- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at email@example.com.
In his famous business study Good to Great, Jim Collins identifies the transformative leader as somewhat surprising: “an individual who blends extreme personal humility with intense professional will.”
In other words, not George Patton. Instead, the two American commanders who come to mind are U.S. Grant and George C. Marshall. Both also were very good at seeing the brutal facts of the matter. I like the reaction to him during WWII of Lt. Gen. Adrian Carton de Wiart, a British officer who in the course of his career was shot seven times, survived two plane crashes, tunneled out of a PoW camp, and bit off some fingers when a doctor declined to amputate: Of several top people he met, “I placed General Marshall at the top of my list, for rarely have I seen a man who gave out such a feeling of mental strength and straightforwardness, which was accentuated by his physical appearance.”
Photo credit: Edgar Guy Fawx, 1864/ U.S. National Archives/Wikimedia Commons