The Passing of American Hero: Richard Winters

I have no idea how this got past me but we were sitting around the dinner table the other night and my son Sam mentioned that Dick Winters had died.

Richard Winters was a true American hero made famous as the leader of a group of soldiers in World War II and made famous by Stephen Ambrose’s book, and later mini series, Band of Brothers.

Winters would tell you (like many of his humble contemporaries) that he was not the hero and it was the guys that did not come back that were the real heroes.

For me, Winters was emblematic of what Tom Brokaw termed, “The Greatest Generation.”  They were the ones that grew up in the Great Depression, fought World War II, and basically made it possible for our prosperity today. It’s humbling even trying to follow in their footsteps.

Dick Winter’s Rules of Leadership from his memoirs:

1. Strive to be a leader of character, competence, and courage.
2. Lead from the front. Say, “Follow me!” and then lead the way.
3. Stay in top physical shape—physical stamina is the root of mental toughness.
4. Develop your team. If you know your people, are fair in setting realistic goals and expectations, and lead by example, you will develop teamwork.
5. Delegate responsibility to your subordinates and let them do their jobs. You can’t do a good job if you don’t have a chance to use your imagination or your creativity.
6. Anticipate problems and prepare to overcome obstacles. Don’t wait until you get to the top of the ridge and then make up your mind.
7. Remain humble. Don’t worry about who receives the credit. Never let power or authority go to your head.
8. Take a moment of self-reflection. Look at yourself in the mirror every night and ask yourself if you did your best.
9. True satisfaction comes from getting the job done. The key to a successful leader is to earn respect — not because of rank or position, but because you are a leader of character.
10. Hang tough!—Never, ever, give up.

Here’s the quote from Shakespeare’s play, Henry V, where the term Band of Brothers is taken:

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother


Richard Winters Wikipedia entry

Richard Winters Obituary from the New York Times