American Generalship: Character Is Everything: The Art of Command

By Edgar F. Puryear Jr. | Go to book overview

Chapter 4: Aversion to "Yes Men": Having the Character to Challenge

In 1940, Gen. George C. Marshall assigned Maj. Omar N. Bradley as assistant secretary of the general staff, a job that included briefing Marshall on decision papers. After a few weeks on the job, Marshall called Bradley and his assistants into his office. "Gentlemen," he said, "I'm disappointed in you. You haven't disagreed with a single decision I've made." Bradley replied, "General, that's only because there has been no cause for disagreement. When we differ with you on a decision, sir, we'll tell you."1 This incident focuses on one of the most important aspects of decision making -- the assurance that you don't have on your staff any "yes men."

Not being a "yes man" was a turning point for Marshall in his own career. His initial assignment in Europe in World War I was on the staff of Maj. Gen. William L. Sibert, the 1st Division commander.

As the several divisions were training, Pershing made frequent inspection trips to evaluate their progress. In September 1917, he announced, with little notice, that he, along with the president of France, Raymond Poincaré, was going to review Sibert's division. Indeed, the order for the review came extremely late in the afternoon before it was to be held. The division's troops were spread over an area some thirty square miles, an all-night march from Houdelcourt, France, where the review and inspection were to be held. Captain Marshall was put in charge of the arrangements for the review, but because of the short notice he had to select the site for the inspection late in the evening. In the dark, he could not see that the ground chosen was on a hillside torn up by constant troop drilling, ankle deep in mud. Most of the personnel in the division had had no previous military experience and only a month of training. As a result

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American Generalship: Character Is Everything: The Art of Command
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Chapter 1: Selflessness 1
  • Notes 41
  • Chapter 2: Decision 44
  • Notes 75
  • Chapter 3: "Feel" or "Sixth Sense" in Decision Making 77
  • Notes 105
  • Chapter 4: Aversion to "Yes Men" 108
  • Notes 140
  • Chapter 5: Books 142
  • Notes 184
  • Chapter 6: Mentorship 188
  • Notes 233
  • Chapter 7: Consideration 236
  • Notes 259
  • Chapter 8: Delegation 261
  • Notes 282
  • Chapter 9: Fix the Problem, Not the Blame 285
  • Notes 299
  • Chapter 10: Reflective Descriptions of Character 301
  • Notes 335
  • Chapter 11: the Pattern 338
  • Notes 362
  • Index 367
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