I never expected to be moved to tears by a research paper. I’m looking into the theory and practice of building learning organisations. I stumbled upon a paper by Margaret Wheatley, who researched the efforts of the US army to transform itself into a learning organisation. Spending time with the people involved, she was struck by the caring and compassionate leadership she discovered in the army, contrary to all stereotypical pre-conceptions. Wheatley wrote:
This true comradeship was beautifully captured in a letter I was shown on my first visit to the Army. The letter was written during the Civil War, from General Sherman to General Grant (near Memphis, March 10th, 1864). In one phrase, Sherman summed up the essence of this spirit of love and reliability. “I knew that wherever I was, that you thought of me, and if I got in a tight place, you would come, if alive.”
I am lucky to have a few people who would be there (if alive) if ever I got into a tight place. With syrupy, commercialised Valentine’s day just around the corner, that phrase, written 135 years ago, seemed to me a very moving expression of real love.