Stephen Ambrose’s passion for World War II has gifted the world with some of the best books ever written. D-Day, Citizen Soldier, and this one – Band of Brothers. The book follows one company – Easy of the 506th Airborne Infantry – from training in Toccoa, Georgia to the end of the war.
The leadership lessons alone make this book a must have. Major Winters ends up being the hero of the story. His steady influence, example, and leadership made this unit one of the best in the world at the time. My favorite line comes from Winters while he is chewing out another lieutenant for gambling with the men. The young LT can’t see how gambling is all that bad. Winters asks him what would have happened if he’d won. In the silence, Winters reveals his guiding principle of leadership – “Never put yourself in a position to take from these men.”
And Winters doesn’t. He gives, he sacrifices, he leads, he demands the best, he cares for them but he never takes from his men. He’s there to serve them and the mission – a balance that at times gets hard to achieve but he does it.
It’s a value I’ve tried to communicate in ministry. We (leaders, volunteers) exist to serve others, not ourselves. We make decisions based on what is best for the mission and the ones we are called to serve. I’ve been fortunate to never have on my own teams someone who was there more for themselves than the students but I’ve met youth pastors who were. They don’t get it and often times end up doing more damage than good.
Winters did the best that he could to make sure the leaders of the men in the 506th understood that principle.