How does one develop as a decision-maker? Be around people making decisions.
-- General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower
The first duty of a leader is to create more leaders.
-- General W. L. Creech, USAF (Ret.)
In answering my inquiry on how to develop as a decision maker, General Eisenhower commented, "Be around people making decisions. Those officers who achieved the top positions of leadership were around decision makers, who served as their mentors."
Several years ago I was a scheduled speaker at the Air Force Squadron Officers' School ( SOS) at Maxwell Air Force Base, in Alabama. The school, intended for lieutenants and captains, is the only company-grade course for all branches of the air force. In contrast, the army has company-grade schools for officers at the various branch schools, such as infantry and armor.
The speaker just before me was an air force general who advised members of the class that to get ahead, each needed to get a "sponsor" and to "hitch your wagon to a star." This comment concerned me, because he clearly gave the impression to the class of some five hundred young officers that success depends upon whom you know rather than job performance and what you know. This was upsetting to the students, who during the break expressed their disillusionment.
For the younger generation coming along, it is important to answer the question of how one gets ahead and succeeds in the military. In response to that question, this chapter develops mentorship in the careers of some of the twentieth century's most successful army and air force generals. In my interviews with more than a hundred four-star generals, I asked each man whether he thought his success was the result of having a sponsor. Not one of the generals who achieved four-star rank believed that his promotions or assignments were because of whom he knew, the way he parted or cut his hair,