Empowering Others: Leadership and General Patton

Empowering others is not a concept that people often associate with George S. Patton, Jr.  But at what point does success depend on empowering others?

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” General George S. Patton, Jr.

This quote from Patton gives us some idea of what he expected from the people who worked for him.

Iconic, hard-driving, relentless, Patton was strict in managing the people under his command. He fined soldiers for uniform infractions. He said, “It is absurd to believe that soldiers who cannot be made to wear the proper uniform can be induced to move forward in battle. Officers who failed to perform their duty by correcting small violations and in enforcing proper conduct are incapable of leading.”

Empowering Others to Achieve Success

Based on his reputation for strict command, it may seem surprising that Patton ever delegated authority to anyone.  However, he demanded that people under his command respect themselves in the way they dressed, in the way that they prepared for duty, and in the way that they performed their service.  With this respect for themselves, he instilled in them a respect for their abilities as well as demeanor.

Patton recognized the importance of delegating decision-making to the officers who managed the thousands of men under his command.

He insisted on people pushing forward the ideas they believed to be correct.  This Patton statement shows how much he depended on the input of other people in his command.  “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking,”

He could not be everywhere at the same time.  He could not make thousands of decisions on the spot during the action on the battlefield.

Of necessity and common sense, he empowered the soldiers under his command to have the authority to make decisions that led to success.