American Generalship: Character Is Everything: The Art of Command

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

Chapter 9: Fix the Problem, Not the Blame

Fix the problem, not the blame. -- General of the Army George C. Marshall

In an interview with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, he told me, "Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well." He personally lived by that credo.

General Eisenhower had an awesome responsibility decision on launching the D-day invasion of France on June 6, 1944. After Ike said, "We'll go," he sat at his portable table and wrote a press release for use if the attack failed: "Our landings have failed . . . and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone." 1

I discussed this further with him, and he told me he remembered Lee's statement after the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg. There are many theories on what might have been the cause of that defeat, but Lee blamed no one but himself. In a letter to President Jefferson Davis, Lee wrote, "No blame can be attached to the Army for its failure to accomplish what was projected by me, nor should it be censured for the unreasonable expectations of the public. I am alone to blame." Then on August 8, 1963, Lee offered his resignation to Davis. "The general remedy for the want of success in a military commander is his removal. . . . Success should be risked to secure it. I therefore, in all sincerity, request your Excellency to take measures to supply my place." 2

On November 5, 1862, President Lincoln relieved McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac, frustrated by McClellan's delay in fighting and his lack of success when he did fight. He was replaced with Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, who may have overre-

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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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