Leadership Soup
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Leadership Soup

5 Leadership Lessons from General George S. Patton

On a recent rainy Sunday, I started looking through my library and came across Patton’s One-Minute Messages: Tactical Leadership Skills for Business Managers, which has actually been travelling with me since I was a young Second Lieutenant almost 26 years ago. If memory serves me right, I believe I picked up the book at the Ft. Knox Post Exchange when I was attending the Armor Officer Basic Course.

As I browsed through the small book, I came across a lot of dog-eared pages and my handwritten notes scribbled in the margins. It definitely brought back some memories. The book essentially breaks down advice from General Patton into bite-sized snippets of wisdom. It’s a quick read, and though it is particularly relevant for military professionals, Patton’s ideas do transcend into the business world and are practical for leaders outside the profession of arms.

Here are a few that particularly resonated with me as especially worthwhile and enduring principles regardless of the era or type of organization. Author Charles M. Province does a great job extrapolating the key ideas and concepts of Patton’s sharp one-liners.

1. By perseverance, study, and eternal desire, any man can become great.

Anyone who is willing to work hard and strive continuously to be the best they can possibly be at their chosen profession has the potential to attain the stature of greatness. You must remember that being great doesn’t always mean that you will also be notable, rich, or famous. Some people believe, incorrectly that being great means only that you must have a direct, profound, or monumental impact on history. Many great people have just not lived at exactly the right place and time to be perceived as great. They have not had the luck to be called upon even though they merit the duty that would have placed their name on the honor roll of history. But by their consistency, by their stableness of mind and thought, by their strength of character, and by their focus on goals and objectives, they are great just the same.

2. A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes later.

Nothing is ever going to be perfect, especially during the organized chaos called war. In war a good solution applied now can save lives, materials, and time. You can spend all of your time rethinking and revising your plans and never get the battle started, let along won. There comes a time when you must simply stop planning and put the plan into effect. If you continue to wait for a perfect plan or for perfect conditions, the enemy will take control of the situation, attack you, force you into a defensive position, and possibly destroy you. Too much analysis causes paralysis.

3. Do more than is required of you.

Never think that you have done enough or that your job is finished. There’s always something that can be done — something that can help to ensure victory. You can’t let others be responsible for getting you started. You must be a self-starter. You must possess that spark of individual initiative that sets the leader apart from the led. Self-motivation is the key to being one step ahead of everyone else and standing head and shoulders above the crowd. Once you get going, don’t stop. Always be on the lookout for a chance to do something better.

4. Do not fear failure.

No one can be 100 percent correct 100 percent of the time. The best you can do is couple all of the information currently at hand with your past experience and historical knowledge to make the best decision at any given moment. Even when you do fail (and you will) it’s an excellent learning experience. At least you will know what not to do in a specific situation. If you fear failure, you will never be able to make a difficult decision that may require a calculated risk. By fearing failure, you prepare yourself to become one of those cautious people who tries to win by not losing. If you’re afraid of failing, you will never achieve true success or win a decisive victory. Only people who never do anything make no mistakes. That’s the greatest mistake of all.

5. Give credit where it’s due.

This actually means two things. First, it means to tell someone when they’ve done a good job. Praise them for their performance and give credit for being a good soldier. Make sure other people know they’ve done a good job and that the praise gets into their personnel folder. It takes very little time to do this, and it reaps great rewards. Second, giving credit where it’s due means not being so stupid as to take credit for what your soldiers do. There are people who will listen to a soldier’s ideas, say they are no good, and then claim them as their own. These people are galling enough, but even worse are those who realize that a soldier is doing good work and has some good ideas and try to get in on it. They will try to involve themselves in the soldier’s work with the intention of stealing the work and the credit for it. Usually these dishonest schemers outrank their victims. They think their theft will be protected by the chain of rank.

Related Video:

A remarkable and informative biography comes to the screen in “The General Patton Story” as narrated by Ronald Reagan and produced by the Army Pictorial Center. Here is a story of a soldier who lived for action and glory and reached the heights in serving his country. This is a page from contemporary history devoted to the life of General George S. Patton, Jr., whose Third Army swept across the continent of Europe. For a commander who was so obviously a winner — his men would do the impossible. Patton is a study in duty, patriotism and loyalty.

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J.R.

J.R.

Pushing 50. Survivor of 3 wars, child abuse, divorce, parenthood, several near death experiences, endless meetings, and one too many Saints heartbreak seasons.