Quotes - Leadership (page 1)

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Personal leadership exists only as the officers demonstrate it by superior courage, wider knowledge, quicker initiative, and a greater readiness to accept responsibility than those they lead. - Field Marshall Sir William Slim


The leader must understand the effects of combat isolation. He should give clear orders on the action he considers appropriate. Absence of orders will further demoralize the men. - Leadership and Military Command


In one attack our company commander, Bertinck, falls. He was one of those superb front-line officers who are foremost in every hot place. - E.M. Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front, 1928


How to Sack a Divisional Commander: Tewksbury, 4 May 1471;
Lord Winlock not having advanced to the support of the first line, but remaining stationary, contrary to the expectations of Somerset, the latter, in a rage, rode up to him, reviled him, and beat his brains out with an axe. - from The Oxford Book of Military Anecdotes, Ed. Max Hastings, 1985


My Lord, if I attempted to answer the mass of futile correspondence which surrounds me, I should be debarred from the serious business of campaigning...So long as I retain an independent position, I shall see no officer under my command is debarred by attending to the futile drivelling of mere quill-driving from attending to his first duty, which is and always has been to train the private men under his command that they may without question beat any force opposed to them in the field. - The Duke of Wellington, to the Secretary of State for War during the Peninsular Campaign


The Strands of War are four in number, ...
I. The quality and capability of the commander.
II. The quality and capability of the troops.
III. Morale.
IV. Resources.
- Lt.-Col. A.H. Burne, DSO, RA (Ret'd), The Art of War on Land, 1947


[Major-General Sir Harry] Smith attacked with infantry and drove [the Sikhs] out of All despite stubborn counter-attacks. With strong cavalry and artillery support, the British rolled up the Sikh line and Smith, leading the last charge in person, drove them headlong over the difficult ford of the broad Sutlej. The Duke of Wellington told the House of Lords: 'I never read an account of any affair in which an officer has shown himself more capable than this officer did of commanding troops in the field.' - All, First Sikh War, Punjab, India, 28 Jan 1846 - Brig. Peter Young, A Dictionary of Battles, 1816-1976


Alexander the Great was marching across the desert with a thirsty army. A soldier came up to him, knelt down, and offered him a helmet full of water. "Is there enough for ten thousand men?" asked Alexander. When the soldier shook his head, Alexander poured the water out on the ground. - The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, 1985


And the platoon is the truly characteristic component of an army; it is the lowest unit habitually commanded by a commissioned officer; it is the real and essential fighting unit, whose action conditions that of the other arms and formations; it is a little world in which the relations between the led and the leader, the men and their commander, are immediate, actual, continuous, and entirely real? - Major M.K. Wardle, DSO, MC, Foundations of Soldiering, 1936


Follow me if I advance! Kill me if I retreat! Revenge me if I die! - Ngo Dinh Diem on becoming president of Vietnam, 1954, The Concise Columbia Dictionary of Quotations


General Ewell was so impressed by the conspicuous gallantry of a certain Federal cavalry officer in rallying his troops on the field of battle that he ordered his soldiers not to shoot at the man. ["Stonewall"] Jackson later reprimanded Ewell for this quixotic action, remarking shrewdly, "Shoot the brave officers and the cowards will run away and take their men with them!" - The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, 1985


I never saw a finer death. He looked very brave and handsome up there, outlined against the sky, the only figure on the bank above, his helmet off, and his face very pale and blazing with anger, and his arm pointing forward. He fell down headlong, but we never turned back until we gave the Germans hell. - the death of Col. Buller, the CO of the PPCLI - quoted in B. Willson, In the Ypres Salient, The Story of a Fortnight's Canadian Fighting, June 2nd - 16th, 1916


