Leading From The Decisive Point in Extraordinary Circumstances

By Dan Rice, Thursday, April 09, 2020

“Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.”

On May 12, 1962, General Douglas MacArthur said these words to the corps of cadets at West Point, as part of his Sylvanus Thayer Award Acceptance Address, recognized as one of the top 100 speeches in American Rhetoric.

General MacArthur epitomized leadership. One of his greatest talents was his ability to convince and inspire confidence. He did this by leading from the decisive point, not just from the front. The decisive point can be a geographic place, specific key event, critical factor, or function that, when acted upon, allows you to gain advantage over an adversary or contribute materially to achieving success. His words about courage, faith and hope are a drumbeat in many soldier’s hearts and a mantra to what we, as leaders, Americans and humans desperately need during this challenging time in our history.

COVID-19 is a horrible virus that threatens our global health and our economy. Rarely in history has the whole world collectively faced an enemy simultaneously. The threat is real. But now is also one of the greatest leadership opportunities executives will ever have. Our families, our communities and our organizations need leadership now more than ever. Our clients are better trained to lead in this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous VUCA environment. Focus every day on being a better leader. Not just a better manager. But a better leader.  

Don’t amplify the chaos, be the calm in the chaos. Lead by example because everyone on your team is watching more now than ever. Utilize the concept of tactical pause as an organization. In chaos, opportunities arise if you take the time to listen. How can you challenge your organization to reinvent itself? To be better at the end of this crisis? How will you inspire your people when the tables appear stacked? 

How will you build courage, regain faith and create hope?

I encourage you to listen to the full “Duty, Honor, Country” speech (33 minutes) to serve as a source of inspiration as you determine where your 'decisive point' is during the COVID-19 pandemic. Your leadership can help you and your organization come out stronger on the other side. Best of luck, stay safe. Let’s get through this together, and be better on the other side.


Daniel Rice

EXPERIENCE Dan is the President of Thayer Leadership and a 1988 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In 2010, Dan co-founded Thayer Leadership along with four other West Point graduates with the mission of bringing the world to West Point and bringing West Point leadership to the... Read More +

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