Lessons from WWII Leaders
From our U.S. Army definition, "Leadership is the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization." I concluded my uniformed service as the director of leader development at the U.S. Army War College and am currently a member of the Executive Development Roundtable (hosted by Boston University), so it is clear that my perspective is that leadership can and must be taught.
What I offer for consideration is source of comments by renowned World War II military leaders:
From Nineteen Stars: A Study in Military Character & Leadership by Edgar F. Puryear, Jr.--in answer to the question of whether leaders are born or made posed by author:
"I would say some are born. A person can be born with certain qualities of leadership: good physique, good mental capacity, curiosity, the desire to know. When you go to pick out the best pup in a litter of bird dogs, you pick out the pup even though he is only 6 weeks old. He is curious, going around looking into things, and that kind of dog usually turns out to be the best dog. But there are qualities one can improve on. A thorough knowledge of your profession is the first requirement of leadership and this certainly has to be acquired." --General Omar N.Bradley
"I think that there is something to the expression 'born to lead'. But there are many people who have the potential for leadership, just as there are probably many people born with the potential to be great artists that never have the opportunity or the training for the full development of their talents. I think leadership is a product of native ability plus environment. By environment, I mean training and the opportunity to exercise leadership." --General Dwight D. Eisenhower
"I suppose men are born with traits that can be cultivated in the direction of leadership. But there is also no doubt that leadership can be cultivated The idea of any man being born an army commander or being born to be a theater commander, such as General Eisenhower, just isn't so. The characteristics of leadership, necessarily has to have certain decisiveness and confidence come from knowledge based on studies and training. The fundamental thing is your basic knowledge, the development of your mind, and your ability to apply this knowledge as you go along your military career." --General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.
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