Early in the movie, Saving Private Ryan, is a moment when soldiers attempt to beach at Normandy. Many soldiers take a bullet and don’t make it to shore. Dead in the water. The living soldiers are taking heavy fire. Then there’s the moment, a soldier asks John H, Miller (played by Tom Hanks), “What should we do now?” Miller responds by saying they should get off the beach.
The soldier then asks, “What’s the rallying point?” and Miller (/Hanks) answers, “Anywhere but here!” There are many leadership lessons in that scene, but I’d like to focus on the rallying point.
Leadership is about inspiring, influencing and moving people. Great leaders / leadership define ‘there’ clearly. Clarity isn’t a luxury but necessity. Those we serve as leaders must know where we’re going. The rallying point is where the soldiers were to gather. The idea was to give those being led a place to sprint to in the short term.
In the context of a battalion in combat, a rally point can be that place every team member has to make sure they get to. Where individuals and the collective strive to reach. It is a check point.
As you lead and your team journeys to the ultimate ‘there’, rallying points are critical. These are times of orientation–getting bearings. Some rallying point questions:
- How far have we come?
- What have we had to push through?
- What can we do better?
- What do we need to do going forward?
- How’s everyone doing?
- How can we support each other?
- Why are we doing what we’re doing?
- Why does it matter?
These intentionally created moments are critical for team health. This is when you address any new or unexpected issues. They’re also important for making sure that the main thing is still the main thing.
These can be in the form of regular meetings, retreats etc. Whatever you do, remember to consciously state and gather at rallying points as you journey. These milestones, are important for course correction where and when needed.
Leadership is about giving clear direction to a predetermined and well communicated destination. Rallying points are a critical part of the journey. Times for checking in and course correction.