Quotes - Initiative (page 4)

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A good plan executed violently today is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite point in the future. - Gen. George S. Patton


You must be able to underwrite the honest mistakes of your subordinates if you wish to develop their initiative and experience. - Gen. Bruce C. Clarke


Our job is to develop bold audacious leaders, competent enough to know the difference between risk and gamble, and willing to take risk to get inside the decision cycle of the enemy in order to wrest the initiative from him. We must develop commanders who trust their subordinates, who delegate responsibility and authority to them, and who encourage them to exercise initiative within the framework of their intent. - Gerald T. Bartlett, Lieutenant General, USA


Soldiers' ability to sustain themselves and their fellow soldiers during periods of high stress is built upon rock-hard confidence in themselves and their leadership chain beginning with fire team leaders or the noncommissioned officer of their section.... What we have learned and relearned in our Army is that unit cohesion and teamwork are what give individual soldiers the confidence to use initiative, to be resourceful, and to be all they can be. -SMA Glen E. Morrell, "What Soldiering Is All About." ARMY, Oct 1986


The [Positive Command Climate] program ... details specific actions a leader can take to build a positive command climate. These concepts, noted in Manual of Common Tasks, are not altogether new; they are very similar to the leadership fundamentals that were ingrained in us as cadets.

  1. Communicate a sense of vision or focus.
  2. Maintain a proper focus in all training activities.
  3. Establish high, attainable, clearly understood standards.
  4. Encourage competition against standards rather than each other.
  5. Allow subordinates the freedom to exercise initiative.
  6. Establish accountability at the proper level.
  7. Show confidence in subordinates.
  8. Encourage and reward prudent risk taking.
  9. Achieve high performance through positive motivation and rewards.
  10. Underwrite honest mistakes.
  11. Share decision making with subordinates when appropriate.
  12. Give clear missions and indicate where subordinates have discretion and where they do not.
  13. Listen to your subordinates and seek their ideas.
  14. Demonstrate concern about the welfare of subordinates.
  15. Establish and model high standards.
  16. Practice what you preach.

Gil Dorland and John Dorland, Duty, Honor, Company; West Point Fundamentals for Business Success, 1992


Modern warfare involves continuous nervous strain. The modern soldier with his modern equipment is not mere cannon fodder. Wide dispersion makes direct officer leadership hard to exercise, and every man must develop a sense of responsibility and initiative, and must feel that he has an important job to do. All must have within them the needs of leadership. - Major-General F.M. Richardson, Fighting Spirit; A Study of Psychological Factors in War


I sat on Monty's left. I described our trip to Burma, SEAC, Kandy, etc. His chief amusement was to deride Kandy, Staff College, the teaching, anything he could lay his hands on, he recited the principles on which war should be based, in his opinion. He asked me the first. I said 'concentration'. 'You have not been with me very long; it is all in my book. Have you read my book? I sometimes have three principles which I adhere to in all my battles - sometimes I have seven. Concentration is not among any of them. But all these old things like concentration, co-operation, are all wrapped up in my principles. The first is "win the air battle"; the second is "the initiative" and all that means; the third is "morale".' - Major Peter Earle, one of Monty's liaison officers, quoted in Alistaire Horne, The Lonely Leader; Monty, 1944-1945, 1994


Modern leadership demands officers who can accept challenge with initiative, originality, fidelity, understanding, and, above all, the willingness to fully assume the responsibilities of command. - General Bruce C. Clarke


Initiative is the agent which translates imagination into action. It must be used intelligently lest it becomes irresponsibility or even insubordination, but it must be used courageously when the situation warrants. Military history provides innumerable examples of commanders, who, confronted with unforeseen circumstances, have adhered slavishly to instructions and, at best, have lost an opportunity; at worst they have brought on defeat. - General Lyman L. Lemnitzer


Soldiers when in desperate straits lose the sense of fear. If there is no help for it, they will fight hard. Thus without waiting to be marshalled, the soldiers will be constantly on the qui vive; without waiting to be asked, they will do your will; without restrictions, they will be faithful; without giving orders, they can be trusted.
        Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts. Then, until death comes, no calamity need be feared. - Sun Tzu


Time is neutral with a bias in favour of the side that exhibits the more intelligent initiative. - Reginald Hargreaves


Fortune or fate decides one half of our life, the other half depends on ourselves. - Field Marshal Montgomery


Discipline is no longer literal obedience but intelligent obedience, for discipline aims at obedience coupled with activity of will. Once discipline weakens and vanishes, as it does towards the latter stages of the fire fight, and the crowd instinct possesses the soldier, then will he, if training has formed those necessary mental reflexes, surrender himself to the will of his leader; this is where leadership supplants discipline without destroying it. - Captain J.F.C. Fuller, Training Soldiers for War, 1914


