Angus Duffy served throughout WWII with honour, ferocity and courage. He returned home and continued to serve as a soldier, business leader, husband and family man.
Most would say he was a war hero, or a community hero, or a family hero, or all three. In my opinion, none of these was the most heroic thing he did in a long, unbelievable and history-making life.
The most heroic thing he did was a quiet, humble and dignified demonstration of moral courage.
Post-WWII, Angus became the Commanding Officer (CO) of a storied infantry unit. As CO he was entrusted with the symbols that embodied the Regiment’s ethos, history and culture: its Colours.
In days of old, the Colours served as a rallying point for that unit’s soldiers in battle. Today they are a record of the proud and costly history of each Regiment. As such they are guarded and escorted as if they were made of pure gold.
When Angus was the CO someone stole the Colours from the Regiment. There is a whole story behind this heinous crime, but suffice to say it would be the equivalent of someone breaking into your home and violating your most personal family artifacts.
The CO is and was personally responsible for the Colours, but no thinking person blamed Angus for the theft. This is where one of the most selfless, courageous acts that I have ever heard of took place. Angus took his regimental cap badge off of his beret because he took personal responsibility for losing the Colours.
Angus was never charged or accused of misconduct in regards to the loss. To my knowledge, no one ever publicly blamed him for negligence nor was ever a mark placed on his record in regards to the matter. He took on the personal responsibility and public punishment for losing the Colours and never wavered from it.
Replacement Colours were obtained, but the stolen Colours were never found, and Angus went to his grave never putting his cap badge back on.
What have you done to take responsibility?
Have you resigned on the point of principle or refused to do something that did not align with your values?
You don’t have to wear a hair shirt for the rest of your life but here are three actions you should do when taking responsibility:
- Take personal responsibility
Colonel Duffy could have blamed a lot of people for the theft and embarrassment to the Regiment over losing the Colours.
He didn’t. He said, “I am the Commanding Officer. As such I am personally responsible for the Colours, and I am responsible for their loss”.
- Go public
Angus certainly went public.
He publicly demonstrated his responsibility by taking down the second most important thing in a soldier’s life, the emblem of his regimental family affiliation: His cap badge.
- Be consistent with your values and brand
Holy Moly, was he consistent or what!
Until his death, Angus demonstrated his responsibility. His values and brand were on demonstration to everyone.
Do You Measure up?
Once you knew Colonel Duffy’s story, you would have followed him anywhere?
What wouldn’t you do for a leader who demonstrated that level of moral courage?
Once you understood his devotion to duty, you were not likely to fail the Regiment.
Are you leading your people by taking responsibility?