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General George S Patton, United States Army

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patton2Before I joined the Canadian Forces I was not very knowledgeable about the military.  Admittedly, I joined the Canadian Forces to get a university degree at the Royal Military College of Canada.  If it was movies like “The Devil’s Brigade” that inspired me to join the infantry after graduation, it was the movie “Patton” that shaped my attitude towards being an officer and combat leader.  In fact, in 1987 just before departing on the Canadian Army Command and Staff College as a young Captain, I mainlined the movie several times from beginning to end just to get my game face on for the course.  It was actually at Fort Frontenac in Kingston, Ontario, where I was first introduced to the writings of General Patton.  I took the book “War as I Knew It” and found it to be every bit as compelling as the movie, and like the movie I read the book several times.  I swear, I almost committed it to memory.  Thus began a phase of enlightenment for me, as I continued in my quest to become a combat leader.

 Mounds have been written about General George S Patton.  Indeed, his military philosophies and practices have even become a literary focus in the domains of business and management.  I have read a fair amount about him from a variety of sources and, although I do not consider myself to be an expert on the man and the leader, I can say categorically that his example made a tremendous impression on me and my attitude towards officership and combat leadership.  Patton’s insights on life and the profession of arms are as profound as his persona was flamboyant.  As an officer, Patton was not about going to war, he was about winning wars.  He was both critical and creative in his approach to his profession, having identified the net worth of the tank in contemporary warfare of the day and prepared the troops under his charge mentally, physically, spiritually and collectively for the legendary campaigns in which they would engage in North Africa and Europe.  

In his approach to his profession, as his approach to life, he was ambitious but selfless.  Yes selfless.  He sought promotion as a grander opportunity to serve, not merely as enrichment of personal status.  Outwardly he was bold and arrogant, but that concealed a base of self doubt.  He worked very hard to overcome his fears and self-perceived frailties, adopting a cloak of, as Martin Blumenson said in “The Patton Papers”, “protective callousness” and promoting a public image that he very much strived relentlessly to embody.  He once mused something to the effect that the higher he rose in rank the less confident he became.  That is not surprising because, in the tradition of Gorilla Leaders, he was blazing a trail to victory through a forest of constipated contemporary thought, self-serving opportunists and glory seekers, masters of managing and manipulating the status quo.  

Patton made his share of enemies, but he also had his share of fans.  He got the name “Blood and Guts” out of respect from not the adulation of his subordinates, who would sometimes complain “Our blood but his guts”.  Never-the-less, the troops under his command would follow him into the vey gates of hell because they knew he was a war winner!  Patton’s arrogance even annoyed his superiors, Eisenhower and Bradley, but they had to have him on their team.  Patton was singled out by his adversaries  as a foe to be feared, his mere whereabouts as a commander being a decisive consideration in the German’s defences for D-Day.

As much as Patton had an ego the size of a house, he had a sensitive side.  Patton was not above apologizing for his misdeeds, as he did during the Italian campaign after having assaulted a soldier who had succumbed to battle stress.  Patton’s detractors would argue that he did so only to protect his command, which may be so.  The fact remains that he acknowledged that he did not do the right thing, and he made the admission very publicly.  In one of the best reads on Patton, Gen. Patton’s Principles for Life and Leadership, author Porter B. Williamson describes the sensitive side of Patton.  Patton insisted that a commander should never ask his troops to do something that they would not do themselves, and he lived up to that.  Patton recognized the value of every person under his command and the lessons that everyone could learn from each other.  Williamson also describes how Patton wept at the thousands of lives that he felt were lost needlessly due to the “pussy-footing” delays in pursuing the enemy.

It is not possible to do justice to such a complex and gifted leader of the 20th Century in this blog.  Moreover, I wouldn’t expect tomorrow’s leaders should spend too much time studying the exploits of a single, accomplished and acknowledged leader as I did as a young officer.  It is worth having a look at Charles M. Province’s “Patton’s One-Minute Messages” to familiarize oneself with some of the philosophies and principles that Patton contributed to the concept of Gorilla Leadership.

 

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Steve Jobs

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Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson, a great read about a leadership icon that we can all learn from.  P@

Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson, a great read about a leadership icon that we can all learn from. P@

Around the time I left the military Steve Jobs was being hailed for his amazing lifelong accomplishments.  Sadly he was also terminally ill.  Coincidentally, though, a great deal was being written about the man and many of the titles about the legend ended up under our Christmas tree addressed to me.  Up until that point of my life the majority of my personal study had been focused on military subjects, and most of the leaders I had read about were military.  Thanks to the gifts from Santa and my family I was quickly immersed in a review of Steve Jobs’s life from the perspective of several different authors.  What immediately struck me was that the descriptions of the leadership attributes of Steve Jobs were very similar to those that I had attributed to the leaders from past wars whom I admired and respected.  You can accuse me of reverse-engineering this — because I did — but Steve Jobs personified the theory of Rebel Gorilla Leadership that I had been formulating from my military background.

Gorilla Leadership is about the inspired accomplishments of the team!

Gorilla Leadership is about the inspired accomplishments of the team!

Steve Jobs created one of the largest, if not the largest, technology companies in history — certainly the richest, neck and neck with Exxon in the day.  He was tech savvy, but he was not a technician and he would not have amounted to anything were it not for the scientists, engineers and real smart folks he had a habit of becoming associated with, starting with Steve Wozniak who invented the first Apple computers.  Jobs was charismatic, but he could also be a prick to work for.  From what I have read, that is very much an understatement.  Nevertheless he had a committed army that would follow him anywhere, for whatever reason.

While Mr Jobs is famous for his accomplishments with Apple, his professional life had its ups and downs.  Jobs had been the point man at Apple and championed personally the legendary television commercial in January 1984 that launched the tech company into stardom; however, he was subsequently forced out ofthe company he founded.  He went on to start up NeXT computers, high-end workstations that were to be marketed directly to universities and colleges.  That went belly up, but not before Jobs went onwards and upwards “To Infinity and Beyond” with Pixar Studios.  He actually failed there too, with a foray into computing hardware, but managed to steer the studio into creating the classic Toy Story computer animated feature films.  Jobs would return to Apple, the company he founded, which by then was kind of floundering itself, and the rest is history.

Steve Jobs: “It’s better to be a pirate than to join the navy.

Sure, Jobs may have been a prick to work for, but he harnessed an amazing team of talent and inspired them to accomplishments that serve a massive community.  There are iPods, iPhones and/or iPads and copycats everywhere and anywhere you look.  Like my hero Patton, master of the mechanized battlefield, Jobs was ahead of his time.  He was anything but a slave to orthodoxy and group think, rather an example of the relationship between leadership and innovation.  He had the courage to expose himself and his seemingly wild-assed ideas to the criticism and even ridicule of everyone, but always put the mission above all else.  Importantly, he had the courage to persevere in the face of the adversity that confronted him, which he could be accused of having ocassionally stirred up himself.  I am thankful he was so courageous, because this iMac that I am writing this blog on sure makes my job and my passion much, much easier and more enjoyable!

While his life story certainly characterizes my personal principles that I now promote as “Gorilla Leadership”, Steve Jobs is directly responsible for the whole Rebel Gorilla concept.  After my 30 year career that climaxed on the distant outer fringe of the highest echelons of Canada’s military and government institutions, it was the words of Steve Jobs that summed up the Way of the Leader, when he said “It’s better to be a pirate than to join the navy.”  I will be playing around with and examining that assertion in The Book of Shadows”.

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