the time General VanAntwerp was an Army lieutenant colonel and the commander of the 326th Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, in charge of more than four hundred people (and as many as 650 people earlier in the Desert Storm conflict). VanAntwerp went on to become an Army General and his illustrious career included a period as the Chief Engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers during the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

This wrong-side-up reversal of rank in Saudi desert began as a practical solution to a logistical problem. “We found [soldiers] lying down underneath a bucket loader, sleeping in the mud … we didn’t expect or plan for the fatigue factor.” VanAntwerp’s battalion was responsible for the massive job of cleaning the earth moving equipment and trucks that supported a 50,000 troupe division. Adding pressure to the situation, the work had to be completed in seven days; otherwise his battalion would not be allowed to return to The States on its scheduled departure date, after the war…  (access the article)