Everyday leadership: Preparing your organizational lieutenants can pay off

On Aug. 9, my wife, Carol, and I drove to Cleveland where her nephew was getting married. He is a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force. After the wedding we drove with Carol’s brother and his wife to Catawba, Ohio, to catch a ferry to South Bass Island for a few day’s visit in Put-in-Bay.

Put-in Bay is filled with historical artifacts. I have loved history as far as I can remember. When I was in grade school, one of my Christmas presents was a board game with coins of all the U.S. presidents with their dates of office embossed on them. I soon had them all memorized. Later my American History teacher, Donald Delongo, ignited my interest in history by describing the humanity of those remembered by historians. He made them come to life with his enthusiasm.

We took our car across on the ferry but most people traveled around the island on bicycles or golf carts. We visited Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. This year is the bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812 and the centennial of the building of the impressive, tall monument that dominates the north shore of the island.

The Battle of Lake Erie was won by Oliver Hazard Perry with courage, strategy, and the loss of many lives. Hazard made a navy colored battle flag with the words “Don’t Give Up the Ship” inscribed upon it, which was said to inspire the crew.

Perry, who was only 28 years old at the time, fought with more ships but smaller cannons than the British fleet. The British guns could accurately hit their targets at a half-mile and the American guns commanded half that range. Perry had to fight at close quarters to win the day. With intermittent favorable winds, Perry abandoned a damaged ship and maneuvered to a favorable distance with a second ship where he pounded the British vessels.

In the battle that lasted less than three hours, the British losses were 41 dead, 94 wounded, and 306 capture. The Americans lost 27 men and had 96 wounded. One of the main reasons for the American victory was that all of the higher-ranking officers on the British ships were killed or seriously wounded early in the fight. The younger officers were ill-prepared to take command. This is another case of second or third tier leaders not being given adequate training by top leaders who held their skills of strategy and tactics close to their chest. The best leaders develop a deep reservoir of skillful talent in their ranks.

After the battle, Perry sent a message to General and later President William Henry Harrison that said, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” The result was domination of the American fleet of Lake Erie and later the rest of the Great Lakes. The British plans to control the Northwest Territories were thwarted forever. The victory also ensured a peaceful border with Canada for 200 years.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of “The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success,” visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.