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38 Snickers bars: leadership lessons

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Gary E. McCullough, president and CEO of the Career Education Corp., recalls the role a candy bar played in one of the most important leadership lessons he’s ever learned.

It was during his tenure as a platoon leader in the Army. His platoon training took place during lousy February weather in Fort Bragg, N.C. The commanding general came around and asked one of McCullough’s privates what he thought of the exercise.

“Sir, it stinks,” said the private, referring to the weather. The general asked, “What can I do to make it better for you?” And the private replied, “Sir, I could use a Snickers bar.”

A couple of days later, a box showed up for the private, filled with 38 Snickers bars—enough for each person in the platoon. And there was a handwritten note from the commanding general that said, “I can’t do anything about the weather, but I hope this makes your day a bit brighter, and please share these with your buddies.”

Says McCullough, “On that day, at that time, we would’ve followed that general anywhere.”

Lesson: Small gestures sometimes are more effective than big ones.

— Adapted from “The Lesson of the 38 Candy Bars,” Adam Bryant, The New York Times.

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