The Downside of Leadership

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

  • Hebrews 13:7-8

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

  • Matthew 23:8-12

“Word had circulated around the company that the Germans had  never searched Rose’s body. Apparently they didn’t know they’d just killed the highest-ranking American to die by enemy fire in the European theater—and a father.
“A correspondent for the New York Sun remembered Rose’s briefing for reporters before the record-breaking drive to Paderborn:  ‘This thing is almost over now,’ one of us had said. ‘When it is, what are you going to do?’  ‘l have a son,’ the general had said. ‘He’s four years old now,  and I don’t know him. We’re going to get acquainted, and that’s going to take a lot of time.’
“Now his son, Mike, was fatherless, and so was Spearhead.
“Beyond the sorrow that was sapping the division’s morale, Rose’s death was proof of Clarence’s worst fear: It’s just a matter of time.
“No one was untouchable.
“Found often at the forefront of the action, Rose had been the exception to the rule. He was the glimmer of hope for Clarence and any man who repeatedly faced the enemy.  No matter how tight the scrapes were, if Rose always landed on his feet, so could any GI. But that belief died when they laid the general’s body on the dining-room table in Hamborn Castle.
“That’s what leading got him.
“That’s what it got Paul Faircloth as he ran toward the wounded men at Mons.
“Or Charlie Rose, killed at Hedrée a week and a half after his son  was born.
“Or Bill Hey, who hit a mine at Grand-Sart but didn’t turn back.
“Or Robert Bower, the ‘college kid’ with a chess set in his bag at Blatzheim.
“Or Karl Kellner, the former grocery clerk who fell within sight of a cathedral.
“Leading had gotten them all killed.
“And come dawn tomorrow, Clarence would be leading again. The men had been briefed, the tanks had been fueled and racked with ammo. The Pershing would lead a task force against SS Panzerbrigade Westfalen in Spearhead’s last major fight of the war, and surely the enemy would target the tank out in front of the others, the one with the biggest gun. …
“There in the darkness, Clarence searched for the answer to the riddle of the American tanker:
“Why would any man saddle up for this?”

  • Adam Makos, Spearhead

Clarence Smoyer, now known as the “hero of Cologne,” is at this writing the last surviving member of E Company, 32nd AR, 3rd Armored Division, Spearhead.  But within the Spearhead Division, there was always that lead tank.  And Earley’s tank, with Clarence as the gunner, was blown out from under them and they needed a new tank.  That’s when the Pershing tank reached the front lines of Europe, and Clarence was its first gunner.  They soon learned that the old Sherman tanks would not survive as the lead tank, so they placed the Pershing up front.  And everybody knew that the German’s plan was to blow up the first tank in the line and then the rest would have to leave the road to get around the disabled one.  As Makos states, it was just a matter of time, but Clarence Smoyer beat the odds.  And although Clarence Smoyer received the Bronze Star in recent years, he never thought he was the hero of Cologne.  Jim Bates won acclaim, including a bronze star, for filming the one-on-one tank battle around the Cologne Cathedral between Earley’s Pershing and the Panzer commanded by Wilhelm Bartelborth.  At the crucial moment, Bartelborth hesitated, having never seen a Pershing tank, he thought it was a German tank.  That hesitation gave Clarence the time to fire first, but also in the firefight, a grocery store owner and his employee, Kathi Esser tried to escape the horrors of war.  Both sides, Germans and Americans, including Clarence, opened fire.  Once they realized that the passenger wasn’t a General escaping harm’s way, the medics ran to try to save Kathi Esser, to no avail.  Makos’ book ends with the “Final Battle,” the battle with PTSD after Clarence returned home and his ultimate victory and friendship with one of the surviving German tankers on that same street in Cologne, but that was when they were much older.

In Vietnam, snipers looked for people who were saluted.  They looked for people with shiny bars on their collar.  They looked for anything that gave them an idea who was in charge.  To kill them left everyone else wondering who was in charge.  Communication broke down.  Thus, the officers started removing their insignia and telling everyone to not salute them where a sniper might see.

I was taught when going on patrol to not be the “leader.”  The leader was supposed to be near the middle but not in the middle, usually forward of the middle by a couple, whatever position is best for the individual to see what is going on and then redirect the others as needed – once the bullets start to fly.  The foot soldier who was first in line was “on point.”  Chances are, the enemy would shoot him first, but you put the guy who had greater perception, who could spot the enemy before they were injured.

In the case of E company, they found the Pershing tank to be more resilient with better fire power.  In their first encounter, they put the Pershing in the middle of the other tanks, and it did not go well.

But as the leader, you were the first target.

Jesus said for us to be the leader we must serve.  Jesus never said for how long we would serve because we should continue to serve others as long as we are able.  A couple of those in Smoyer’s list of people who had lead and died served far past what would have been “reasonable.”

When Jesus requires all of us to take up our cross and follow Him, being the leader might seem like what Smoyer recollected with his military leaders as taking that leadership thing too far.  For those who take up their cross are giving their entire lives to Christ Jesus.  Jesus said that we must be willing to give up our lives to gain our life.

Yes, there is a downside to leadership.  As Smoyer thought about it, leading got people killed.  But as Paul said, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

You have weighed the options.  It is now time to lead.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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