Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. —General George Patton
A few days ago I “tweeted” this quote. Fred Leland, the blogger who penned Stoning the Gatekeepers, commented that Patton’s words were significant enough for him to post them on his office wall. What makes a quote wall worthy?
I love a good quote. These short quips that stand the test of time are fascinating. What makes for a good one? It has to be short, particularly if it is going to make it on Twitter, and it has to be memorable. Being clever helps too, but most importantly it should reveal something significant. The best quotes are the “tip of the iceberg” of a rule or principle worth digging into. That is what it takes to make a quote worthy of repeating, tweeting, or posting on your wall.
This quote from Patton is a good example, and you can’t miss his influence:
Don’t tell them how to do the job – simply allocate resources, set standards and the results will exceed your expectations. Leaders do not deal with how to get the job done; they surround themselves with talent and then allocate resources and remove roadblocks to enable the talent to excel. Love the troops. Leaders love their troops and let them know in many ways. – General Norman Schwarzkopf
I have been in the habit over the last few years of jotting down memorable quotes as I come across them. The resulting list of my favorites is a diverse collection of leadership wisdom from all walks of life. I plan on dispensing one of these best-of-the-best quotes daily on Twitter. So, follow me on Twitter for a daily shot of leadership wisdom.
The Schwarzkopf quote, which is too long for Twitter, is #12 on his “Fourteen Rules of Leadership.” These are excellent and reveal a bit more of the iceberg.
General Norman Schwarzkopf’s “Fourteen Rules of Leadership”
- Think of yourself as a leader. Leaders lead people, not systems, processes et al.
- Character. Requires sense of duty, ethics, morality – it is not a measure of competence. In times of crisis, people pick character to follow. Have strength of character – a prerequisite to having the courage to do the right thing.
- Leadership must be respected, even though not loved. Make it happen and take responsibility. You can delegate authority, and still take responsibility. It is more important to be respected than to be loved. Leaders do not seek to be pleasing first.
- The true rewards of leadership come from leadership itself – not the next promotion or tangible reward. Do not seek rewards; leadership is its own reward.
- No organization will get better until leadership admits that something is broken. The prevalent can do attitude must be willing to accept you can’t do before you know something has to change.
- The climate must allow people to speak up.
- Leaders establish goals for an organization. They must be understood and know their role in reaching the goal. FOCUS is the number #1 goal in the military. The greater the number of goals, the more confusion you get. Creating focus is the number #1 priority for a leader. Excellent leaders instill focus by creating shared goals that are clear and understood; everyone understands their roles in achieving the shared goals.
- Leaders set high standards; they don’t accept low standards. They set expectations. People go to work to succeed, not to fail.
- Leaders set high standards and clarify their expectations. They then expect that people will go to work on achieving these standards.
- Recognize and reward success – it is infectious. Failure is contagious. Leaders recognize and reward success. They understand deeply that both successes as well as failure are contagious.
- Accept a few mistakes. Provide the latitude to learn. Leaders accept a few mistakes but also, create the latitude and atmosphere to learn.
- Don’t tell them how to do the job – simply allocate resources, set standards and the results will exceed your expectations. Leaders do not deal with how to get the job done; they surround themselves with talent and then allocate resources and remove roadblocks to enable the talent to excel. Love the troops. Leaders love their troops and let them know in many ways.
- When placed in command, take charge. Even if the decision is bad, you have set change in motion. It is better than being stagnant. When placed in command, take charge.
- Do what is right. It is a sign of character. Have strength of character – a prerequisite to having the courage to do the right thing. Do the right thing – have the moral courage to do the right thing.
For a deeper look at his life and leadership philosophy, the whole iceberg, I recommend Norman Schwarzkopf’s autobiography It Doesn’t Take a Hero.
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