Patton on Leadership: Strategic Lessons for Corporate Warfare


Why should we remember General George S. Patton today? What can we learn from him? Unlike George Washington or Abraham Lincoln who seem to occupy a realm beyond that of mere mortals, Patton had great strengths and accomplished remarkable results while at the same time, he had to work to overcome his human imperfections, making him much more approachable as an exemplar. His mantra, "Speed, simplicity and boldness," worked not only in the harsh environment of World War II but it is also an appropriate motto for the...
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Why should we remember General George S. Patton today? What can we learn from him? Unlike George Washington or Abraham Lincoln who seem to occupy a realm beyond that of mere mortals, Patton had great strengths and accomplished remarkable results while at the same time, he had to work to overcome his human imperfections, making him much more approachable as an exemplar. His mantra, "Speed, simplicity and boldness," worked not only in the harsh environment of World War II but it is also an appropriate motto for the Internet Age. In both situations the risks are high, the workplace conditions difficult and the unknown is great. Anyone who directs a company or supervises others could benefit by being able to "think like Patton." So says author Alan Axelrod.

When he arrived to take command of the Third Army, Patton found utterly defeated troops. He transformed this demoralized force into an army capable of crushing the Nazis' dreaded "Desert Fox," General Erwin Rommel. He drove the Third Army--437,860 men at its pinnacle--across France and into Germany at a breakneck pace. Under Patton's command, the Third Army destroyed more of the enemy and liberated more towns than any other unit in the entire history of U.S. warfare, with the least cost in lives and resources. At every step in his triumphant career, Patton set an inspiring example, instilled confidence and acted decisively. He excelled under relentless pressure and against daunting odds- and throughout it all he had to work hard to overcome a personal enemy, dyslexia.

Based on the General's own writings, remarks, and career record, author Alan Axelrod, who specializes in both military history and management topics, presents 185 succinct lessons in leadership, Patton-style.

This fascinating guide to business victory and personal excellence features a Foreword by William A. Cohen, Ph.D., Major General, USAFR, Retired; and a Preface by George Steinbrenner, principal owner of the New York Yankees. It will be available nationwide on Veteran's Day--which happens to be Patton's birthday. A percentage of the net proceeds from this book and from the audiobook will be donated to build the National World War II Memorial.

"In the Third Army, we knew what General Patton expected us to do, and we believed that if we did it, we would win. That's what generalship is about."
From General Omar N. Bradley, A Soldier's Story
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Editorial Reviews

Orange County Register
Patton's first rule of commanding is to act as if you are in charge, because you are. As the anecdotes and documented stories in the book reveal, Patton timed his words and actions to make it clear he was in charge. A four star-read.
William A. Cohen
Successful leaders do what unsuccessful leaders simply won't do. And in so doing, they frequently achieve the impossible.
Wall Street Journal
George Steinbrenner
I consider General George S. Patton, with all his controvesey, idiosyncrasies, and unpredictability, to be perhaps the greatest of them all.---"the ultimate warrior".
Wall Street Journal
Library Journal
Axelrod (What Every American Should Know About American History) takes the leadership wisdom of one of America's greatest and most colorful combat generals and applies it to contemporary civilian corporate organizations. Organized around George S. Patton's quotations and writings, this is an attempt to apply the general's wartime leadership style to peacetime corporate America, covering principles such as how to develop and project a leadership image, communicate effectively across an organization, establish clear priorities, build a winning team, sustain maximum performance against all odds, and instill loyalty and inspire achievement. Beginning with a high-level history of Patton's life, the author then strives to relate Patton's leadership style to typical business situations, but the effort is many times far-fetched and filled with jargon and clich s. The selections designed to sound like Patton actually sound like narrator Bruce Winant's attempt to sound like actor George C. Scott trying to sound like Patton and will likely send listeners to the hard copy. While the advice is helpful, there is little new here compared with the already saturated leadership genre, and it cannot stand the time-tested solidity of classics from Stephen Covey or Peter Drucker. Consider only on demand in smaller public libraries.--Dale Farris, Groves, TX Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780735202979
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/2001
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 296,744
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Axelrod is a renowned historian and business writer. He was the co author of the New York Times bestseller What Every American Should Know About American History as well as the BusinessWeek bestsellers Patton on Leadership and Elizabeth I, CEO. He has written extensively on the Civil War.

