Thursday, May 31, 2007

Booknote: Patton on Leadership

Axelrod, Alan. Patton on Leadership: Strategic Lessons for Corporate Warfare. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall Press, 1999. ISBN: 0-7352-0297-4.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenres: leadership, business, history, strategy.

This is one of the best books I have read this year. Personally, I have always admired Old Blood and Guts because he embodied a leader who would not surrender and would not back down. However, from reading history, I knew that, though very daring and seemingly reckless, he was also a consummate planner and someone who valued information. This book confirms a lot of that for me. Whether one likes or despises General Patton, one definitely can learn something from his leadership ideas and style. This book provides those lessons.

The book provides a brief historical overview of the general and his accomplishments. The rest of the book then presents a principle, takes lines and segments from various writings (by him as well as by others) to illustrate the key leadership principles, and then the author provides an explanation. From how to be a leader to communication to inspiring others, this book has a lesson for everyone who aspires to be a leader or for those who have leadership thrust upon them. There are many good lessons here that I would like to remember, and that in some way I hope I could apply in my practice and life. In a time when I am not seeing good inspiring leaders, I always know I can turn to history and learn from the great ones. I borrowed this from my local public library, but I am definitely buying myself a copy as soon as possible.

Anyhow, here are a few lines:

  • On difference of opinions: "No one is thinking if everyone is thinking alike."
  • On keeping your mind open and taking notes: "Everything that interested [Patton] was painstakingly typed on notecards and suitably annotated with additional ideas and comments" The quote is from Carlo D'Este's book Patton: A Genius for War. In a very small way, that is what I try to do with my attempts at blogging and my personal journal. It does not always work, in part, because I am not as disciplined as I could be in my writing, but I try.
  • On getting out from behind the desk and into the real world: "I want you to know that I do not judge the efficiency of an officer by the calluses on his butt." You can't know what is going on with your subordinates if you sit on a desk all day.
  • On change, which by the way, is something that often comes up in the library literature: ""If the 14th -Century Knight could adapt himself to gunpowder, we should have no fear of oil, grease, and motors." This is quoted from a speech Patton gave to the Pennsylvania National Guard in 1930 about adapting to mechanized warfare. What do you know? Some things never change.
  • However, I think General Patton may have had something to say to the 2.0 technogurus who rag on those who "don't get it" as well: "All this talk about super weapons and pushbutton warfare is a pile of junk. Man is the only war machine. . . .Always remember that man is the only machine that can win the war. . . . It's nice to have good equipment,. . . but man is the key. Remember the French Revolution? That battle was won with brooms, sticks, and stones-- by a bunch of angry women. Get a determined bunch of men and women and they will the battles no matter what the odds or what kind of equipment they use." For me at least, that is why I always prefer to look at the human factor.
  • And while on the human factor, leaders should always remember those who work for them: "The soldier is the army. No army is better than its soldiers."
And this last one is my personal favorite. It is something that I see lacking a lot these days, and yet, well, it speaks for itself:

  • "SUCCESS IN WAR DEPENDS UPON THE GOLDEN RULE OF WAR. SPEED--SIMPLICITY--BOLDNESS." The quote is from Patton's field notebook. Upper case emphasis in original.

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