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LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM WAR



I recently returned from a trip to the Ardennes region in Europe. I’m a Second World War buff and this region is especially interesting because of the Battle of the Bulge that took place there at the end of 1944. The German army tried one last-ditch attempt to break through the lines of the advancing Allied forces, and failed. Just why the Allies won the war is all down to leadership.


The Allied forces were in many ways in a fragile alliance. They all had their own goals and objectives. The Soviet Union was advancing rapidly in the east and wanted to reach Berlin, the capital of the German Reich as soon as possible. The British and the French were hoping to restore their prewar empires and the American objectives were much more focused on bringing peace and stability to Europe and then to bring their troops home as soon as possible. The western allies in particular had a thorny leadership question to resolve: who should be the Supreme Commander?


They made their choice in an ingenious and in some ways a counterintuitive way. In December 1943 they chose as their Supreme Commander, Dwight Eisenhower, a General who had no significant battle experience, unlike the generals he was going to lead. These subordinate generals not only had significant battle victories behind them, they also had very big egos. Most of them, for example Britain’s Bernard Montgomery, made little secret of their low opinion of Eisenhower.


But Eisenhower had a quality they did not possess: the generals could win battles, but Eisenhower could win the war. How did he do this? His bosses, especially President Roosevelt and the US Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall, recognized his superior qualities as a planner and organizer. He had distinguished himself by his superior ability to get results through influencing those around him, rather than by bluntly imposing his will. He listened well and was able to build and motivate teams that stayed loyal to him throughout his career.


These ‘soft’ skills turned out to be determinant in bringing the clashing egos around him into a cohesive and victorious team. They are also the key skills used by the most successful leaders in organizations around the World. They can be measured, for example with the Human Synergistics™ leadership suite of profiles, and leadership coaches can help their participants develop and fine tune these skills.


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Brownsugar TV
Brownsugar TV
16 de jun. de 2023

Again, soft skills cannot be overemphasized. There are leaders, and there are bosses, as a leader you get loyal subordinates who want to willingly work with you and give their all. By being bossy, you cannot achieve much!

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Brownsugar TV
Brownsugar TV
12 de mai. de 2023

Great blog Colin, it is true that every good leader needs followers and you do not just gain them by being bossy, or even imposing things on direct reports. Every team member will loyally follow a good leader willingly because they want to. Thanks for sharing.

Gloria- Human Synergistic Canada

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