Leadership Lessons From A Janitor


The following leadership lesson was circulated around our organization today.  I’ve read this before, was inspired, and moved on to the popular leadership theories and acronyms of more “modern” leader training.  But this is a story that deserves to be revisited often, it teaches lessons lacking in today’s leaders.  In an article published in the Warton Leadership Digest James E. Moschgat  (at the time a Colonel in Command of the 12th Operations Group, 12th Flying Training Wing, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas) writes about the squadron janitor at the Air Force Academy who was discovered to be a Congressional Medal of Honor winner.  The janitor was William John Crawford who earned a Medal of Honor while serving in Italy with the 36th Infantry Division but went on to become a leadership inspiration to Colonel Moschgat. 

Read Colonel Moschgat’s full article here

The leadership lessons from PVT Crawford:

1. Be cautious of labels
2. Everyone deserves respect
3. Courtesy Makes a difference
4. Take time to know your people
5. Anyone can be a hero
6. Leaders should be humble
7. Life won’t always hand you what you think you deserve
8. Don’t pursue glory; pursue excellence
9. Pursue Excellence
10. Life is a leadership laoratory

The article cites Dale Pyeatt (a cousin of mine BTW) who filled in the story:

Pvt William John Crawford was a platoon scout for 3rd Platoon of Company L 1 42nd Regiment 36th Division (Texas National Guard) and won the Medal Of Honor for his actions on Hill 424, just 4 days after the invasion at Salerno.  On Hill 424, Pvt Crawford took out 3 enemy machine guns before darkness fell, halting the platoon’s advance. Pvt Crawford could not be found and was assumed dead. The request for his MOH was quickly approved. Major General Terry Allen presented the posthumous MOH to Bill Crawford’s father, George, on 11 May 1944 in Camp (now Fort) Carson, near Pueblo. Nearly two months after that, it was learned that Pvt Crawford was alive in a POW camp in Germany.  During his captivity, a German guard clubbed him with his rifle. Bill overpowered him, took the rifle away, and beat the guard unconscious. A German doctor’s testimony saved him from severe punishment, perhaps death. To stay ahead of the advancing Russian army, the prisoners were marched 500 miles in 52 days in the middle of the German winter, subsisting on one potato a day. An allied tank column liberated the camp in the spring of 1945, and Pvt Crawford took his first hot shower in 18 months on VE Day. Pvt Crawford stayed in the army before retiring as a MSG and becoming a janitor. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan officially presented the MOH to Bill Crawford. 

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Greg Chaney

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