January 25, 2022 by David Fivecoat
Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of the great people of the 20th century. Born in Texas in 1890 to pacifist parents and raised in Kansas, he attended West Point where he played football. As an infantry officer in the Army, Ike, as he was known to his friends, was an excellent planner and staff officer, serving under Generals John J. Pershing, Fox Conner, and Douglas MacArthur. After Pearl Harbor, General George C. Marshall called him to Washington where he developed the war plans for the United States Army in World War II. He did such a good job as a planner he was selected to command the Allied Forces during the amphibious assault in North Africa in November 1942, the amphibious assault of Sicily on July 9, 1943, and the amphibious assault of the Italian mainland on September 3, 1943. Due to his experience conducting joint operations, his ability to maintain the Allied coalition, his team building skills, and his relationship with both President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, he was selected as the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces to lead the Overlord Operation on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
After the war, he retired from the Army and became President of Columbia University. Recalled to active duty, he assumed command over the new NATO forces being assembled in 1951. At the age of 62, he decided to pursue a political career. In 1952, he ran for and was elected as the 34th President of the United States. His campaign slogan was “I Like Ike.” During his eight years in office, he pursued a centrist approach while maintaining a balanced budget. Amongst his administrations’ many accomplishments include ending the Korean War, starting the Interstate Highway System, supporting the desegregation of schools, passing civil rights legislation, and formalizing the National Security Council.
When he left office, he retired to his farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In 1965, the Reader’s Digest magazine asked him to write an article entitled “What is Leadership?” Here is the essence of General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s concept of leadership:
General Dwight Eisenhower’s 8 Characteristics of Leadership
- Selfless Dedication. Perhaps the greatest of the leadership qualities is single-minded and selfless dedication to the task at hand. Any leader worth his salt must of course possess a certain amount of ego, a justifiable pride in his own accomplishments. But if he or she is a truly great leader, the cause must predominate over self. An old and respected commander of mine used to say, “Always take your job seriously, never yourself.”
- Courage and Conviction. Real leaders are firm in the support of their convictions. Most important of all, real leaders never deviate from their higher purpose and don’t allow personal ambition to cloud their view. (If you’d like more on how to enhance your personal purpose (Post #96) or organization’s purpose (Post #104) click on the links.)
- Fortitude. Closely related to dedication is another vital ingredient of leadership: fortitude of spirit – the capacity to stand strong under reverses, to rise from defeat and do battle again, to learn from one’s mistakes and push on to the ultimate goal. (I call this resilience. Here is a great post on Dan Gable and Resilience if you want to learn some ideas on how to improve your resilience.)
- Humility. A sense of humility is a quality I have observed in every leader whom I have deeply admired. My own conviction is that every leader should have enough humility to accept, publicly, the responsibility for the mistakes of the subordinates he has himself selected and, likewise, to give them credit, publicly, for their triumphs.
- Thorough Homework. Another quality common to leaders is their willingness to work hard, to prepare themselves, and to know their field of activity thoroughly.
- Power of Persuasion. A trait always noticeable in a successful leader is his (or her) ability to persuade others. There are times, of course, when every leader must make a decision and see that it is carried out regardless of what others may think. But whenever men (and women) can be persuaded rather than ordered – when they can be made to feel that they have participated in developing the plan – they approach their tasks with understanding and enthusiasm.
- Heart and Mind. The qualities of leadership wear no single outward badge. Each leader is different and can bring about exceptional results using their heart, mind, and personality in their own unique way.
- At Every Level. I have been talking here about leadership in military and government service, but the same fundamentals apply at every level, in every walk of life. In the Army, good leadership must go down through the ranks to the youngest corporal; in business there is always need of men (and women) who can direct others effectively; in community life we need men and women who, by right thinking and sound deeds, influence others. This is the way leadership works in a democracy. And from the ranks of little leaders eventually come big leaders.
If you’d like some more ideas on how to improve yourself take a look at my book, Grow Your Grit, available for sale at Amazon. Or reach out to me here to start the discussion about how to use these lessons and others from Dwight D. Eisenhower to develop your team.
Go on the offensive in 2022 and use General Eisenhower’s 8 Characteristics of Leadership to enhance your leadership skills.