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Leadership of George S Patton

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The Leadership of General George S. Patton Jr.

Daniel A. Kelly

The leadership of General George S. Patton Jr.

Since the year 1919, the United States has set aside the eleventh day of the eleventh month to honor its veterans (History of Veterans Day, n.d.). Perhaps it was a foreshadowing that on that same day, 43 years prior to this country’s first Armistice Day celebration ( editors, n.d.), that one of the greatest military minds of the twentieth century was born. Spawned from “a long and honorable military heritage” (Carter & Finer, 2004) George S. Patton Jr. overcame dyslexia (Carter & Finer, 2004) and the lack of a formal education prior to the age of 11, (Blumenson, 1971) to graduate from the United States Military Academy (Blumenson, 1971) and rise to prominence in the United States Army. General Patton became an effective leader, in spite of his faults, because he embodied the traits and the necessary skills to motivate and direct men in combat.

At the foot of all of the studied techniques rests the very elementary trait approach to leadership (Northouse, 2013). For centuries people believed leaders were extraordinary individuals endowed by their creator with the undeniable characteristics that allowed them to rise above the others. General Patton personified three of the traits that are associated with great leadership, intelligence, self-confidence, and determination (Northouse, 2013).

Historians believe, that upon his death, General Patton had amassed one of the largest literary collections of military history available (Carter & Finer, 2004). He studied not just the battles and the tactics but the adversaries themselves. He believed that this knowledge was so important that he tried to impart this wisdom in his son as well. In a 1943 letter to George III, a West Point Cadet, the general pens that he “must read biography and especially autobiography” if he intends to “win battles” and “beat the soul of man” (Carroll, 2009).

Research has proven that George Patton was not lacking in the second important trait of a leader, self-confidence. In fact, he believed that “the most vital quality a soldier can possess is self-confidence utter complete and bumptious” (Carroll, 2009). What many of his peers mistook for vanity and conceit was actually just confidence. Patton honestly believed, because of his hard work, study, and tactical competence, that he could not be defeated. His extroversion (Carter & Finer, 2004) and his traveling with his three star flag flying (Sanderson, 1997) was not snobbery, it was just an outward display of an internal, indelible, self-assurance.

The success of General Patton could be contributed solely to his shear willpower and determination. He continually found himself in situations when lessor men would have folded their tents and retreated. He returned to West Point for a fifth year of study when his grades did not warrant his graduation after four. During the Mexican War General Pershing promoted him for his perseverance in pursuit of Pancho Villa (Blumenson, 1971). His refusal to be defeated is summed up best by the general himself. “ I am sure that if every leader who goes into battle will promise himself that he will come out either a conqueror or a corpse he is sure to win” (Carroll, 2009).

As we learned from Northouse (2013) there are means of becoming a great leader other than being born with certain attributes. Secondary to the traits that General Patton was blessed with were the skills that he studied and cultivated throughout his life and his military career. General Patton embodied the three personal skills that were the foundation of Katz’s model (Northouse, 2013). His technical competence was beyond reproach. His human skills, although questionable at times, were evident to the soldiers that served under him, and his ability to conceptualize was remarkable.

General Patton was a cavalryman at heart. An accomplished equestrian (Blumenson, 1971), he finished sixth in the 1912 summer Olympics. He invented the M1913



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