THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: MEMORIAL DAY REFLECTIONS

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me yet again at home, just like you. On Tuesday, I presented the Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX) to Intero’s leadership team and then participated in Long & Foster’s monthly Shareholder’s Meeting. Today I’m filming various projects for HomeServices of America.

As I capture messages on film, I’m reminded of memories captured long ago, especially as Memorial Day came and went this past weekend. Many of my favorite leaders in history are true American heroes like President John F. Kennedy and General George S. Patton, who is best known for his command of the Third United States Army during WWII. Patton was not only a masterful commander but also a leader for my own father, who served under Patton during the Battle of the Bulge, a major World War II German offensive fought in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany from December 1944 to January 1945. (My father would go on to receive two purple hearts for his bravery fighting with Patton’s Third Army as you can see in the picture below.)

When leading, I often talk about the importance of taking the time to pause, reflect, recharge, recalibrate and refocus; the three-day weekend was the ideal time to take a moment to express our deep gratitude for our fallen soldiers. Memorial Day is so much more than a long weekend; it’s a reminder that millions have fought for our freedom and these valiant leaders deserve our unending respect and thanks.

In a Harvard Business Review article published for Memorial Day 2020, Harvard MBA student and Veteran A.W. Simmons wrote about the strange connection between the Harvard Business School campus during COVID-19 and his thoughts on Memorial Day. He poetically described the “eerily mute” campus as “sunlight falls on solitary landscapers installing fresh sod and shoveling mulch around spring plantings.”

Simmons explains, “I’ve found this new normal, however – beauty and potential tinged by loss – analogous to how many veterans like me experience Memorial Day. Since its creation following the Civil War, Memorial Day is the U.S.’s single national holiday dedicated to remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in our nation’s wars.”

Memorial Day is always a mix of emotions. The possibility of summer approaching and the heavy weight of our remembrance tangle together as we BBQ and enjoy the sun. The dichotomous feeling is similar to what we’re experiencing every day as we live in this new normal amid the global pandemic. It’s a quieter, more solitary existence. We’re happy to be safe yet saddened for lives lost during this time.

As inspiration for the true meaning behind Memorial Day, here are a few inspiring quotes:

  • “I am an American; free born and free bred, where I acknowledge no man [or woman] as my superior, except for his own worth, or as my inferior, except for his own demerit.” – Theodore Roosevelt
  • “No good decision was ever made in a swivel chair.” – George S. Patton
  • “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” – Abraham Lincoln
  • “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy

So, what’s the message? Memorial Day, which has such profound significance as we navigate the perils of this pandemic, is really about preserving the memories of the brave lives lost. It’s about understanding that their heroic fight allowed us the freedom to inspire, motivate and lead others, just as we do today.

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