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This chapter is from the book

A Leader Worth Knowing

As dramatic and successful as Operation Chromite was, it remains just one event in a life that offers a wealth of lessons to contemporary and future leaders. Throughout his adult life, Douglas MacArthur (as you will see in greater detail in Chapter 2) held an impressive array of top leadership positions in a variety of disciplines—including the military, public administration, education, sports, and business.

MacArthur's most dramatic leadership roles were those related to command positions in wartime. He personally led troops in World War I as the Rainbow Division's chief of staff and briefly was its leader and the youngest divisional commander of the war. In World War II, MacArthur first served as the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East. He was then appointed Commander in Chief of the Southwest Pacific area and finally Commander in Chief of the U.S. Army Forces in the Pacific. In the Korean War, as we have seen, he served as the Commander in Chief of the United Nations Command.

Although MacArthur's military accomplishments garnered comparisons with Robert E. Lee and earned him a leading position among the nation's greatest commanders, his work as an organizational leader and public administrator was equally impressive. MacArthur served as the Army's Chief of Staff through the Great Depression. He was a Field Marshal in the Philippines and responsible for the development of that nation's military forces. Most notably, he oversaw the occupation and recovery of postwar Japan as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers.

In education, MacArthur served as Superintendent of West Point. In sports, he was appointed President of the American Olympic Committee and led the U.S. team in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. Entering the world of business after his "retirement," MacArthur accepted a position as Chairman of the Board of Remington Rand Corporation, which after several mergers, is now known as Unisys Corporation.

MacArthur's accomplishments as a leader in a variety of positions and disciplines suggest that his principles and approach can be effective in a wide range of organizations. The longevity of his career, the diversity of its circumstances, and the magnitude of the changes his world underwent (as a child, MacArthur lived on a frontier army post during the final years of the Indian Wars; in his final years, astronauts were routinely orbiting the earth) suggest that lessons derived from his experiences can be relevant to today's leaders.

This book contains 50 of General MacArthur's lessons for leaders. They are drawn from the General's life and career, and they are described and illustrated by his own words whenever possible. MacArthur's lessons are organized into four categories, each of which is presented in a dedicated section, as follows.

Principles of Strategy

Part Two presents 14 principles representing an inside look at the thinking and process of MacArthur, the master strategist. First and foremost, great leaders in every field of endeavor are visionaries and strategists. They must be able to choose the goals they and their organizations will pursue and then, design strategies capable of attaining them. MacArthur was an expert at both tasks.

MacArthur's ability to envision and prioritize goals was much in evidence in his peacetime activities. For instance, he pursued a new educational curriculum during his stewardship of West Point, one that would prepare cadets for the modern version of warfare that had emerged in World War I. Typically, in wartime, MacArthur's ultimate goals, such as defeating the Japanese or restoring South Korea to its citizens, were established by the U.S. government. But even when goals were imposed on him, MacArthur usually quickly adopted them as his own and pursued them with all of his energy.

Strategy was MacArthur's forte and, based on operations such Chromite, he earned a well-deserved reputation as a brilliant military strategist. Although no strategist is infallible, during WWII and in the opening months of the Korean War, creative leaps in strategic thinking seemed to become an almost effortless and natural activity for MacArthur. Witness how the initial plan for Chromite emerged during the General's first visit to the front lines of the Korean War. But like any highly experienced and well-practiced professional, MacArthur's talent for strategy was learned and honed over the years, and it was based on observation, sound thinking, and practical conclusions.

Inspirational Leadership

Part Three presents eight lessons that describe MacArthur's approach to motivational leadership. A leader must, by definition, have followers. To effectively execute strategies and successfully achieve goals, great leaders must motivate those followers to act. Throughout his career, MacArthur exhibited an extraordinary ability to inspire his followers to act.

MacArthur combined command authority, charismatic image, and a paternal humanity into a leadership persona that sustained him throughout his career. Using this model, he could influence and motivate a wide variety of people. On his command, tens of thousands of soldiers risked their lives, and 80 million citizens of Japan embraced radical cultural change and a new constitution and government.

MacArthur adjusted the scale of his leadership persona to the circumstances in which he found himself. Thus, he could effectively lead a small group as well as a nation using the same basic approach. Whether his followers were soldiers or citizens, they responded to his confidence-inspiring bearing and manner. They recognized his intellect and his dramatic flair. Although MacArthur was neither seen as a "common man" nor beloved as a "man of the people," he was nevertheless widely respected by those who did not have direct contact with him. More tellingly, among his direct subordinates, MacArthur was almost universally admired, and many of them remained loyal to him throughout their lives.

Organizational Management

Part Four presents 12 lessons that draw on MacArthur's experiences in organizational management. Today, it is widely recognized that the structure and management of organizations has a significant impact on strategic execution and goal achievement. MacArthur was an expert administrator and people manager.

The drama of MacArthur's life and career can obscure his competence as an executive. His approach to the occupation of Japan still stands as one of the few successful occupations in history and offers significant lessons for those public administrators who are struggling to establish and encourage new governments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over half a century ago, MacArthur was building the kind of sleek, fast-response organizations that many business leaders are pursuing today. Today's merger and acquisition experts can learn much from his ability to create efficient, integrated structures out of collections of preexisting organizations.

By most measures, MacArthur was a superb manager of people. He was an excellent boss who understood the fine balance between personal control and delegation. He knew how to coax the highest level of performance from his subordinates. The conflict with Truman notwithstanding, he was also skilled at managing up. MacArthur had an enviable ability to persuade his superiors—from U.S. presidents to the Congress to the Joint Chiefs of Staff—to adopt policies and approve strategic and budgetary plans with which they initially disagreed.

Life and Career Management

Part Five presents a final set of 16 lessons that delve into the personal beliefs, traits, and skills that supported MacArthur's achievements as a leader. Great leaders develop and manage themselves before and after they take on the work of leading others. MacArthur embraced his future as a leader at an early age, and he managed his own life and career to maximize that future.

MacArthur was an early adherent of value-based leadership. Values, particularly West Point's "Duty, Honor, Country" played a large role in his success. MacArthur's values served as the foundation on which he based his life, the guideposts by which he navigated his career, and the basic criteria by which he judged himself and others.

As for personal traits and skills, MacArthur was fortunate to be born with some inherent advantages—such as family connections, intelligence, and a phenomenal memory—which aided him in his life and career. But in and of themselves, these traits were not enough to take him to the heights that he achieved. MacArthur bolstered his natural advantages by learning and developing traits that were not birthrights.

Always in pursuit of excellence, MacArthur preached and practiced preparedness, confidence, and initiative. He trained himself to become a dedicated learner and remained a learner throughout his life, utilizing his extensive reading and knowledge of history to support the achievement of his goals. MacArthur was also a master of the art of communication. He was practiced in image-building and media presentation. Although he was criticized for self-aggrandizement, he was undeniably successful at manipulating the media in pursuit of worthy objectives.

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