Thursday, March 22, 2007

Disciplined thought and disciplined action

Vickie Eugenio-de Guia reminisces her ascent to Mount Pulag, "What inspired me first to climb Mt Pulag was my family—'bonding time.' Although we have lots of those, I was thinking it will be on a different setting.... mountains, forest, tent, nature at its finest. But after we've reached the camp site, I noticed that the focal point of my being there has shifted. If at my age I felt tired and worn out after hours of walking, what do you think a 77 year old man felt? But to my surprise, there's still that warm gentle smile that he always carries with him wherever he is, except that on that day at the peak of Mt. Pulag, there stood the man who brought us to the highest mountain in Luzon. Oscar M. Lopez did it by example, very quietly enduring the tiredness he must have felt. He did it again as always, leading his people to the top, making sure that no one is left behind."

As a backgrounder, we were supposed to climb early January, but due to inclement weather that posed a big danger to climbers, it was postponed to end of February this year. Of course, our climb was successful. This reminds me of a story shared by Justin Menkes in his book, "Executive Intelligence: What All Great Leaders Have."
He quotes Bob Davies, CEO of Church & Dwight, "We make heroes of CEOs who are decisive, bold, and brazen. We write stories about them. But an effective CEO must want the company to be successful far more than he or she wants to personally be seen as 'right,' heroic, or popular."

Menkes wrote that while this brazenness is often mistaken for strong leadership, the consequences can be deadly and not just to business success. He told the story of how American prisoners were liberated from their Japanese captors here in the Philippines.

"In January 1945, near the end of World War II, the tide had turned aggressively against the Japanese army. The Americans were sweeping across the pacific, and were preparing to take back control of the Philippines.

"At the Cabanatuan POW camp, the Japanese commander was under standing orders to slaughter all 513 American prisoners interned if the battle situation ever became 'urgent.' A rescue mission was launched ahead of the advancing American army in a desperate attempt to save the prisoners. With the help of local Filipino rebels, 121 US Rangers launched a surprise attack on the camp, freeing the men interned there. But while this initial assault was risky, the task of escorting the rescued prisoners to safety was even more daunting. Most of them were injured, sick and weak and had to endure a march of over thirty miles, with local Japanese forces giving chase.

"Of greatest concern was a battalion of one thousand Japanese troops that was stationed less than a mile northeast of the prison camp. The Japanese troops far outnumbered the American and Filipino forces and were in possession of tanks and other heavy equipment. But there was no choice—at all costs these Japanese troops had to be prevented from pursuing the escaping prisoners.

"US Ranger colonel Henry Mucci and Filipino rebel commander Juan Pajota led the rescue operations and approached the Japanese camp from the south by surprise. The Japanese commander, Tomeo Oyabu, immediately ordered his men across the bridge to confront the attackers, whom they outnumbered ten to one. But Pajota had positioned his forces in a giant V, focusing all their fire on Cabu bridge. Every charging Japanese soldier was cut down to a man. Yet, Oyabu never paused nor changed his tactics. He sent a second wave of men, and then a third. The totally ineffective, suicidal response of the Japanese commander continued, resulting in a horrible carnage until the entire Japanese unit was virtually annihilated.

"Oyabu was determined to confront his attacking foes with a fearless charge. His failure to think, in a situation where he had clearly been outmaneuvered, was his downfall. He did what so many leaders do when confronting a problem: he charged full speed ahead without pausing to consider the best way to reach his objectives."

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