Senior Leader Commander Traits that Win

By | August 30, 2020

[August 30, 2020]  At the Battle of Cowpens, January 1781, American Revolutionary General Daniel Morgan fought the British and won.  After repeated losses to the British, American forces were demoralized, beaten, and poorly lead.  Morgan changed the way Americans fought, and for this, we can learn what traits it takes for a senior commander to win.

What were those traits that made Morgan into such a formidable figure to be reckoned with?  What did he do to fight the British and win?  Was it the courage of his fighting force?  Was it his courage and skill?  I believe most historians would agree that courage and skill were not the reasons the Americans won this particular battle.  There are several leadership lessons we can take away.

  1. A true leader sets the conditions for success. A senior commander (or any business leader) sets the circumstances to win before the battle takes place.  Those that win only because of the courage or stamina of their soldiers are poor commanders.  The best commanders are those that set the conditions for victory.
  2. Courage is a vital component of leadership. Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to confront it.  For successful commanders, it means the ability to think and act correctly under intense pr3essure.  Courage matters, whether on the battlefield or in the corporate board room.
  3. Inspire your Team. Optimism, cheerfulness, confidence, and determination are the traits that allow us to succeed in the face of adversity.  Those teams facing failure, defeat, or any loss, need inspired leaders.  That leader must communicate by his words, actions, and attitude that the task can be accomplished, that the team will succeed, and treat the goal is worthy of sacrifice.
  4. Know yourself, your enemy, and your team. Sun Tzu once wrote that “If you know your enemies and know youres3elf, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.”  If a leader takes the time to study and learn about his team and enemies (the competition), then he will be successful.  Thus, by having a keen understanding of the psychology of soldiers on your team and a firm grasp of the techniques of achieving your goal, a leader cannot fail.
  5. Communicate your plans and intentions. Communicate your ideas to those that work for you.  Explain what you plan to do in terms the team can understand.  Make sure to discuss what is expected, as well as what might happen and what to do about it.  This allows every person to act with full knowledge that they are doing the right thing.
  6. Lead by example and be at the right place to make decisions. Show your team that you are willing to experience the same deprivations as they.  Knowing where to be in the think of the action is a vital talent of a true leader.  Leaders cannot be everywhere, but they can be at a decisive point.
  7. When it comes to leadership, bet on the people. Select the right people for leadership positions if you expect to win.  Selecting the correct folks to lead teams is one of the most important decisions a leader can make.

The Battle of Cowpens and the history of Brigadier General Daniel Morgan is not well known today.  I’m not so sure why.  But his exploits before, during, and after the American Revolution should be nothing short of an inspiring story in itself.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

22 thoughts on “Senior Leader Commander Traits that Win

    1. Army Captain

      Yes, and this whole website on leadership should be read by everyone who has an interest in the subject of leaders doing better. That’s why I come here and so many others, as well.

      1. Dennis Mathes

        That’s why I’m here reading not just the articles but also the comments section. You can learn a lot from these forums too.

  1. Nick Lighthouse

    Decisions you make today are based in what you learned yesterday, and your actions shape tomorrow, often in surprising ways.

  2. Greg Heyman

    Front-end loading matters, so take the time to set things up well. No matter how great a house looks on the outside, any reputable contractor knows that what really counts is the structure—the quality of both the foundation and the materials. It is the same with a team.

    1. Doug Smith

      Just like the Boy Scout motto, “be prepared.”

  3. Xavier Bordon

    “If, as an employee, it’s your job to please your boss, you are working for the wrong customer.” — Patrick Dolan

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      “Success in business, as well as in life, is directly dependent on the quality of the people you surround yourself with.”
      – Phil Hickey, CEO

  4. Kenny Foster

    “Set the conditions for success.” This one is often hard to understand. That means a couple of things. One, it means that a leader must “see” the future and be prepared for it. Two, it means the leader must communicate those ideas to all he employs. This is tough business and something that never be overlooked. Some of us do this as a matter of course for the simple things but senior leaders in large organizations must do this with help, but ultimately make decisions that can have tremendous impact across the org or society.

  5. Roger Yellowmule

    Hi everyone, I’ve been a regular reader of for a long time now and find the website refreshing each day. I would request we all forward the link to our family and friends. It can help get the word out.

  6. Fred Weber

    If you want to see how valuable this leadership website has gotten, just go back and read yesterday’s blog post on The Thin Blue Line. Gen. Satterfield supports the police and all long-established institutions. He correctly notes that each has a built in process of getting rid of bad seeds in their orgs.

  7. Wendy Holmes

    Sun Tzu was quote by Gen. Satterfield in his article and I will say that it is probably one of the most overlooked and discounted ideas presented here today. Know yourself, your enemy, and “your team.” Now, the last one in quotes is an add on but also important. If you don’t know the strengths and weaknesses of your team, you will fail because you cannot employ them properly. Just me thinking out loud on the keyboard. ?

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      Wendy, I agree and one idea that our politicians know about but chose to ignore.

  8. Tom Bushmaster

    Excellent. Quotable quote, “when it comes to leadership, bet on people.”
    We should all remember that and sear it into our brains. sometimes I think our politicians have forgotten this very basic idea.

  9. Randy Goodman

    Nicely done, Gen. Satterfield. Thanks for giving us some senior leader traits. That’s one of the reasons I like your site so much.

    1. JT Patterson

      Yes, Randy and I believe we are getting that much more. In the case of those who have not been reading this blog long, there has been an evolving of the ideas laid out for us to read. In the past, it was more listing of traits (kind of like today). Over the past year or so, there has been more analysis and in-depth discussions of leadership. I’m liking it either way.

      1. Yusaf from Texas

        I think you’re right JT. All of the discussion in Gen. Satterfield’s forums here have also evolved into a much richer analysis of what he writes and what we have to say. All good from my perspective.

      2. Harry Donner

        Right. And any one who is wondering why we read this blog, just take a close look at today’s article on senior commander traits.

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