My guess is that most of us have not heard of Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery. I want to introduce you to him today even though he died back in 1976.
Bernard Montgomery led and fought in World War I and World War II. In fact, he fought in about ten other wars and scores of battles within those wars. His list of military involvements and achievements on behalf of Great Britain is simply amazing. In the London exhibit of his military record, he is referred to as “Monty: Master of the Battlefield.”
I am sure that there were many traits that made him the great military leader that history now records him to be. But he held one singular trait that likely propelled him to levels of success that he would not have otherwise enjoyed. (By the way, if you choose to do some research, you will also discover that he had plenty of traits that we probably wouldn’t celebrate—but we are focusing on the positives here!)
To put it simply, Monty “GOT” the vision thing. There was no one like Monty who could help the soldiers on the field connect the battle that they were about to fight with the big-picture vision of where all this was going and WHY it was so important. Though he did this verbally many times, one quote that he wrote captures this well. It can be found from multiple sources, including the book Combat Motivation: The Behaviour of Soldiers in Battle:
Every single soldier must know,
before he goes into battle,
how the little battle he is to fight
fits in to the larger picture,
and how success of his fighting
will influence the battle as a whole.
Monty’s military career spanned many wars, but these lessons were learned—and learned the hard way—in World War I. He knew firsthand what it was like to pursue a vision and face incredible hardship along the way. He sustained significant pain and injuries during that war. During one battle he nearly died when serving in France and a sniper’s rifle bullet pierced his lung. After he recovered, he went back into battle and was again wounded when two rounds shattered his knee.
It was under these circumstances that the power of vision was tested. It was through pain that he came to realize that “every single soldier must know, before he goes into battle, how the little battle he is to fight fits in to the larger picture, and how success of his fighting will influence the battle as a whole.”
What is the larger picture vision that you are pursuing? What wounds and pain have you experienced as a leader in pursuing that vision? How clear are you on the WHY of that vision? The truth is, the greater the difficulty in seeing a vision realized, the bigger that vision is, the more pain that has to be endured to see it accomplished, THE MORE IMPORTANT IT IS to see even the little tasks and battles of each day in the context of a clear and compelling vision. And as Monty put it, you need to know that before you even go into battle.
As a leader, it is your primary responsibility to keep that vision before your team AND to connect even the small tasks of the day and week to that vision. There will be challenges and difficulties. Your team needs you to KEEP CONNECTING these things for them (as well as for yourself).