Leaders, Leadership & Visionaries – Part 2

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[1].

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[2]. 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.


Christine MacNulty
Christine MacNulty
CHRISTINE MacNulty has forty years’ experience as a consultant in long-term strategic -planning for concepts as well as organizations, futures studies, foresight, and technology forecasting, technology assessment and related areas, as well as socio-cultural change. For the last twenty years, most of her consultancy has been conducted for the Department of Defense and the Services, NATO ACT, NATO NEC, the British Army’s Force Development & Training Command, and the German BBK. Prior to that her work was in the commercial arena where she had Fortune Global 500 clients. During the last thirty-five years Christine MacNulty has contributed methods and models for understanding social and cultural change through people’s values. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in 1989. She is the coauthor of two books: Industrial Applications of Technology Forecasting, Wiley, 1971 and Strategy with Passion – A Leader’s Guide to Exploiting the Future, August 2016. Her paper: “Method for minimizing the negative consequences of nth order effects in strategic communication actions and inactions” was published in NATO Defence Strategic Communications Journal, p 99, Winter 2015. Two monographs “Truth, Perception & Consequences” (2007) and “Transformation: From the Outside In or the Inside Out” (2008) were published by the Army War College. Perceptions, Values & Motivations in Cyberspace appeared in the IO Journal, 3rd Quarter, 2009, and The Value of Values for IO, SC & Intel was published in the August 2010 edition of the IO Journal.

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  1. Enjoyed your Article. I would say that as a retail Manager that without a doubt I lead my team and develop both the manager and Leader in them all. Both leaders and managers are very important in life. Two sides of one coin. Great leaders will need to have management skills and great managers will need to have leadership skills. One does not diminish the other. I also do what I do because I love it and I am not looking for any rewards except for the success of those I engage in life. Thank for a your sharing your article. I loved Patton but I also believe in a quiet leader that works behind the scenes never hearing the roar of the crowds.

    • Thank you, Larry. Good comments. I have found that people have a propensity to be good leaders OR good managers. Yes, really good ones from both arenas can do both, but the capabilities required are not the same. Leaders tend to have vision and direction – and can inspire people. Managers are more about systems and controlling and keeping the people in the organization within bounds. I still think that the old adage “Leaders lead people, managers manage things” is true. Effective organizations need both. There can be quiet leaders who work behind the scenes, but they are fairly unusual in my experience. Leaders need to lead from the front – not necessarily bombastically, but obviously enough so that they are recognized and acknowledged by their people. As you say about yourself, for many true leaders, success is about the success of their people and organization, or about fun or excitement, not money or aggrandizement.

  2. Very educational article with suggestions worthy of endorsement. I also share the contents of the comments. I just want to add a brief comment based on the experience.
    I totally agree that “ordering” is a word that should be banned in a modern organization (and. personally, I have been a very participatory, present and empowering boss!). However, some considerations must be made, particularly with regard to the context.
    In any organized company there is need of a leader and if the enterprise is daring it takes a tough boss, so much harder because environmental boundary conditions are turbulent. They are therefore the risk and turbulence that create the head “hard”? Almost always yes, but the opposite is also true: the head unnecessarily hard creates unnecessary risk and unnecessary turbulence in the organization in which it operates. In general, I would say that in conditions of great danger or high risk of justified urgency or high turbulence, the head has to be authoritarian. The problem is not between the command and not command, but how to command. As well as, put the alternative between being authoritarian and be a motivator, is not always correct or possible. The second behavior is not substitutive of the first, but only part of the first: if the leader cannot motivate or have employees not willing to be motivated them he must anyway lead to the goals. We are afraid of this conclusion? The turbulence of the system in which we live authorizes us to do it and make it acceptable.

    • Good comments, Aldo. At the end of the day, someone has to make decisions and be responsible for them. For me, since the Leader is the one who is responsible, he/she has to do it, no matter how hard. In my own case, I have always tried to listen and to let others comment or provide advice, but since I am responsible, I have to do what I believe is best. Indecisive Leaders are not Leaders.

  3. That’s a good comment, Chris. Motivation is a key issue for leadership. As you say, people can be motivated to become leaders for many different reasons – power, control, status, desire to be empowering, desire to do good, to value people and their efforts… Many people in leadership positions got there by default – perhaps not even expecting to or wanting to be leaders. That’s why “knowing yourself” – which I take to mean at a deep psychological level – is important.

  4. A major contributor to leadership issues is the the motivation, the reason the person wants to be a leader. For me, I value impact of efforts and the dollar so I lead a different way than someone else who motivated to lead because of the level of control that comes with them leading.

  5. I’ve read this article twice and now see why it’s very difficult to put the seal of satisfaction or seal of approval on a leader. I’ve never seen a MVL award. The requirements are nearly that of a water-walker. I believe leaders have to be willing to change and they need to be ethical, visionary, compassionate, knowledgeable, influential, and all the things you listed in your article. What I hope is that leaders, who are essentially good, have excellent character, rank high on emotional intelligence, and are doing the best they can in their role, are not discouraged at their lack of ability to meet all these qualifications.

    • Thank you, Jane! That’s a good comment. I agree with all the other characteristics you list. It gets to the idea of “knowing yourself,” too. If people really want to do their best, then the more they know about themselves, the more able they know where they need to change.

    • I read our first segment just prior to reading this one. I was in love with the Q&A that really reveal who the leaders are from the inside out.