"In a soldier," writes General Gory, "initiative is the quality in virtue of which he decides to act on his own as soon as his immediate action becomes useful and necessary, and when he can neither ask nor await the orders which his Commander, upon whom he depends, would give him, were that Commander present." - Colonel F. Gory, "L'Initiative des Militaires", 1909


"For the ambitious, initiative consists in seizing every opportunity to increase notoriety."
"For disciplinarians, initiative on the part of subordinates is a misconception of their duties."
"For imaginative people, initiative is the right to do anything which suddenly strikes them."
"For lazy people initiative is the right to pass all irksome duty on to their subordinates."
"For the easy-going, initiative consists in modifying to their liking any order thay may receive."
"For the timid, initiative is the right to shirk responsibility." - Colonel F. Gory, "L'Initiative des Militaires," 1909


On manoeuvres, a superior who benefits by an act of initiative on the part of an inferior is so little conscious of it, that he generally fails to recognize it. On his part the subordinate, attentive not to tread on the toes of his chief, takes care not to mention it, and the act passes unnoticed. It is only noticed if it fails, on which occasions the chief hastens to clear himself of all responsibility. - Colonel F. Gory, "L'Initiative des Militaires", 1909


An army in which the subordinates are wanting in initiative is an army without a soul. An army in which the initiative of subordinates is uncontrolled is a amob. No action can be methodically carried out, the Chief has to help his subordinates in place of fighting his battle.
        Though it is essential that subordinates should possess initiative, they must be taught to use it judiciously. The Commander must approve and encourage it; he must also criticize it and limit it. - Colonel F. Gory, "L'Initiative des Militaires", 1909


There are plenty of small-minded men who in time of peace are inexorable in matters of equipment and drill, and perpetually interfere in the work of their subordinates. They thus acquire an unmerited reputation, and render the service a burden, but above all do mischief in preventing development of individuality, and in retarding the advancement of independent and capable spirits. - Archduke Charles


Overhaul the officer promotion system to eliminate the pervasive zero defect mentality that encourages mediocrity and discourages initiative, risk-taking and character. The services, as well as Congress, should require that a decisive aspect of an officer's promotion process should weigh upon his job knowledge; that performance should be evaluated against performance standards. Peer and subordinate evaluations of personal character should be a factor. - Lt Col Robert L. Maginnis (U.S. Army, Ret.), Filling the Ranks in Fiscal 2000


Zero defects - absolutely - a symptom of a peacetime Army - since there is no war to evaluate performance, we have to evaluate everything! We have a whole generation of officers in senior leadership that was taught that unless something is being formally evaluated it is not good training. Many think that is crap. There is real value in letting a platoon leader go out and bumble around and make mistakes. May not be the most efficient in the short term but probably is the most worthwhile education in the long term! Unfortunately, platoon leaders (as one officer reminded referred to as "Platoon Commanders" in most armies!) don't get to do much of anything NOT under the gaze of their bosses. Therefore they NEVER develop confidence, initiative or the ability to trust! - [US Army] Chief of Staff of the Army's Leadership Survey, Command and General Staff College Survey of 760 mid-career Students (Majors with a Few LTCs), 2000


Decisive action remains the first prerequisite for success in war. Everybody, from the highest commander to the youngest soldiers, must be conscious of the fact that inactivity and lost opportunities weigh heavier than do errors in the choice of means. - Wehrmacht Truppenfuhrung Manual, 1936


Don't attempt to turn out men on a sealed pattern. We do not want marionettes, for we want thinking, quick-witted soldiers. - Brevet Colonel J.F.C. Fuller, D.S.O., "Moral, Instruction and Leadership," Journal of the Royal United Services Institution, Vol. LXV, February to November, 1920


"To speak like a book" is frequently the worst thing an instructor can do. - Brevet Colonel J.F.C. Fuller, D.S.O., "Moral, Instruction and Leadership," Journal of the Royal United Services Institution, Vol. LXV, February to November, 1920


Intelligent obedience is but another name for initiative, and of all the qualities a soldier must possess, initiative will prove the most useful or the most dangerous according to its application.
        Initiative is really obedience without orders, that is, obedience with reference to the general plan and object of the operations as governed by the conditions of the moment. - Brevet Colonel J.F.C. Fuller, D.S.O., "Moral, Instruction and Leadership," Journal of the Royal United Services Institution, Vol. LXV, February to November, 1920


Discipline does not mean fear of punishment, but the cheerful and willing obedience of commands because the recipients are confident that orders given by their leaders are for the good of the individual and the team; it goes even further--it entails the desire to find out the right thing to do and to do it and see that others do it so as not to let the team down. - "Morale," by Lieut.-Colonel J.G. Shillington, D.S.O., Journal of the Royal United Service Institution, Vol. XCV, February to November, 1950


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