Nancy Wake must have gazed out of the open door of the Lancaster bomber to an uncertain future as the great sky-beast traced its arc to the drop-zone. Hearing the static lines clink and rattle and feeling the thrum of the Lancaster’s propellers pulsate through her diminutive frame as she and her brother-in-arms, Major John Farmer, waited and then leapt out into occupied France, Nancy Wake - an Australian woman of action - became a leader in the fight against the Nazis in the Second World War.
The youngest of six children raised by her mother in Sydney, she ran away from home at 16, became a nurse and then lived in Europe and retrained as a journalist.
By 20 Nancy Wake was a stunningly attractive young woman who did not hesitate when an adventure into the unknown beckoned.
Whilst living in Vienna Nancy witnessed first-hand the horrors of Nazism and saw the terror in the eyes of helpless Jews as they were whipped and beaten in the grand boulevards of that city, and it was here that her destiny began to take shape. Later those indelible images drove her to become one the Allies most effective secret weapons.
In charge of a militia of French Resistance fighters in her twenties, Nancy Wake secretly plotted, organized and completed hundreds of guerrilla missions to sabotage the Nazi advance. Being married to a wealthy French industrialist, she could have turned her back on the war and escaped to a safer country, but doing so would have meant not being true to herself. For, at her core, Nancy Wake was a fiercely loyal wife and friend, with the heart of a lion and the drive of a Sherman Tank. When confronted with the Nazi dominance in Europe and having seen what that would mean for the people of France, Nancy believed they had to be stopped. She knew who she needed to be, and decided she would do whatever it took, in order to stop them.
For three years, Nancy worked tirelessly against the Nazi juggernaut, meaning her life was in constant danger. She adopted many identities and codenames and became so supremely adroit at eluding the Gestapo that they nicknamed her The White Mouse. However, this success meant a price on her head – an amazing 5,000,000 Francs. With the Gestapo net closing in it was too risky for her to stay in France it was time to return to Britain. After being arrested and duping the Germans into releasing her, on her sixth attempt to cross the Pyrenean boarder into Spain she was whisked away by guides who buried her in the back of a coal truck. She reached England in a convoy from Gibraltar in June 1943. This intense level of fortitude made her legendary in the ranks.
In Britain, Nancy Wake was the ultimate agent. She retrained in the latest spy craft and militia techniques. When the D-Day landings were being planned, the Americans knew they would have a better chance of success if the Germans were softened up prior to their arrival. This became Nancy Wake and John Farmer’s mission in April 1944. So, from the relative safety of Britain, they were parachuted back into occupied France with orders to organize the local bands of Resistance fighters in the Auvergne region, establish munitions caches from the nightly parachute drops and set up radio contact with England. Without faltering, Nancy Wake jumped into the blackness.
Her Resistance troops were outnumbered 6 – 1 by the Germans so working smart was the only way to succeed. She urgently carried out all of her primary objectives before setting about destroying German convoys, blowing up their installations and weakening their support lines. On one occasion, she cycled 500 kilometres through perilous enemy territory to replace codes her radio operator had been forced to destroy in a German raid.
In life, doing things is never enough on its own - Nancy Wake knew this, she mastered this. Nancy Wake was the Allies’ most highly decorated servicewoman of WWII and is revered in France as a national heroine for her Resistance work and bravery. However her leadership style did not conform to traditional Australian views on how a woman “should” lead and her achievements were overlooked in her homeland until 2004.
Fortunately for most of us our opportunities for leadership do not occur in such dramatic and tragic circumstances. However if people follow you then you are a leader, you have changed their lives and maybe you didn’t even know about it. Whether you are leading as a Prime Minister, a Mum, a business owner ,a manager, or a volunteer, NLP teaches us that it is who you are BEING and what you are DOING that gives you what you HAVE right now. And when you truly get these 3 things – you do have the key to unlock, understand and master leadership in your own life, in your own style.
At Destiny By Design you’ll explore how with the BE-DO-HAVE model, every part is vital!