Great leaders through history had a plan

In June of 2011, Carol and I flew to Boston to see our daughter, son-in-law and grandson, Soren, who live in Arlington, Massachusetts. In our travels between play parks, the Little Gym and various restaurants, we saw signs for Lexington. I suggested we detour to see the famous sight.

We followed the signs and arrived at a small, triangular, grassy field with a monument at one end. This monument, completed in 1799, is the oldest war memorial in the country. It honors the first battle of the Revolutionary War fought on April 19, 1775 and the “shot heard round the world.” The first eight militiamen killed are buried here.

This field is momentous in the history of the United States. The British under General Gage got word that the colonists were stockpiling weapons in Concord, Massachusetts and sent a detachment of 700 regular soldiers to seize the guns and ammunition and the rebel leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock.

However, the Americans in anticipation of British actions had developed a sophisticated warning system. With advanced notice that the British were marching, Paul Revere, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott rode on their famous midnight ride and were successful in warning patriots from Boston to Concord.

At daybreak, the British reached Lexington and were confronted by 75 militiamen. Greatly outnumbered, the militiamen lost eight of their number and retreated to Concord.

At Concord, the locals had moved the weapons and supplies and were ready for the British. About 500 militiamen with more arriving by the minute fought and defeated the British who began a systematic retreat. With militiamen on both sides the British were harassed all the way back to Boston. In all, 73 British soldiers and 49 patriots were killed. This whole series of events resulted in the Siege of Boston by various militiamen and the initiation of the Revolutionary War.

In those days, the British Empire was by far the most powerful force in the world. Few believed that a group of farmers and shopkeepers could contest and even defeat such a military.

As time passed and the American-British conflicts grew and festered, groups of local folks across the colonies made plans, enlisted spies, and gathered arms in a variety of places. There was a great deal of planning and coordination that enabled the militiamen to eventually win. Their success was no accident.

I believe this thoughtful planning is a characteristic of the best leaders. Even in today’s fast-paced workplace, leaders who succeed think through the issue, engage others for their ideas, form a plan and practice the implementation. The famous ride of Paul Revere was one of at least 13 trips to warn others.

From the use of lanterns in the Old North Church to the first priority of alerting key rebel leaders to keep them safe, there were plans to be followed. When your next crisis confronts you, rather than addressing it in a knee-jerk manner, take the time to structure your response. The time expended may be well worth your effort.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s new book, “And my Brother Jack: Everyday Leadership Lessons,” visit his website www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.