In 1848, when I was Brigade-Major at Agra, I made a good many inquiries into the condition of the soldier in barracks, their wants and habits,... One day an intelligent sergeant of the 24th came to me on business, and, amongst other questions, I asked him-"The men, in this hot weather, are confined to barracks from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. How do they employ themselves during these hours?" "Well, sir, they mainly sit upon their cots and look at each other." - Major-General Sir Thomas Seaton, K.C.B., Cadet to Colonel, Vol II, 1866


In a few words, a good leader is someone whom people will follow through thick and thin, in good times and in bad, because they have confidence in him as a person, in his ability and his knowledge of his job, perhaps because he looks the part, and also because his men know that they matter to him. - Brig. The Right Hon. Sir John Smyth, Bt, VC, MC, Leadership in Battle 1914-1918


July 24th [1916] I suddenly spied two panic-stricken Jocks blundering back from the trenches over the open. I went out and brought them in to the C.O. I don't suppose the case will go further, partly because the C.O. is human and understanding, and partly for the honour of the regiment. I think he let them recover themselves and sent them back. - Anon., A Soldier's Diary of the Great War, 1924


Leadership is the practical application of character. - Colonel R. Meinertzhagen, CBE, DSO, Army Diary, 1899-1926, 1960


Live with the men, go everywhere they go. Make up your mind you will take their risks, and more, if you can do any good. the line is the key to the whole business. Work in the very front and they will listen to you; but if you stay behind you are wasting your time. Men will forgive you anything but lack of courage and devotion. - The Rev Studdart-Kennedy, MC, quoted in Brig. The Right Hon. Sir John Smyth, Bt, VC, MC, Leadership in Battle 1914-1918


Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. - George S[mith] Patton 1885-1945, War As I Knew It [1947], pt. III, ch. 1


October 21st [1914] More bayonet instruction this afternoon. Our chaps are beginning to hold their weapons as if they meant business. Wetted my stripe today at dinner in the tent with drinks all around, and took the opportunity to intimate that I was to be addressed as "Corporal" in the future, and not by my name or nickname. This sort of thing is awkward with old friends, but it is just like it was at school; if you are in authority and people get too familiar, they will argue when told to do something they don't like, and arguing is barred with a war on. - Anon., A Soldier's Diary of the Great War, 1924


On learning of the mutiny (Salerno, 1943), Field-Marshal Montgomery said that although the Mutineers' actions were quite inexcusable and could not be condoned in any way, `where soldiers get into trouble of this nature, it is nearly always the fault of some officer who has failed in his duty.' - J.M. Bereton, The British Soldier; A Social History from 1661 to the Present Day


The dictum of "good management is good leadership", itself erroneous, became perverted even more into the belief that an officer could literally manage his men to their deaths in support of a mission. - Gabriel, Richard A. and Savage, Paul A., Crisis in Command, Mismanagement in the Army, 1978


The real secret of leadership is the domination of the mass by a single personality. Influence over subordinates is a matter of suggestion. Discipline acquired peace and the power of personal example are both used to exact great sacrifices. - Major General Baron Hugo von Freytag-Loringhoven, The Power of Personality In War, 1911 (translated by the Historical Section, [US] Army War College, 1938; pub 1955)


The troops who fight the best do so, not because of their nationality, but because at that specific time they are the best trained, the best disciplined and the best led on the field. - Strome Galloway, The General Who Never Was, 1981


In the British Army, there are no good battalions and no bad battalions, no good regiments and no bad regiments. There are only good and bad officers. - FIELD-MARSHAL SIR WILLIAM SLIM echoing NAPOLEON


In return for their privileges, what did officers actually do? The simple answer, at least for regimental officers, is that they gave leadership, took responsibility, and set an example, if necessary, by dying. ... Implicit was the assumption that the officer would be the first to die in battle. Officers were the first out of the trench in an assault or a night patrol, and the last out in a retreat. - Desmond Morton, When Your Number's Up, The Canadian Soldier in the First World War, 1993


...the legitimate fatigue of responsible command. - T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, 1926

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