Patton’s Principles of Leadership
BORN in San Gabriel, California, in 1885, George S. Patton, Jr. was the general deemed most dangerous by the German High Command in World War II. Known for his bombastic style, it was mostly done to show confidence in himself and his troops, says author Owen Connelly.
On December 21, 1945, Patton died in Heidelberg, Germany. The following day the New York Times wrote the following editorial:
History has reached out and embraced General George Patton. His place is secure. He will be ranked in the forefront of America’s great military leaders.
Long before the war ended, Patton was a legend. Spectacular, swaggering, pistol-packing, deeply religious, and violently profane, easily moved to anger because he was first of all a fighting man, easily moved to tears because, underneath all his mannered irascibility, he had a kind heart, he was a strange combination of fire and ice. Hot in battle and ruthless, too. He was icy in his inflexibility of purpose. He was no mere hell-for-leather tank commander but a profound and thoughtful military student.
Everyone is to lead in person.
Commanders and staff members are to visit the front daily to observe, not to meddle. Praise is more valuable than blame. Your primary mission as a leader is to see with your own eyes and be seen by your troops while engaged in personal reconnaissance.
Issuing an order is worth only about 10 percent. The remaining 90 percent consists in assuring proper and vigorous execution of the order.
Plans should be simple and flexible. They should be made by the people who are going to execute them.
Information is like eggs. The fresher the better.
Every means must be used before and after combats to tell the troops what they are going to do and what they have done.
Fatigue makes cowards of us all. Men in condition do not tire.
Courage. Do not take counsel of your fears.
A diffident manner will never inspire confidence. A cold reserve cannot beget enthusiasm. There must be an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace.
Discipline is based on pride in the profession of arms, on meticulous attention to details, and on mutual respect and confidence. Discipline must be a habit so ingrained that it is stronger than the excitement of battle or the fear of death.
A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution ten minutes later.
Adapted from On War and Leadership: The Words of Combat Commanders from Frederick the Great to Norman Schwarzkopf by Owen Connelly
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