[August 14, 2020] In 1987, Maj. Gen. Aubrey “Red” Newman published his best leadership book. It is called “What Are Generals Made Of?” It is, of course, highly recommended. In it, Gen. Newman discusses several good points about senior leadership. One, in particular, I took a liking to his book and what he would do differently to be a better leader.
Army Maj. Gen. Newman was best known for his World War II battle cry “Follow Me!” It became the motto of an Infantry Division and an Army recruiting poster.1 He shouted the words while commanding a regiment leading Gen. MacArthur’s “return” to the Philippines on October 20, 1944, an amphibious assault on Leyte Island. So much for his credentials.
Newman wrote that if he had it all to do over again, he would do some things differently. What were they? He spells out his answer in his book in Chapter 16, “But You Get Only One Chance.” Here is what he said (summarized):
- To begin with, I would not drift into my military career but would strive to be a real professional, better than par. Looking back, my first ten years were an effort to do well those duties assigned, nothing more. I made no effort to reach out. I did try to do well, but that is not enough to be a true professional.
- I would be a self-motivated professional, seeking knowledge of the military past, broadening my understanding of the present, and studying the future. It does not work that way but interesting and professional fun. By studying battles, I was hooked, inoculated with a gradually acquired desire to know more about my profession, over and above being just “a good soldier.”
- On a more mundane level, here are some things I would do differently if given another chance.
- Next time I will report to any first duty station with a high-quality, three-hold looseleaf notebook. The idea is to simplify matters, not replace formal filing systems.
- I would also concentrate on keeping my eye on the professional ball.
- There would be time for extracurricular activities, too, for my observation of the best professionals confirmed them as well-balanced men.
Being a professional from the beginning would be a more worthwhile and rewarding career. In this world’s life and order of things, we cannot start over. However, these ideas of Gen. Newman can be used to help things work out for other junior leaders.