Dwight D. Eisenhower is widely regarded as one of the greatest US Presidents, and with good reason. He took office at a time when the Cold War-era nuclear scare was at its peak, and despite a long and challenging leadership role, he negotiated the end of the Korean War, strengthened Social Security, and sanctioned global anti-communist operations on behalf of the CIA. However, despite all his achievements, Eisenhower made mistakes. But that never deterred him from leading.
No matter what the circumstance – whether he was achieving milestones or navigating setbacks – President Eisenhower led, and that formed the cornerstone of his success as a leader. Eisenhower understood that an organization is only as strong or powerful as its weakest person, and he employed his leadership skills to build and sustain the morale of his people, encouraging them always to give everything their best shot. Unlike many political leaders who mistook hierarchy and bureaucracy as the fast ticket to leadership, Eisenhower listened to his men. He knew that to have confident, positive troops, he needed to lead by example, and so he became a parental figure to most of them. He earned the love, affection, admiration, and most importantly, the loyalty of those who served both under him and over him. But what does all this have to do with leadership?
A Leader Can Be Likeable – Where Eisenhower Succeeded
In the words of another famous personality– internationally recognized leadership expert and speaker, John C. Maxwell, “loyalty is the key to consistent victory.” You cannot beat people into loyalty; like respect and trust, loyalty needs to be earned. And very few people could garner loyalty like Eisenhower. He realized that when you go into battle, it is the bond of teamwork – the love people share with one another – that pulls you through. Instead of treating soldiers like pawns in a game, he visited them on the front lines. He would listen and ask questions, resolve complaints, and attempt to improve the situation.
Managing Egos – Your Own and That of Others
Eisenhower could deftly manage the egos of other people, and bring them together to work towards a common goal. The reason why he was so good at this was because he was successful in subjugating his own ego. For him, he would always be the “simple Kansas farm boy.”
Understanding the Purpose
Leadership is not stagnant; it requires doing and setting examples. Eisenhower was a big believer in this. He would never expect his men to do something he would not. Since he made frequent trips to the battlefront, he was aware of the overwhelming conditions the soldiers lived and fought in. He also understood that while discipline and duty were vital, those alone would not maintain the morale of his troops. They needed to convince themselves that they were fighting for a worthy cause – the greater good. In other words, the US soldiers needed to understand the why behind their orders. This is why he always made sure his team understood the reasoning behind what they were doing.
You might have noticed how quick most of the leaders are in taking credit for any success, downplaying the contributions and efforts of others. But as soon as things go sideways, they are not willing to share any part of the blame. Eisenhower, however, was an exception to the rule. Despite being in the prime of his life, he realized that his efforts might not always yield success, and for this reason, he penned a letter titled “In Case of Failure” where he expressed his willingness to take the blame.
Real leadership is not simple or easy; it takes courage and commitment. Eisenhower possessed all the qualities that go into the making of a great leader. The rest of us might never be called on to do something on that level, but we still need to put our best foot forward and try to be the best leader we can be. If you need some help with that and would like some guidance, get in touch with us here.