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This week saw the 72nd anniversary of Operation Overlord, which is known to most by its more famous name -- D-DAY.
On June 6, 1944, the Allies launched their long-anticipated assault on Nazi-occupied Europe. Operation Overlord was the largest amphibious landing in history. More than 150,000 troops supported by nearly 25,000 paratroopers, waded ashore on five beaches on the French coast of Normandy.
The massive attack was not without its setbacks. Short term goals were not all met. Everything took longer than expected. The weather was no help at all and the cost in blood was horrific. The Allies lost more than 4,000 soldiers, and another 6,000 were wounded, while Germany lost 1,000. Yet it was the beginning of the end for Nazis. From that tiny toehold, the Allied forces began the steady march toward Berlin and the end of Europe's nightmare of enslavement by Hitler's Third Reich.
Having said all that, this column is really about leadership rather than history. I believe one could design an entire leadership course based solely on this one great battle, but in lieu of just such a course here are three important leadership lessons from D-Day.
When Seutonious, the Roman historian, explained the downfall and death of Marc Anthony, he blamed a flaw in Anthony's character as much as the strategy of his enemy, Octavian. In his pathology of Anthony's astonishing political and military collapse, the historian of the Caesars employed an intriguing Greek word. Literally translated, eklusis simply means to unstring a bow. Figuratively, however, it implies a loss of focus and the resulting loss of energy.
When a bow is strung, energy is in the bow. Unstrung, it loses all its energy. An unstrung bow is hardly more than a stick with a string attached. The energy is in the tension, in the taught string and the bent bow. Furthermore, a strung bow is ready to be used for its purpose. Unstrung, the bow is unprepared for much of any immediate use. Between the unstrung bow and the launching of the arrow, there is now a missing step of preparation and the restoration of energy.
This "unstringing" process is often a matter of distraction. Living in luxury in the Eastern half of the Roman Empire, indulging himself with Cleopatra, and according to Seutonious, frequently staying drunk, Marc Anthony quite obviously forgot the point. Soft, distracted and unprepared, Anthony, could not hope to defeat the ferociously energetic and obsessively focused enemy, who was to become Caesar Augustus.
As I write this I am sitting on the front porch of our national director's house in Ghana. His name is Rev. Sammy Odarno and he has worked in the Global Servants ministry since 1982. One of my dearest friends, Sammy's home is my home in Ghana and Ghana is home away from home for me. It is early morning and there is a delicious coolness to the air which will be gone all too soon. The raucous morning sounds from the nearby village of Anwomaso are getting louder by the minute. Inside the house, I hear Comfort, Sammy's wife, getting breakfast ready. It will be simple; Nescafé, a boiled egg and and her famous banana bread. Comfort's food is, well, comforting.
In fact, this entire ministry comforts me no end. In Ghana, Global Servants is still called Trinity Foundation, which is the first name under which we incorporated the work here. Here on this compound, just outside the city of Kumasi, we have our headquarters church, the director’s house, a day care center, a K-8 primary school, and House of Grace Ghana, which houses 10 Ghanaian orphan girls. In the countryside scattered all across the north of Ghana are thirty churches. A few more are in Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso.
I try to remember why we made the decisions, why we took each step to get here, but the length and complexity of the journey defy easy analysis. It unfolded more organically than systematically. Sammy and I began with evangelistic campaigns in remote villages. Those led to churches as the new believers requested houses of worship. Most of those churches were the first and remain the only Christian presence in the villages.
Desperate for employment, a depression-era farmer applied at a passing circus. At the circus office door he made an impassioned plea. “I’ll do anything.”
At this the manager’s eyes lit up. “You’re hired,” he fairly shouted, embracing the shocked farmer. “I need a new gorilla. The old one has died, and we cannot afford to import one. We have skinned old Kong out, and I need someone to wear the suit and do the gorilla act.”
All reluctance dissolved at the mention of a sizable salary. Pride gave way to necessity, and the farmer’s new career was launched. As it turned out, the wheat farmer turned ape-man rather enjoyed it. His act was dramatic and crowd pleasing. He would swing out over the lion’s cage on a rope and rain bananas on the enraged beast below. The rope was carefully measured, however, and any actual danger seemed minimal.
At a kiddie matinee in Oklahoma, a miscalculation brought catastrophe, and the farmer in the gorilla suit tumbled into the lion’s cage. The lion leapt upon him immediately, and placing a massive paw on the “gorilla’s” shoulders, he began to roar in his face.
“Help!” the farmer screamed. “Help me! Someone please save me!”
“Shut up you fool!” the lion whispered in his ear. “You’ll get us both fired.”
Unhappily, a great deal of what passes for true Christianity is nothing more than monkey-suit religion. The calamitous condition of the contemporary church is that she has a pretty fair idea of what a Christian looks like. Granted, the view may be informed by local or cultural differences, but the fact remains that a portrait of a proper “Christian” has achieved something of a universal consensus. The
This week's Leaders' Notebook is something of a departure. It is actually more of a historical/cultural commentary than a leadership piece. I wrote this article for publication elsewhere but it will be a while before it comes out, so I thought I would let you get a chance to read it first.
It is difficult to separate tradition from history with regard to the various waves of persecution endured by Christians under the Roman Empire. The numbers of Christians crucified and thrown to wild beasts may be exaggerated, as some maintain. Perhaps. That this happened in some numbers is undeniable. The first emperor to launch an official state-