Supreme Commander: Churchill & Interrogation

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Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, ’40-’45

By Kevin Black

Even to this day Winston Churchill is a controversial figure in politics. Despite their debates, many of his critics admit that his wartime leadership was a crucial factor in ensuring Allied Victory in 1945. Eliot considers Churchill as the “greatest war statesman of the century.” What stands out about Churchill’s performance as key player of the Allies is Churchill’s inquisitive nature. The chapter title, “Churchill asks a Question” says it best: he questioned everything and everyone, no matter there position. When the Prime Minister wanted answers to questions, he found them one way or another.

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Supreme Command: Clemenceau & Supervision

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Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France, ’17-’20

 

By Kevin Black

Probably one of the greatest traps for strategic leaders is to enter the world of tactics and get stuck in there, “buried in the weeds” of everyday operations. No doubt tactics are important, but when the daily crisis dominates your everyday thinking and agenda you are not driving strategy and actualizing your ROI. A great example of a strategic leader who learned to fluctate between tactics and strategy was Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France during the latter years of World War I. It was his supervision of his army that is a great lesson for any business leaders today.

Clemenceau is the second statesman in Supreme Command. The French wartime Prime Minister earned the nickname, “The Tiger”, for his force of character, unwavering focus and optimism, and for his willingness to fight for what he wanted. The Tiger had an enormous challenge as he came to power during a dire time during World War I, when victory was distant and world powers were almost bled white.

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Supreme Command: Lincoln & Delegation

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By Kevin Black

I think it is fair to say that delegation as an effective business tool is a sacrosanct notion. And why should it not be? As a strategic leader you must delegate responsibilities, at least for the very fact that the amount of goals and objectives to be achieved, to include the multitude of derivative tasks and sub-tasks, is too much for one person to handle by themselves. In this respect alone delegation makes practical sense.

Abraham Lincoln, one of the four statesmen covered in Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesman, and Leadership in Wartime is a great case study in the important role of delegation. But in Lincoln’s case, delegation of authority and responsibility had to be EARNED.

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Book: Supreme Command

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By Kevin Black

I’m finishing up Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesman, and Leadership in Wartime.  The author is Eliot A. Cohen, a professor of strategic studies at Paul H. Nitze of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins Univ., and who has also taught US Naval War College in addition to Harvard University.

From my research, the book is considered a must-read for senior leaders looking to better themselve in balancing strategic leadership with strategic management.   It is about civil-military balance in wartime.   Should politicians (the leaders responsible for victory) stay out of the military strategy process, leaving it to their military experts? or should they interfere by probing, questioning, and possibly ignoring expert advice?   Cohen examines four world politicians who found the right balance:  Lincoln during the Civil War, Clemenceau during WWI, Churchill during WW2, and Ben-Gurion during the Israeli struggle throughout the 1940s.   Each leader is different by culture, knowledge, and experience; yet, each share remarkable similarities.  Some are:

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Orson Welles on General Marshall

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Orson Welles remembering George C Marshall on the Dick Cavett Show

By Kevin Black

George Marshall was not known to be the warmest man, especially considering he fired 600 officers during the Second World War. Yet, Orson Welles’ reminiscence of Marshall supports the general’s unwavering conviction that his organization, the US Army, gravitated around the soldier, first and foremost. This is a great story for anyone interested in how to conduct themselves as a strategic leader. Start the video at 5:50.

Bureaucracies are slow, cumbersome, and self-defeating

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LBJ meeting with “Blowtorch” Bob

By Kevin Black

I just read Bureaucracy Does Its Thing: institutional constraints on U.S. -GVN performance in Vietnam by Robert W. Komer.  This is a great summary of how the US and its Ally, South Vietnam, undercut their efforts to stop the spread of communism during the Vietnam War. A ten page executive summary is available.

The message is simple, clear-cut: bureaucracies are slow to innovate as well as reluctant to reevaluate themselves. Mistakes in strategy development and decision-making are inevitable.  Here are a few of my observations from the reading:

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THE STRATEGIC LEADER is up and running!

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"The Architecht of Victory", George C Marshall, Chief of Staff of US Army, '39-'45
“The Architect of Victory”, George C Marshall, Chief of Staff of US Army, ’39-’45

By Kevin Black

THE STRATEGIC LEADER is a blog discussing the most important and desired type of leader. Books, reviews, articles, and thoughts of the day regarding strategy, leadership, and of course strategic leadership, will populate this site to support the growing professional – the professional seeking to boost his or her competivitive advantage as well as their ROI. Now let’s learn from one another and have fun!

– Kevin