Talk about a heart breaker…the story about Lt. Withers and “Peewee” certainly does tug at your heart strings. Interestingly, it tugged at my “mind strings” as well. Some times the heart rightly wins out over the mind.
As leaders, we are often confronted with the challenge of doing what’s best for the group and what’s best for us. The battle rages on daily, particularly in an economic recession, where we, as a company and an individual, have to produce more with less. Self preservation runs rampant in these situations. The key is to find the balance between elevating your accomplishments with those of your team. And, in some situations, you need to be prepared to elevate others outside your team so that they are enabled to eventually become functioning members of your team.
Here’s where Lt. Withers comes in. I can’t even begin to understand how difficult it must have been for a young black man to succeed in the business world in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. It must have been that difficulty, combined with a (legal) need to acquiesce to both white men and women, that drove him to achieve the highest level of education possible for anyone (except for maybe the education necessary to be a surgeon)…a PH. D. He already had a master’s degree in economics.
So, for someone so driven to succeed…what a tough decision to make, risk your future (education and career) potential to help two individuals—that aren’t your countrymen and don’t even speak your language. I would like to believe that if presented with the same moral dilemma, that I would take the high road and do the right thing (and help those that need it more than it I do).
Interestingly, it seems that Lt. Withers helped Peewee twice in his life. First, he helped him overcome the ravages of war by taking a chance on him. Then, some 50 years later he, through his son, helped Peewee deal with the desolation and hurt brought on by the war that he had locked away in his heart. What a wonderful second gift Lt. Withers gave Peewee and his family. The opportunity for him to deal with the past and give his children and grandchildren the heritage information they had so long been denied.
So, back to me. Would I make the potential sacrifice to help another…either from a personal or business perspective. I am going to say yes, with a reminder to myself that this promise has yet to be fulfilled.