|George S. Patton, Jr.|
General Patton was noted for his leadership in combat, both in the First World War and the Second. He was loved, feared, and hated. One of his most famous nicknames was "Old Blood and Guts." The troops would say, "Yeah, our blood, his guts." Nevertheless he was widely admired by the men of Seventh Army in Sicily and then later in Third Army. Audacity, speed, and overwhelming fire power were his watchwords. The Emperor Napoléon would have recognized his type.
All good leaders should, if they know nothing else, remember these two Patton quotes -
A good plan violently executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week.
A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.That last quote would have been recognized by Erwin Rommel and Alexander Suvorov. Outstanding combat leaders themselves.
|George B. McClellan|
General McClellan (or "Little Mac" as his troops called him, not to his face though) was perhaps the exact opposite of a combat general. He assiduously avoided coming to grips with Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. He believed every single wild estimate of Confederate strength laid before him by his "intelligence" service.
However, what cannot be forgotten is that McClellan turned a conglomeration of uniformed civilians, state militias, and what few regulars the country possessed into the powerful Army of the Potomac. A force which would chase the Rebs to their eventual surrender at Appomattox. His troops adored him, though had he had any fighting spirit the war may have ended sooner. Who knows?
One of his other nicknames was "The Young Napoléon."
McClellan was a fine manager.
|George A. Custer|
He became a brigadier general at the age of 23. He was an aggressive cavalry commander who led from the front. Much like an earlier beau sabreur, Joachim Murat - Napoléon's favored and talented leader of horsemen, Custer liked to affect a very showy uniform style which, at first, his troopers didn't care for. Once they saw that "The Boy General" led from the front, they began copying certain elements of Custer's dress, particularly his affectation of wearing a red neckerchief. (The issue item was in cavalry yellow.)
|Murat leads a charge at the Battle of Jena, 14 October 1806, by Henri Chartier (Source)|
On the Great Plains he was known as "Iron Butt" and "Hard Ass" from his ability to remain in the saddle for long periods of time. (No mention of how his horse felt about that.)
Custer is best remembered though for the destruction of the units of the Seventh Cavalry under his personal command at the Little Big Horn. (He was also the regimental commander of the Seventh, parts of which survived the battle.)
His attack on that big village was perhaps foolhardy. Bear in mind though, to a cavalryman audacity is everything, he who dares wins. Murat and LaSalle would have probably done the same.
|Lasalle's last charge at Wagram (1809), by Édouard Detaille (Source)|
Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.
|George E. Pickett|
General George Pickett was the Goat of the West Point class of 1846. His wife wrote two books about her husband which painted him as the ideal Southern gentleman and soldier. He is best remembered as the man for whom the last, fatal, charge at Gettysburg is named.
Pickett longed to lead men in battle, he was a flamboyant leader who desperately wanted to lead men in glorious battle (a trait he shared with Patton). His chance came at Gettysburg
|"Toward the Angle" by Don Troiani (Source)|
He blamed Robert E. Lee for the destruction of his division.
|George G. Meade|
Growing up I always thought that Ulysses S. Grant had commanded the Army of the Potomac during it's fight to overcome and beat down the Army of Northern Virginia.
That post was given to George Meade shortly before Gettysburg. President Lincoln was tired of the string of generals he had appointed up to that point. No one seemed able to take the Army of the Potomac and lead it to victory.
Meade managed to pull that feat off in his first battle in command of the Army of the Potomac. Of course, there are those who would argue that he managed to "not lose." Which is not the same as winning. But that's unfair. He managed the battle well, nothing glorious or fancy, he made sure the right people were in the right place at the right time and kept them supported.
When Grant did come East after Vicksburg to command all of the Union armies, he made his headquarters with Meade's Army of the Potomac. George Meade led that force to the end at Appomattox. While Grant's presence tended to overshadow Meade's command, it was still Meade's army which defeated Lee.
Who knows how he would have fared had Grant stayed in Washington? Hard to be lackadaisical and slow when the boss is right there all the time. Nevertheless, he did a more than competent job of leading his army. Far better than his predecessors!
|George C. Marshall|
George C. Marshall was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. A planner and organizer, Marshall never saw combat. One of the reasons that the United States doesn't have the rank of Field Marshal is because George Marshall did not wish to be known as Field Marshal Marshall. At least that's the story I heard.
While his organizational talents helped to build the largest army the United States has ever fielded and kept that army supplied and trained, he did have his critics. The replacement system he and General Leslie McNair devised (under pressure from government and business leaders, of course**) was ill advised. Rather than men going to war as members of cohesive units, replacements went overseas as individuals and were first assigned to replacement depots (the "repple-depples" of my father's memory) then were sent piecemeal to units in the field.
It took time for the new guys to get up to speed in their new units. Many were killed or wounded before their fellow soldiers even knew their names. While Marshall had wanted to have a system of complete unit rotation, he got stuck with what his bosses wanted.
In true Army fashion, they kept that system up through Vietnam. A system roundly hated and despised by all those who went through it.
Marshall is also famous for the plan which rebuilt Europe after the war. This was one veteran who made a very effective Secretary of State. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize, the only career soldier to have done so. Again, he got his prize the old fashioned way, he earned it!
|George Washington, 1776 - Painted by Charles Willson Peale|
First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen. So Washington was eulogized by Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee, a fine soldier in his own right and the father of Robert E. Lee.
General Washington was quite a man. He worked the wilderness as a surveyor in his youth. He was on the disastrous Braddock Expedition during the French and Indian War, legend has it the after the wounding of General Edward Braddock, Washington took command and saved Braddock's army from total destruction.
He wove the disparate colonial elements besieging Boston into a real army. Through many trials, tribulations, and defeats, Washington held this army together. A victory here and there (such as the Battle of Trenton, think "Washington crossing the Delaware") kept the men in the ranks and gave patriots everywhere renewed faith in the glorious cause of American independence.
After his victory at Yorktown a new nation was born. General Washington could probably have had a crown for the asking, some offered him that very possibility. He turned it down of course and became our first President. He persevered, he kept the goal in mind.
Leadership takes many forms. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. In this post I talked about famous military leaders. I've known and served under some pretty damned fine military leaders in my day. Nobody really famous, no generals. Mostly captains and majors, some commanding squadrons, some were branch chiefs. They knew their jobs, they took care of their people.
That's what it boils down to for me really, three things -
- Know your job
- Keep your eye on the goal (the mission if you will)
- Take care of your people.
A good leader is also a good manager, the converse doesn't necessarily hold true. It's my experience that most "leaders" these days are not good leaders, can't manage worth a damn (well, except maybe to manage their own careers, they're usually damn good at that), and don't really care about the people in their charge, except so far as how they can be used to benefit themselves.
Well, those are my thoughts on leaders and leadership and a look at some of my favorite examples of types of leaders. What are your thoughts?
Editor's Note: Please note the words in red in the next to last sentence. I added those this morning. This was not intended to be a list of my favorite leaders, far from it. Leaving words out altered the drift and meaning here. My bad, I shouldn't blog while medicated...
*The Goat is the individual who graduates dead last in academic standing. Hey, they did actually graduate. No mean achievement!
**In all fairness to those government and business leaders, they were also concerned with keeping enough able bodied men at home to do necessary industrial and agricultural work.