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Table of Contents

1. What he did and who he was
Patton's achievement and background
2. "A Commander Will Command"
On the dimensions of leadership
3. "Always Attack. Never Surrender"
On developing a winning attitude
4. "How Do We Know That?"
On fact finding, preparation, and planning
5."Speed- Simplicity- Boldness"
On execution and opportunity
6. "The Soldier Is The Army"
On training, mentoring, motivating, inspiring
7. "Letters Of Instruction"
On communication and coordination
8. "Only One Direction- Forward"
On creating efficiency
9. "Success Is How High You Can Bounce When You
Hit Bottom"
On courage and character
10. "Audacity"
On managing the impossible
Recommended Readings
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One might easily question the selection of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to compose the preface to the book, Patton on Leadership. After all, I was only 15 years old when General Patton died.

Perhaps it is because the late renowned Howard Cosell frequently referred to me as "Patton in Pinstripes" on national television, or perhaps because I attended Culver Military Academy as a young man, finishing with a very undistinguished academic record except for Military Science, where I was an A+ student. Or perhaps because as a young Air Force Lieutenant in the '50s, a decade after his passing, I held George S. Patton as one of the finest of all American military leaders; and because today, as a student of military leadership, both good and bad, from Frederick the Great through the likes of Custer, Grant, Lee, Pershing, Eisenhower, and even Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, to name a few, I consider General George S. Patton, with all his controversy, idiosyncrasies, and unpredictability, to be perhaps the greatest of them all - "the ultimate warrior."

When I first read about Patton, I was struck by the fact that he moved his troops farther and faster than anybody believed possible with so few casualties. As I read more about his leadership strategies - how he achieved these remarkable results - I became even more impressed. The confidence he instilled in his soldiers was legendary. The men under his command considered themselves to be "Patton's Men." They looked sharper, they fought tougher, and they were time and time again called upon to perform beyond perceivable limits. It was often said that his troops would accomplish the impossible, then go out and do it all over again. "Patton's Men" may not have always truly appreciated the man's leadership style at the time. Human nature is such that the discipline and the obedience required by a great leader are so often cause for griping and displeasure. But in retrospect, to have served under Patton was a red badge of courage to be worn forever.

When you talk baseball and a man in his later years describes himself by saying, "I was a former Major League ballplayer," that is one thing. But if he was a Yankee, he will almost always say, "I was a New York Yankee," not just a Major League ballplayer. A prominent sports editor from Pittsburgh once wrote: "There are never ex-Yankees. Their pinstripes assure them an immortal presence." The same should be said of Patton's men. They have an immortal presence because they served with one of the greatest generals this nation has ever known. I often talk to friends of mine who served in the Second World War. Time and again, I will hear them say that they served in the Fifth Army or the First Army, or in the Philippines or the European Theater. But if they were one of "Patton's Men," they make it very clear, "I served with Patton." That says it all as far as they are concerned.

Patton's leadership lessons ring as true today as they did when he was leading the Third Army across France and into Germany itself. His enduring message is one of preparation, teamwork, pride, motivation, and discipline - never asking his men to do anything that he himself would not do. These principles form a strong foundation for leading a successful army or any other form of endeavor. The outcome may not be life and death as it is in war, but General Patton's strategies are still sound and will help managers and leaders in all types of organizations achieve winning results.

Patton could reduce complex tasks to their essence, then focus all of his resources on that essence. He believed in attention to every detail. Put all the pieces in place, give your people every opportunity to succeed, and they will do so. Give people goals they can understand, they will meet them. Set the bar high and your people will raise themselves to meet it.

Patton drove his men fast and hard, but he also knew their limits. He would never push them beyond their capabilities, because that would be a foolish waste of resources and would result ultimately in defeat. In baseball, if a pitcher can consistently give you six strong innings, but begins to falter after that, you're asking for trouble if you try to force him to pitch a complete game.

Although some of Patton's detractors called him "reckless," he actually was a very careful and studious planner. He was a student of his opposition and their leadership. Before making a decision, he would gather all the facts he could and seek input from trusted advisors. He would study the appointed task from many angles, trying to spot the pitfalls as well as the advantages of various strategies. I can recall very clearly in the great movie Patton (which I probably have seen twenty times) when Patton is in the process of defeating Rommel's vaunted forces in North Africa on the field of battle. George C. Scott, playing Patton, bellows out as victory seems assured, "Ah Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book." This indeed depicts Patton. He studied and prepared, and by understanding his opposition, once the decision was made, he wouldn't second-guess himself or express any doubt to others.

