Being on the Front Line

Ernest (Ernie) Pyle was born on a farm but hated farming.  Although neither of his parents went beyond the eighth grade, Ernie loved the written word and wanted to become a journalist.  But while working as a journalist on his college paper and the local city paper, he discovered that he hated being at a desk.  He was a story teller and needed to be at the scene of his stories.

One of Pyle’s first ventures in story telling was a column he wrote on aviation, which was syndicated nationwide.  Later, Pyle wrote stories about places and people he met.  These were human interest stories that were popular throughout the nation.

Pyle is best known for his stories of battles during World War II.  He was a journalist who went with front line soldiers during campaigns in North Africa, Italy, and the Normandy landings.  He told the stories of soldiers from a human perspective because he was with them.  He was one of 28 journalists who participated in the D-Day invasion landing on Omaha Beach.  Pyle also covered the war in the Pacific and was on the front lines during the Battle of Okinawa.  He was killed during the clearing of Okinawa.  He was buried wearing his helmet between two other soldiers.  His remains were later removed and interred at the National Memorial Cemetery in Oahu, Hawaii.

Ernie Pyle was a great journalist because he was at the front line where the action was.  No matter what profession we choose, we can’t be great at what we do unless we regularly spend time on the front line.  You can’t really lead unless you know what it’s like to do the jobs of those you are leading.

Academic deans need to teach.  Distribution managers need to process packages.  Hospital executives need to be with patients throughout the treatment process.  Consultants need to spend time with the people whose lives their recommendations may affect.  Being on the front line takes time, but think about anything you can do that is more valuable for gaining real insights about the work of an organization.  The stories and images from being on the front line will stay with you for a lifetime.  Can you say the same thing about a meeting you attended?

Being on the front line also creates trust and respect from those who are critical to the organization.  General Eisenhower commented on the death of Ernie Pyle:  “The GIs in Europe—and that means all of us—have lost one of our best and most understanding friends.”

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“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur.  You take the front line when there is

danger.  Then people will appreciate your leadership.”  – Nelson Mandela

Note:  Please do a search for The Death of Captain Waskow and read it.  This is story telling at its best.

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