Early in England’s war against Napoleon (1805-1807), Sir John Moore had to engage Napoleon in Spain, who had 200,000 troops, with only 30,000 troops. Napoleon was close to dominating Spain, but Sir John drew Napoleon away from Madrid and kept Napoleon from finalizing his conquest.
As Napoleon chased Sir John’s small army to the coast, Sir John’s small army became prone to drunkenness and looting. His troops were disappointed about retreating and had developed poor morale. Instead, when they were fighting, even though outnumbered, they had great morale and behaved well.
At the time, Sir John’s army and the political figures in England saw the “retreat” as a failure. The reality is that against tremendous odds, with Sir John’s small army, Napoleon was unable to complete the conquest of Spain and then had to fight on two fronts for the rest of the war (which culminated in the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo). In reality, it was a great victory.
The leadership lesson: Sir John Moore knew what he was doing and why. If he had shared that with the troops along the way, he would have been better able to maintain his fighting machine and morale.
Also, if he had communicated the powers that were in London, the English government might have provided better resources.
Wellington learned from what happened and used these leadership lessons to keep his superiors in London better informed and he kept his troops better informed of why what looked like a failure was part of a larger plan.
“Motivation and inspiration are like a bath. You need to keep taking them!” – Lee Perry
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