Have you ever been in a situation where someone in charge got everyone wound up… and headed in the wrong direction?
There are many examples where we can see how poor leadership resulted in disappointing, sometimes tragic results. Much of World War I highlighted the excruciating myopia displayed by commanders on both sides. The Western Front, where the French and British faced off against the German Army, had become an agonizing stalemate, with trench warfare stretching 440 miles from the Swiss border to the North Sea. Each side persisted in throwing division after division of soldiers in futile attempts to break through their opponent’s line. Winston Churchill had opposed the British Imperial General Staff’s bankrupt strategy as First Lord of the Admiralty and Cabinet member. Instead, he had backed an expedition in the Dardanelles Straits in Turkey, with an eye to capturing Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), thus decapitating the Ottoman Empire, Germany and Austria-Hungary’s ally. Initially proposed as a British Navy only campaign, success in this venture would serve to break the stalemate and create pressure in other theaters of the war. Sadly, it was a miserable tactical failure, costing Churchill his post. Worse, 250,000 soldiers became casualties in this ill-executed joint Navy-Army mission in the Middle East. In 1916, he resigned from the Admiralty on a point of principle and rejoined the army and was sent to the Western Front, an extraordinary and unexpected measure of leadership.
There were three enormous battles during that conflict fought near Passchendaele, Belgium, immortalized by Canadian physician Lieutenant- Colonel John McCrae in his poem, In Flanders Fields. The final conflict there, the Third Battle of Ypres, began on July 31, 1917. After three months of unrelenting, brutal fighting failed to break the
stalemate, the English commander, General Douglas Haig, recklessly threw an additional four Canadian divisions into the charnel house. Churchill was aghast at the slaughter. He later wrote in his opus The World Crisis, “it cannot be said that ‘the Soldiers’ (British General Staff) did not have their way. They tried their somber experiment to its conclusion. The took all they required from Britain. They wore down alike the manhood and the guns of the British Army almost to destruction. They did it in the face of the plainest warnings, and of arguments which they could not answer.”1 Every Remembrance Day (Veterans Day) residents of Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the
UK wear poppies as boutonnieres to commemorate the fallen of these battles. How many thousands of soldiers on all sides were wounded or killed because of leaders with blinders?