"Americans play to win at all times," Patton once said. "I wouldn't give a hoot in Hell for a man who lost and laughed." While baseball is certainly not the same as war, I still want my team to play to win at all times, to expect to win starting as Minor Leaguers, to develop a winning attitude in the tradition of the great Yankee teams of the past and present. And don't ever let me catch anybody on my team laughing in the locker room after a tough loss. I can see very close parallels between General Patton's philosophy and that of the great football coach Vince Lombardi who said: "Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all-the-time thing. You don't win once in a while; you don't do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing."

I know from firsthand experience that many of Lombardi's top players, at times during the campaigns, detested his leadership and his genius. Packers' Hall-of-Fame defensive tackle Henry Jordan once said, "He treats us all the same. Like dogs." But now that the championships have been won by those great Packer teams, don't dare challenge or question Coach Lombardi to any of his ex-players. If you do, I can assure you, you'll regret it.

Patton's lessons on leadership are valuable guidelines that can be applied by managers in all walks of life, from the baseball diamond to the manufacturing plant to the corporate boardroom. There is no doubt in my mind that Patton, though he had numerous detractors, was what we refer to in sports as the "go-to man." When the ballgame or battle is on the line and when the odds against you seem almost insurmountable, the man you look to is your "go-to guy." Certainly it can be said that General George S. Patton was the Allies' "go-to-guy" in the Second World War and probably one of the greatest in the history of Military Science. I think you'll be as inspired as I have been in reading this book and studying the true genius of General George S. Patton..

—George M. Steinbrenner III
Principal Owner of the New York Yankees
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2001

    Easy Read, Inspiring, Instructive

    General George S. Patton, Jr., was a legend in his own time. While known for his coarse language, he was also respected as a brilliant tactician and terrific motivator. Those who served with him weren't just 'in the war' or 'in the army,' they were Patton's men. This hard-driving leader instilled confidence, acted decisively, and excelled under relentless pressure. His army moved at unprecedented speed, always on the attack and not on the defensive. Patton did not write extensively; he was challenged by dyslexia. But he said a lot, was often quoted, and was written about. Historians have a rich treasure of who this unusual man was and the impact he had on others . . . and ultimately on the world. His approach to his work was clear and direct, making him an excellent case study and role model. Role model? A man who spat profanity in almost every sentence? Ah, look beyond the rough exterior that actually endeared him to his men. Look at how Patton thought, his philosophies. That's where the lessons are. This book delivers 183 of those lessons in short, tight, bite-size pieces. This is a book you can read cover-to-cover or refer to as an inspirational resource. Each lesson is constructed as a Patton quote, with Axelrod's interpretation of the meaning, the purpose, and the impact of the words. The flavor throughout the book is how Patton's military style and experience applies to management and leadership of today's business organization. Or any organization, for that matter. The beginning of the book includes an enlightening biographical profile of Patton to understand the context of the man. The volume concludes with some recommended reading and a helpful index. As a reviewer, I'm tempted to start listing some of the titles of those 183 lessons. I'll resist, because it will be too difficult to present a representative sample. Every page of this book is filled with concise, valuable insights. Thought-provoking as well as inspiring, Patton on Leadership should be read-and applied-by leaders at all levels. Invest a few dollars and some of your reading time. You'll get a good return on your investment with this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 14, 2011

    Don't confuse management with leadership!

    After reading this book, I bought it for my children. Success or failure in any organization, military or civilian, is always the leadership. My in-brief to new personnel: Your job is to do my job; my job is to ensure conditions exist so you can do my job.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2002

    On Patton's Own

    The book reveals the brilliant, coarse and own view of Patton's leadership lessons applied to set objectives, goals and to be an effective coach and mentor in business. As Patton saw it, a leader cannot lead by remote control,ensconced in an office. An on-site presence is always called for, the object being not only to see the situation for yourself, but to be seen by the people you lead.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2001

    A master of organization and motivation

    Most of the world views General George S. Patton as an egotistical, vane, power hungry, bloodthirsty warmonger. What he really was was probably the greatest motivator, planner, organizer, tactician and stategist the US Army has ever produced. Through a lifetime of study and application, Patton amassed a core set of practices and techniques that successfully and smoothly transform into the business world. Mr. Axelrod reviews these precepts and expands on their application to real-world business needs. Any business manager would be well advised to study these methods to become a more effective leader, and realize what the General always viewed as the final objective: To Win!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2000

    As good as a book on leadership as I have read on leadership

    This book condenses the essential Patton into easily digestible and rememberable pieces. A must read for the corporate soldier of today.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2009

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