Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Don't do What Eisenhower Did

During the Second World War, General Dwight Eisenhower worked hard to manage very strong personalities among his subordinates. Chief among his biggest challenges was to support two competing field generals- British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and famed American general George Patton. Both commanders trudged through Western Europe as they famously jockeyed to be the first to grab Berlin.
Eisenhower, then the supreme leader of Allied Forces on the European continent, had the very difficult task of orchestrating Operation Overlord. Managing personalities was a primary challenge for Ike, as Stephen Ambrose explains in his biography of the general (click for more information). The needy Montgomery and Patton barraged Ike with demands that they have his support to take Hitler’s capital. In response, Eisenhower told each separately they could storm Germany and lay claim to capturing the biggest prize of the war.
Eisenhower did not adhere to the axiom, “you can’t please everyone all the time,” and he suffered greatly for it. He talked quite openly about the stress he endured trying to satisfy the egotistical demands of his two ladder-climbing warriors. Educational leaders work with a plethora of constituents. It’s easy to say “yes” to every parent, teacher, administrator, or member of the Board of Education who comes looking for support. Trouble awaits the leader who gets caught in the same web in which Ike got caught. He may have won the war, but the toll it took on him physically was no doubt exacerbated by the stresses he imposed on himself.
When two teachers come to you with competing policy proposals, take a stand. When one administrator doesn’t like how curriculum development is proceeding and another wants you to go further with the process, stick to your vision and throw 100% of your passion behind it. Trying to satisfy both “generals” will only lead to mixed signals (a sure sign of lack of leadership). Make your decisions from the gut and with strong rationale!

This post is part of the "Leadership Lessons From American Presidents" series.

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