Retreat Or Charge?

I love hearing stories about great military leaders and how they succeeded by having the utmost bravery in themselves and among their troops. And while I’ve heard a lot of accounts about Napoleon Bonaparte and his immense courage, I recently heard a new one that was truly inspiring.

Apparently, there was a time in battle when Napoleon felt he needed to retreat. He called to one of his commanders and ordered him to have the bugler sound the retreat. After the commander sent the message, the bugle player sounded out the call to charge! Surprised, Napoleon again told the commander to correct the bugler and call to retreat.

Once again, the player sounded out the call to charge! Now furious, Napoleon marched down to the player himself and began to question why he wouldn’t play retreat. At this point, the bugler looked at one of the greatest military leaders of all times and said, “You did not teach me to play the call to retreat—only the call to charge!” With that, Napoleon told the man to continue sounding the call to charge. The bugler did just that. And when the men saw Napoleon’s confidence, they charged and won the battle.

In leadership, we must realize as the Bible says, the anointing drops from the beard. In other words, your team will look like you do. They will do what you teach them. If you’ve taught them to be generous givers, they will be generous givers. If you’ve taught them to have no integrity, they won’t. And if you’ve only taught them to charge, they won’t know how to do anything else.

You see, your team gets their direction and their energy from you. As you are, so will they be. Whether the story about Napoleon is true or not, the illustration is priceless. Each day, you have to get up, look at yourself in the mirror and choose to be a great leader.

Question: When’s the last time you motivated your team to charge through doubt onto victory?



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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.

20 thoughts on “Retreat Or Charge?”

  1. I wonder how my team would answer that question. I try to project a calm reassurance in the presence of doubt that things will work out as they should. Perhaps I could take a more active approach to provide the counterpart to the doubt that our abilities are adequate to meet our challenges. I certainly appreciate when my leaders encourage me to charge through doubt and despair to victory.

  2. We had a very large project to get done in a short timeframe. I just told the employees the end date. They worked 14-16 hours a day 7 days a week until we completed the project. I didn’t even have to ask. Now that is a great employee.

  3. This is a funny story to me because, if true, it’s also a good example of poor leadership. The bugler played too important of a role for the leader to not know if the bugler knew his job fully. I wonder if Napoleon gave credit to the bugler for winning the battle?

  4. Courage, calmness and cool calculation will go a long way whether in advance or retreat. You team will sense that and be more along side you. If they believe in your system of coming to a conclusion, they will stand by you.

  5. I was thinking along the same lines as Joel. He was great leader, he had taught them well, about moving forward, but i think he should have taught them other things too like not to disobey him, and not assume he (Napoleon was wrong). And you are right too as a leader, i should ensure i know how my team will think in certain situations. I’m thinking of yesterday’s post, if you teach your people well, they’ll be able to run the show when you are not around, in the same way you’d do it..

  6. Several times in the past few years, with the all of the changes in our industry, the team has become discouraged with the added work and stress. But our mantra has been “failure is NOT an option” and we press on!

  7. This was a great story of strong leadership. We give our people confidence when we refuse to give in to the situation or circumstances. I think courage is more caught than taught in our lives.

  8. Blessed by reading of this account as we have heard of it in the church of the LORD JESUS many a year. It must be true! It has been carried down throughout the years. I have learned that the most accurate news comes from the missionaries on the field, not the nightly news cast. God help us today to blow the charge on our trumpets as at the battle of Jericho and watch our God make the walls that hinder us fall down flat.

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