Here is the concluding part of Leadership Lessons From a Janitor
As often happens in life, events sweep us away from those in our past. The last time I saw Bill was on graduation day in June 1977. As I walked out of the squadron for the last time, he shook my hand and simply said, “Good luck, young man.” With that, I embarked on a career that has been truly lucky and blessed.
Mr Crawford continued to work at the Academy and eventually retired in his native Colorado where he resides today, one of four Medal of Honor winners living in a small town.
A wise person once said, “It’s not life that is important, but those you meet along the way that make the difference.” Bill was one who made a difference for me. While I haven’t seen Mr Crawford in over 20 years, he’d probably be surprised to know I think of him often. Bill Crawford, our janitor, taught me many valuable, unforgettable leadership lessons. Here are 10 I’d like to share with you.
1. Be Cautious of Labels. The labels you place on people may define your relationship to them and bound their potential. Sadly, and for a long time, we labelled Bill as just a janitor, but he was so much more. Therefore, be cautious of a leader who callously says, “Hey, he’s just an Airman.” Likewise, don’t tolerate the O-1, who says, “I can’t do that, I’m just a lieutenant.”
2. Everyone Deserves Respect. Because we hung the “janitor” label on Mr Crawford, we often wrongly treated him with less respect than others around us. He deserved much more, and not just because he was a Medal of Honor winner. Bill deserved respect because he was a janitor, walked among us, and was a part of our team.
3. Courtesy Makes a Difference. Be courteous to all around you, regardless of rank or position. Military customs, as well as common courtesies, help bond a team. When our daily words to Mr Crawford turned from perfunctory “hellos” to heartfelt greetings, his demeanour and personality outwardly changed. It made a difference for all of us.
4. Take Time to Know Your People. Life in the military is hectic, but that’s no excuse for not knowing the people you work for and with. For years a hero walked among us at the Academy and we never knew it. Who are the heroes that walk in your midst?
5. Anyone Can Be a Hero. Mr Crawford certainly didn’t fit anyone’s standard definition of a hero. Moreover, he was just a private on the day he won his Medal. Don’t sell your people short, for any one of them may be the hero who rises to the occasion when duty calls. On the other hand, it’s easy to turn to your proven performers when the chips are down but don’t ignore the rest of the team. Today’s rookie could and should be tomorrow’s superstar.
6. Leaders Should Be Humble. Most modern-day heroes and some leaders are anything but humble, especially if you calibrate your “hero meter” on today’s athletic fields. End zone celebrations and self-aggrandizement are what we’ve come to expect from sports greats. Not Mr Crawford-he was too busy working to celebrate his past heroics. Leaders would be well-served to do the same.
7. Life Won’t Always Hand You What You Think You Deserve. We in the military work hard and, dang it, we deserve recognition, right? However, sometimes you just have to persevere, even when accolades don’t come your way. Perhaps, you weren’t nominated for junior officer or airman of the quarter as you thought you should – don’t let that stop you.
8. Don’t pursue glory; pursue excellence. Private Bill Crawford didn’t pursue glory; he did his duty and then swept floors for a living. No job is beneath a Leader. If Bill Crawford, a Medal of Honor winner, could clean latrines and smile, is there a job beneath your dignity? Think about it.
9. Pursue Excellence. No matter what task life hands you, do it well. Dr Martin Luther King said, “If life makes you a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper you can be.” Mr Crawford modelled that philosophy and helped make our dormitory area a home.
10. Life is a Leadership Laboratory. All too often we look to some school or PME class to teach us about leadership when, in fact, life is a leadership laboratory. Those you meet every day will teach you enduring lessons if you just take time to stop, look and listen. I spent four years at the Air Force Academy, took dozens of classes, read hundreds of books, and met thousands of great people. I gleaned leadership skills from all of them, but one of the people I remember most is Mr Bill Crawford and the lessons he unknowingly taught. Don’t miss your opportunity to learn.
Bill Crawford was a janitor. However, he was also a teacher, friend, role model and one great American hero. Thanks, Mr Crawford, for some valuable leadership lessons.
Dale Pyeatt, Executive Director of the National Guard Association of Texas, comments: And now, for the “rest of 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 an MSG and becoming a janitor.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan officially presented the MOH to Bill Crawford. William Crawford passed away in 2000. He is the only U.S. Army veteran and sole Medal of Honor winner to be buried in the cemetery of the U.S. Air Force Academy.
By Colonel James E. Moschgat
Meditation: By humility and the fear of the Lord Are riches and honor and life. – Proverbs 22:4
You will succeed because Jesus loves You!