An Australian Soldier Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith received the highest military decoration today, the Victoria Cross. This is an incredible and inspiring story of true leadership under fire. What this soldier was confronted with was unimaginable, yet he demonstrated such courage, conviction, decisiveness and gallantry.
To give you some background, The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration which is, or has been, awarded for valour “in the face of the enemy” to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories. It takes precedence over all other orders, decorations and medals. It may be awarded to a person of any rank in any service and to civilians under military command. The Victoria Cross is awarded for the most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.
Corporal Benjamin Roberts Smith received this medal for enormous courage and bravery during an incredibly tense, demanding and life threatening situation. He single-handedly neutralised several enemy machine gun positions during the battle that left more than 60 enemies dead. He did this without regard for his safety but with the safety of his mates firmly in his mind. You can read the citations at the Herald Sun site for details http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/corporal-benjamin-roberts-smiths-citation/story-e6frf7l6-1225993174364. It is incredible reading.
Corporal Roberts-Smith was trained for these situations and has the reputations as being an expert. As outlined in the Department of Defence Media Release “Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie remarked on the tremendous humility shown by Corporal Roberts-Smith.”
“All Australian Soldiers should feel tremendously proud of the actions of Corporal Roberts-Smith, and the recognition that the award of the Victoria Cross represents. The valour of his actions and those of the other members of his patrol, are exemplars of the very best in Australian soldiering,” Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie said.
“He is a soldier who embodies Army’s values of Courage, Initiative, and Teamwork and the ethos of the Special Air Service Regiment. He is held in the highest esteem by his peers, subordinates and superiors alike for his personal attributes and his professionalism.”
Wow! To have those words said about you is quite the honour. This is Corporal Roberts-Smith legacy. It really got me thinking about pure leadership. In business, leaders can get so annoyed with relentless questions from staff, relentless demands from clients, and impatient with business demands. These leaders can shut the door; they can go outside and get some fresh air. They can put ‘do not disturb’ on their telephone and stare out the window. I know I have when it all gets too hard; I want things to be quiet so I can think. Corporal Robertson-Smith does not get to make that choice. When under fire, he must act or potentially lose his life and that of his team.
This story is the ultimate example of leadership. What Corporal Roberts-Smith did under enormous pressure is admirable and quite incredible. I can’t imagine the noise, the pressure, the danger and the potential confusion in a situation like he faced. And nor do I want to. He demonstrated decisiveness, teamwork, courage, confidence, split second thinking, and control in such a demanding situation. This is true leadership. Being a leader when you have to, not when you want to, but always.
As business leaders we can learn a lot from this story. Corporal Benjamin Roberts Smith not only do I salute you, I am in awe of you.