Are you an everyday leader?
Our cultural dialogue around leadership tends to be circumstance-specific in its focus, like leadership in business or politics. But leadership – true leadership – is an everyday, every circumstance skill. And when we commit to be everyday leaders, extraordinary things can happen.
One example of impactful everyday leadership is the story of Col. Welborn B. Griffith.
Col. Griffith died exactly 70 years ago August 16 battling in France against the Germans, saving Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral from destruction. I learned about Col. Griffith just this year when I joined the board of the American Friends of Chartes. I was drawn to this group because of my deep admiration for the cathedral – a work of human hands that inspires human hearts to this day.
But aside from the Cathedral itself – which is absolutely magnificent – the thing that impacts me most is the story of Col. Griffith. He was a military leader, but he also had everyday leadership…a skill that allowed him to save an incredible medieval cathedral from certain destruction while other buildings around France tumbled under the yolk of war.
In August 1944, Patton’s Third Army awaits orders – that would never come - to take Paris. Elements of the Third Army, including the XX Corps, were based just outside the historic town of Chartres. On August 16th, Col. Welborn Barton Griffith of Texas, logistics and liaison officer in the XX Corps, learned of orders for U.S. artillery to shell Chartres Cathedral, one of the most important monuments of medieval civilization, in order to eliminate suspected German snipers and observers in the tower.
According to Eugene Schulz (Eugene G. Schulz: "The Ghost in General Patton's Third Army" http://www.amazon.com/Eugene-G.-Schulz/e/B00ACAD1C2), whom American Friends of Chartres (AFC) recently interviewed, Griffith on his own initiative, with his driver approached the forward American forces and obtained information on where the Germans were located in Chartres. They were able to evade the Germans, who still occupied the city, and entered the cathedral. Griffith searched the cathedral and climbed the bell tower.
He found no Germans, and was able to rescind the order to shell the monument.”
Thanks to Colonel Griffith’s courage and leadership, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Chartres was saved from war damage, thereby preserving it for future generations.
Killed shortly after this history-making initiative, Col. Griffith was posthumously decorated with the Silver Star, Distinguished Service Cross, and the French Crois de Guerre. American Friends of Chartres honored the Memory of Col. Welborn B. Griffith, fallen on August 16th in 1944, by placing a wreath at the Houston National Cemetery, Houston, Texas on the date of his death 70 years ago.
If you have never visited the cathedral, put it on your bucket list. To learn more about its 21st century impact, read the blog of my visit there a year and a half ago. In it, you will find the reason I am drawn to the magnificence of this edifice – not because it is beautiful (which it is) but because it serves as a foundation on which to build life regardless of your tradition.
The American Friends of Chartres are helping France to maintain this monument by restoring one of its windows. With your permission, I would like to invite you to join others who already support the restoration of what is called “The Bakers’ Window.” Just go to http://www.razoo.com/story/American-Friends-Of-Chartres. When this restoration is complete, the window will be an exhibit here in the US before it is returned to its spot in the cathedral.
And as you move through your day, I challenge you to think about how you can be an everyday leader – you never know what impact that may have!