The Leadership and Communication Lessons of Josey Wales – Part 2


The Leadership and Communication Lessons of Josey Wales – Part 2


Bob Maksimchuk, Principal Consultant

Project Pragmatics, LLC


[If you missed part 1 of this series you can read it here.  Spoiler alert: This series will incrementally reveal the plot of this movie.  If you have not seen the movie (Where have you been?), I recommend you get the movie and enjoy it prior to reading this series.]


The scene:  After his family and farm are destroyed, Josey joins with a group of rebels who fight a guerilla war against the Union.  The fight drags on.  Eventually, the group’s leader (Fletcher) convinces everyone, except Josey, to turn themselves in to the Union soldiers.  Fletcher had negotiated amnesty for the band of rebels.  What the rebels did not know was that he did it for a price.  The men surrendered and were killed by the Union soldiers.  Despite a valiant effort, Josey could not save them.  Only he and an injured young rebel (“the boy”) escaped. 


All the rebels had been betrayed by the Union (including Fletcher – he believed they would receive amnesty).  But Fletcher’s indignation was quickly quelled when he received a commission in the Union army and joins with Terrell (the leader of the “Redlegs” who had destroyed Josey’s family and farm, and was now a Captain in the Union) to hunt down Josey Wales.


Lesson 4: Politics Can Trump Skills.  Sad to say, but technical and leadership skills are not a guaranteed shield against common organizational practices or malicious organization politics.  Mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, outsourcing and the like often harbor many such organizational decisions that may put your career on the Wheel of Fate.  Don’t bury your head in the sand (i.e. your projects).  Stay tuned to organizational, market, and environmental changes.  These can foreshadow subsequent changes that may have a direct impact on you.


Worse yet, malicious political maneuvers can leave innocent bystanders in the ditch.  When I was working as a young developer, I witnessed my first political lesson.  A pair of senior staffers who had been the heroes of an initial system delivery (and rightly so) were sidelined as the organization grew and grew, bringing in new teams and managers.  The pair were no longer were in the limelight receiving honors and accolades. 


During the next delivery cycle, what was later discovered that in order to engineer their personal return to hero status, the pair withheld critical technical information that resulted in a key software component not delivering on schedule.  When the call went out for people to help this component team, the past heroes stepped in.  The new team’s work was flushed.  The old guard “discovered” the “problem”, fixed it, and voila!  Heroes once again.


So be careful.  Safety experts will tell you that situational awareness is critical to your personal safety.  It’s critical to your professional safety also.


Lesson 5: Everyone Has A Price.  Fletcher had a price…actually two.  One to get his men to surrender.  And a higher price to ignore the Union betrayal and track down Josey.  What is your price?  Oh, you don’t have one?  Really?  Before somebody asks you to do something that you know is wrong, unjust, unethical, or even illegal, do some self examination.  Know your values.  Know what principles you are committed to live by.  Who are you at your core and what is your code of conduct?  Think this through before the pressure comes – someday it will.  Stay off the slippery slope Fletcher stepped onto.




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