Monday, February 10, 2014

The George Patton Approach to Leadership

There are many types of inspirational leaders and you can follow different examples. How to inspire staff and employees all depends on what you mean by “inspire.” Essentially, the main purpose of inspiration is to get everyone pulling in the same direction in a cooperative fashion. The direction, of course, is to fulfill the mission and goals of the organization.

Take World War II General George Patton (1885-1945), for example. He had to inspire an army to perform the scary business of war. His inspirational style was through personal example -- “Get up front,” he would order his officers -- outright intimidation of subordinates and a lexicon of aphorisms that are immortalized in a book by one of his staff officers, Porter B. Williamson.

Williamson published a Patton biography in 1979 with the pithy title Patton’s Principles: A Handbook for Managers Who Mean it! Not every manager can command the fear and instant obedience of a U.S. Army general, so Patton had a huge advantage. All he had to do to inspire his staff’s support was give an order, which would be obeyed without question.

Nevertheless, George Patton’s principles have substance and are as meaningful today as they were in the life-and-death struggle of war over 70 years ago. Some examples:
Patton’s principles of command and management:
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say
  • Always be alert to the source of trouble.
  • Select leaders for accomplishment and not for affection.
  • Every leader must have the authority to match his responsibility.
Patton’s principles for good health:
  • Brain power comes from the lungs.
  • An active mind cannot exist in an inactive body.
  • There is no power in a bushel of blubber.
  • Make the mind command the body. Never let the body command the mind.
  • To gain strength, always go beyond exhaustion.
Patton’s principles for making decisions:
  • In the long run, it is what we do not say that will destroy us.
  • Talk with the troops.
  • Know what you know and know what you do not know.
  • Never make a decision too early or too late.
Patton’s principles for success:
  • Never fight a battle when nothing is gained by winning.
  • Success is how high you bounce from the bottom.
  • Always keep something in reserve.
  • Revenge belongs to God.
Even though Patton was a volatile and scary leader, he had a special knack of imprinting his leadership aura on others. According to Williamson:
“I served with General George S. Patton, Jr. No man served under Gen. Patton; he was always servingwith us. In truth, I still serve with Gen. Patton, and he continues to serve with me. He makes me take cold showers, he makes me take deep breaths, and he makes me pull in my bushel of blubber.”
How do you inspire your team?   

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