“It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.” – General Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Army
With Memorial Day this weekend in America, we honor those who have died serving in our military.
The crucible of war and battle is a challenge I can only imagine. I am fortunate to live in a country where war is a distant event, only made real by friends and family who have or currently do serve. I’m grateful for everyone who serves.
Learn from their leaders.
“If there is not the war, you don’t get the great general; if there is not a great occasion, you don’t get a great statesman; if Lincoln had lived in a time of peace, no one would have known his name.” – Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, and former U.S. Army Colonel
Through the centuries, great military leaders have shown some of the strongest leadership skills, which have been immortalized in quotes attributed to them.
Today, we look at a set of those military leader quotes that we can all learn from and apply in any situation where we are leading or managing others.
21 Military Leader Quotes any Manager can apply
Military Leader Quotes: Good leaders listen to their teams.
Whether a soldier on a battlefield, a staff member meeting with customers, or an engineer building a key component, those doing the front line work have valuable insights. As Colin Powell’s quote above, and former commander-in-chief & U.S. Presidents below all learned, listening is an essential skill for success as a leader.
“When I am getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say and two-thirds about him and what he is going to say.” – Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States and former Captain in the Illinois state militia during the Black Hawk War.
“No man has ever listened himself out of a job.” – Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States
“There’s likely a place in paradise for people who tried hard, but what really matters is succeeding. If that requires you to change, that’s your mission.” – General Stanley McChrystal, U.S. Army Retired
In General McChrystal’s book, Team of Teams, he recounted the only way to succeed was to change and get everyone involved in the war with Al Qaeda across agencies and military branches talking and listening.
If you need to work on your listening skills as a leader, here’s two places to start:
- The most important yet, overlooked management skill: Asking questions.
- How managers can become more effective listeners.
Military Leader Quotes: Good leaders trust their teams to execute.
Being a dictator is a poor way to lead. You miss out the critical thinking skills of the people executing your orders or instructions, and you kill their drive and motivation. Give people some ownership in how they do their work and you’ll get better results as these famous generals and Presidents knew so well.
“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” – General George S. Patton, U.S. Army
“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” – Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, and former Captain in the Army Reserves
“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” – Harry S Truman, 33rd President of the United States, and former Colonel in the U.S. Army
If you’re looking for help thinking about how to delegate more to your team, here’s a good place to start:
- Learn about Task Relevant Maturity, which can help you understand who is ready for more autonomy.
Military Leader Quotes: Good leaders know they’re in the people business.
Whether your team runs a submarine, is fighting on the front lines of World War I, or writes software, it’s important to show respect, care, and loyalty to them. Without it, you won’t get their full cooperation and spirit put into their work.
“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” – Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, and former U.S. Army Colonel
“To get the best out of your men, they must feel that you are their real leader and must know that they can depend upon you.” – General of the Armies John J. Pershing, U.S. Army
“Because the crew was convinced that I was “on their team” there were never any issues with negative criticism… You as a mentor have to establish that you are sincerely interested in the problems of the person you are mentoring.” Ret. Capt L. David Marquet, US Navy and author, Turn the Ship Around!
Need to work on your people skills with your team? Here’s a good place to start:
- Why experts agree you need to build rapport with everyone you lead
- 81 ways to build rapport with *anyone* you work with
Military Leader Quotes: Good leaders have strong ethics.
When you lead others, the example you set is the most powerful way you convey to them what’s important. It’s not always easy to do the right thing, but it’s absolutely necessary if you expect the same from the people you lead as these generals knew so well.
“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” – General Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Army
“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” – General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur
“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” – Dwight Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States, and former General of the Army
Setting a good example is critical to the success of your organization. If you’re trying to improve your culture, it’s the right place to start. These posts can help you think more about that:
Military Leader Quotes: Good leaders never give up.
Perseverance through adversity is key to succeeding in battle, and in life. As these generals and President know so well, it’s the ability to push forward that matters most.
“Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.” – General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur
“The truly great leader overcomes all difficulties, and campaigns and battles are nothing but a long series of difficulties to be overcome. The lack of equipment, the lack of food, the lack of this or that are only excuses; the real leader displays his quality in his triumphs over adversity, however great it may be.” – General of the Army George C Marshall, and former Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense
“Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.” – John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, and former Navy Lieutenant
Behind every great success story are equally great challenges they had to overcome. This applies in any field or career you choose. If you’re a manager, here’s a couple places to start:
- The biggest challenges of first time managers and how to overcome them
- An interview with Kate Matsudaira on the challenges of first time managers, and those managing managers
The best wars are the ones that do not have to be fought. Memorial Day is a good time to remember that simple fact captured painfully by Major General William T. Sherman, who is most known for “Sherman’s March” during the Civil War:
“It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.” – Major General William T. Sherman, U.S. Army