American Generalship: Character Is Everything: The Art of Command

By Edgar F. Puryear Jr. | Go to book overview
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Chapter 1: Selflessness

I had been accustomed throughout my life to classify all public servants into one or the other of two general categories: one, the men who were thinking what they could do for their job; the other, the men who were thinking what the job could do for them.

-- Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War, 1909-11;

Secretary of State, 1928-32; Secretary of War, 1939-45

There are many qualities that combine to make a leader successful. Among the most important are professional knowledge, decision, humanity, equity, courage, consideration, delegation, loyalty, selflessness, and character. From all my research, however, it is clear that there is absolutely nothing as important in successful leadership as character. Many great generals, such as George Washington, Robert E. Lee, George C. Marshall are remembered not only as great leaders but as men whose character predominated.

There are many comments and discussions in this book that focus on the quality of character. One was made by Henry L. Stimson, secretary of war from 1939 to 1945, who commented: "GeneralMarshall's leadership takes its authority directly from his great strength of character."

There were many other references to Marshall's character. Prime Minister Winston Churchill said Marshall was "a man of singular eminence and character." In a letter to Marshall on V-E Day, Churchill wrote: "I have waited to answer your message until the stir was somewhat less, because I wished to tell you what pride it has been to me to receive such words of friendship and approval from you. We certainly have seen and felt together a great deal of the hard inside working of this terrific war, and there is no one whose good opinion at the end of the struggle I value more than yours.

"It has not fallen to your lot to command the great armies. You have had to create them, organize them, and inspire them. Under your guiding hand the mighty and valiant formations, which have swept across France and Germany, were brought into being and per

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