By Robert Wilson
On June 29, 1863, a 23 year old First Lieutenant received an unexpected promotion. The freckle faced, strawberry blonde, who graduated at the bottom of his class at West Point, was elevated directly to the rank of Brigadier General in the Union Army. He completely skipped over the traditional ranks in between of Captain, Major, and Colonel. As you can imagine such a promotion was met with skepticism, dismay, and envy by his former peers and superiors. Especially at a time when the South was winning against the North during the American Civil War.
Major General Alfred Pleasonton, who promoted the boy, saw his gamble put to the test just four days later in the Battle of Gettysburg. The young general was put in charge of the Michigan Cavalry and tasked with keeping Confederate General Jeb Stuart from attacking the Union Army’s rear.
Was he up to the task? Could he keep that dubious star on his shoulder that so many wanted removed? Motivated by the desire to prove himself, George Armstrong Custer, his gleaming saber outstretched in front of him, led the cavalry charge and held the Union line. His successful leadership served as a crucial contribution to the battle that was the turning point in the North winning the war.
When leadership is thrust upon us, many of us are motivated to rise to the occasion. Sometimes, however, leadership must rise in a vacuum. What motivates us to become leaders when there are none?
Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert’s programs please visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.