Bold and accomplished leaders often lack diplomatic tact

Posted By on January 9, 2021

As a “very” amateur military history buff who is currently reading the book “I Marched With Patton,” I came away from Frank Sisson’s memoir in thinking about other leaders who earned the respect of their men, General_George_S_Pattonbut offended others and were seen as abrasive. Accomplishing a goal and “winning” was for the most part their personal measure for success. The two “military” names that came to mind are General George S. Patton and General Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur_ManilaLikely we all know of leaders who either choose not to bother or lack prioritizing the effort it takes to operate under the constrains of diplomacy.

By now, I suspect those with an open-mind know I’m thinking about another present day leader who has displayed similar characteristics for the past 4 years … yes, President Donald Trump. This is not to endorse or criticize these leadership traits, but just as recognition that people are appointed or elected PresDonaldTrumpPortraitto positions of leadership with different styles, personalities and skillsets.

There are those who can handle the brash or even harsh leadership traits and recognize the end goal is to achieve results the in the quickest time, with the least harm and most positive outcome. Others prefer the less abrasive, polite diplomacy, and are willing to settle for a longer timeframe before achieving results  (I’ve often referred to the later as “soft-selling” and “covert” persuasion … and am accused of using it on my kids!) Again, neither leadership style has universal acceptance, but in the big picture, both types of leaders may be necessary at different times.

Most historians recognized Patton as essential to ending World War II in Europe. He inspired nearly every soldier who served under him. MacArthur was devoted to his troops and victory in the Pacific and was seen as the overseer. During the Korean War his commitment to defeating the communist threat in Asia, saw him lose his command as politicians fear that under MacArthur’s leadership the U.S. would be in full-scale conflict with the Chinese Communists … not all that dissimilar to how Patton perceived Russia as WW2 was ending. On a side note, Gen. MacArthur’s letter critical of President Truman is as pertinent today as it was 70 years ago:

“It seems strangely difficult for some to realize that here in Asia is where the communist conspirators have elected to make their play for global conquest, and that we have joined the issue thus raised on the battlefield; that here we fight Europe’s war with arms while the diplomats there still fight it with words; that if we lose the war to communism in Asia the fall of Europe is inevitable, win it and Europe most probably would avoid war and yet preserve freedom. As you pointed out, we must win. There is no substitute for victory.

Book:  The years of MacArthur – Vol III, Triumph and disaster, 1945-1964) – D. Clayton James

As the U.S. reverts to a less brash and perhaps more “diplomatic” president in Joe Biden, only time will tell if citizens will prefer a more goal focused – results oriented outsider to lead our country again in the future?


Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.
My Desultory Blog