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The Midweek Motivator – The Curios Case for Audacity

Prussian emperor and military genius Frederick the Great advised his commanders to “always be audacious.” So did George Patton. Yet somewhere in time, the interpretation of audacity shifted from fearless intrepidity to a suggestion of misplaced hubris or pompous overconfidence. That said, I know of no exceptional leader, in or outside media, who is not audacious when the circumstance requires. Business or politics, the price for avoiding L’audace can become a paralyzing, painful captivity through under-achievement.

On the eve of 14 December, 1944, Third Army raced to relieve the desperate siege at Bastogne (since known as the Battle of the Bulge). Outnumbered-but-defiant Americans were holding on by a thread with mind-numbing courage in the face of Hitler’s last desperate thrust against the Allies.Weather was on the Germans’ side: low clouds, below-freezing temperatures and worse, zero visibility. This meant Patton’s advancing Third Army was not only battling the elements, but would have no air-cover because pilots couldn’t see the topography. In an unusual measure of audacity, Patton sent for his Third Army chaplain.

“Chaplain, I want you to publish a prayer for good weather. I’m tired of these soldiers having to fight mud and snow as well as the Germans. See if we can’t get some help from the almighty!”

Chaplain O’Neill suggested to Patton that it might take a pretty thick rug for that kind of prayer; an uncustomary thing to ask God’s help for clear weather to kill their fellow man.

“I don’t care if it takes a flying carpet, I want the praying done” said the General. “Chaplain, are you teaching me theology, or are you the chaplain of Third Army?”
The Chaplain affirmed with a simple “yes sir,” then sought an engineering company to print the prayer he wrote to circulate among the troops, asking for clearing skies over Bastogne to allow critical air support for the liberation of the besieged American troops. The Chaplain’s prayer was a masterpiece, asking among other things 

“grant us fair weather for the battle…that we may crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies.”

Seven decades hence leaders can benefit from Patton’s curious application of audacity to memorialize and celebrate the spirit of your organization, including genuine recognition of your company’s triumphs big and small. Exceptional leaders preside over the celebration of their human assets and their day-to-day victories just as Patton’s weather prayer accomplished for the beleaguered men of Third Army.

As for the “weather prayer” defying all the Army’s forecasts, clouds and snow ended the next day! American P-51’s and P 47’s hugged the tree lines to support the epic relief of Bastogne. As Patton pinned a Bronze Star on his chaplain, he remarked that the Chaplain was the most popular man at headquarters adding, And you sure stand-in good with the Almighty.”