Editor’s Note: See Part 1 HERE
The Nature of Leadership
Leadership is different from management. The old adage says that leaders lead people, and managers manage things. Together, leadership and management develop shared intent to achieve coordinated action.
Leadership is as much an art as a science. It is the creative expression of the human will necessary to accomplish an organization’s mission. Management is the control and administration of the structures and processes devised by the leadership to enable the organization to function effectively and to manage risk.
With that in mind, let’s consider the function and necessary characteristics of leadership. Leadership in the business and even governmental world is slightly different from leadership in the Armed Forces. While the CEOs of private sector organizations are responsible to their boards and shareholders to grow their businesses and protect their share prices, commanding generals and admirals (and all those under their commands) are responsible to support and defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same. This obligates such officers to a more personally disinterested, yet critical sense of duty. Good leaders in the private sector and other government agencies sometimes have this sense of duty to their shareholders, and other stakeholders, but it has not been seen as a primary consideration by many businesses, as we have seen in the tales of excess and greed on Wall Street over the last decade or so. However, we believe there is a lot that business can learn from the military approach to leadership. And while General Patton was in a category of “one-off” leaders all on his own, he still provides a great example of leadership—what it meant to him, how he carried it out, and why his troops were so loyal.
General George S. Patton was one of the finest generals and leaders. He was regarded by politicians and some of his peers as a prima donna—and he was proud to be one—yet he was beloved by his troops. He understood the need to win. He understood and inculcated loyalty up and, more importantly, down the chain of command. He understood leaders must lead from the front—never asking others to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. He gave sincere and generous praise to his troops in public, realizing that pride would motivate them and inspire an attitude of success. And he reprimanded in private. He believed the role of a commander was not to manage, but to command, to lead by example, never to show fear or doubt, and never to accept defeat.
He was a great believer in planning and contingency planning, yet he realized they could never be implemented perfectly. Indeed he said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” A familiar corollary is that “a plan never survives contact with the enemy.” Regardless, it’s the process of planning that is most important—thinking strategically about the context and one’s responses to it and actions in it. Risks are inherent in warfare—even more than in business—and Patton was a believer in taking calculated risks, yet not being rash.