Now is the Time for Leaders to Step Up

Have you heard about the latest trend?

People are resigning from their jobs in droves. By the millions. Inc. magazine reported on The Great Resignation, detailing the numbers; and they’re staggering. The Great Resignation, is a term coined in 2019 by Texas A&M’s Anthony Klotz to predict a mass exodus from the workforce.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, during the months of April, May, and June of 2021, a total of 11.5 million workers quit their jobs. Recent studies indicate it’s likely not over. A survey of over 30,000 workers conducted by Microsoft found that 54 percent are considering quitting; Gallup found that 48 percent of employees are actively searching for new opportunities. Persio reported that 38 percent of participants plan to make a change in the next six months.

What’s going on?

A Revolving Door of Leaders

What’s most alarming to me is that leaders may be spearheading this resignation. Starting in 2019, executives in major corporations began quitting as if it were in style. In the first quarter of 2020, dozens of Fortune 500 CEOs stepped down, including the CEO of Disney, Hulu, IBM, Uber Eats, Lockheed Martin, Nestle, MasterCard, T-Mobile, Volkswagen, and more.

It’s called the Great CEO Exodus of 2020. This revolving door of leaders continues. My question is: Is it really not worth it to stay? Has the pandemic done this to us? I’ll admit, these last eighteen months of COVID-19 have taken their toll on me as well. In fact, the last two years were the toughest of my 40-year career. It crossed my mind that it might be easier to simply quit.

This is why I love the story of Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., the oldest son of President Theodore Roosevelt. He had every reason to resign. But he didn’t.

What a Model to Follow

At the age of 56, Roosevelt was a veteran of World War I. By World War II, he wanted to stay active. He was the oldest soldier deployed in Operation Overlord and the highest-ranking American to storm Utah Beach on June 6, 1944–the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

He did so with only a cane and a pistol. But he had to earn his right to fight again.

Although he was well-liked and respected by his men, his superior officer, Major General Raymond “Tubby” Barton, rejected his request to lead the regiment into combat. Barton thought he was too old. In a personal letter to Barton on May 26, 1944, Roosevelt pleaded his case in seven succinct bullet points, noting that: I personally know both officers and men of these advance units and believe that it will steady them to know that I am with them.” 

Barton eventually gave in.

Through relentless fire from German coastal installations, machine-gun nests, and densely packed minefields along Utah Beach, Roosevelt calmly guided successive waves of young soldiers to the beachhead. By the end of the day, the 4th Infantry was able to penetrate inland six miles; and of the 21,000 troops that landed, there were only 197 casualties.

Did you catch the reason Teddy pleaded to be there?

He said that he, “Believed that it will steady them to know that I am with them.” Roosevelt was there to model the way, to be with them, to set an example for younger soldiers. And he did. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation reads:

He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland. His valor, courage and presence in the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Although the enemy had the beach under constant direct fire, Brigadier General Roosevelt moved from one locality to another, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reduced beach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France.

In the midst of our current “great resignation,” I urge you to consider Teddy, Jr. He could have retired as a veteran, but he continued so he could steady the younger soldiers. I believe today is not the time to step back. It’s the time to step up.

What story will be on your citation? That you stepped back or stepped up when needed?


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Now is the Time for Leaders to Step Up