The Organizer of Victory!

[May 23, 2020]  Over the next few months, I will be dedicating space in my blog to discuss the leadership characteristics of George C. Marshall.  After George Washington, Marshall is considered the “most respected soldier in American history.”1  Yet, he never commanded troops in battle, the customary path to greatness for a military leader.  So what was it about Marshall that allowed him to be so successful and the organizer of victory in World War II?

“The efficiency of your leadership will depend only to a minor degree on your tactical ability.  It will primarily be determined by your character, your reputation, not much for courage—which will be accepted as a matter of course—but by the previous reputation you have established for fairness, for that high-minded patriotic purpose, that quality of unswerving determination to carry through any military task assigned to you.” – speaking to office candidates September 1941

George Marshall pointed out what makes a great leader; character.  Without character, the leader will be lost in the complexity of the situation, be unable to care for those who follow, and stumble at accomplishing the mission.  If leadership depends purely upon seniority, he once said, “you are defeated before you start.”  Marshall rose to prominence in a military that had opened by reforms and began emphasizing professional military education and closer coordination within a new staff system that better prepared it for war.

Marshall never commanded a division (about 10,000 troops to give this perspective), but he became Chief of Staff on the day World War II began in Europe.  In September 1939, the U.S. Army was about the size of the Dutch army that survived less than a week against the Nazi war machine.  By the time the U.S. Army began fighting the Wehrmacht in 1942, its combat strength had increased tenfold.  Marshall was the architect of this remarkable buildup.

“The most important factor of all is character, which involves integrity, unselfish and devoted purpose, a sturdiness of bearing when everything goes wrong, and all are critical, and a willingness to sacrifice self in the interest of the common good.” – writing to Miss Craig’s class in Roanoke, Virginia

Of those traits of character, Marshall especially emphasized loyalty in thought and deed.  He noted that it is the duty and responsibility that loyalty is given freely to your boss, to the leader’s efforts to carry out your boss’s plans and policies, and even if you disapprove, the leader must exert even more energy to direct their accomplishment.

George C. Marshall was the organizer for victory in World War II.  I will explore more about him personally and about how he carried out this organization in the near future.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

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

20 thoughts on “The Organizer of Victory!

  1. Sadako Red

    For any method of learning by thinking requires the use of ideas from others. Calling it stealing is perhaps a queer way to think of it. Usefulness is not theft. Thinking is not a lonely passion. One might be a nobody but wise when the compassion of ideas are integrated into the character of one’s understanding of ourselves.

  2. Greg Heyman

    Excellent article on one of the most effective and reliable leaders of the 20th century.

  3. Watson Bell

    Here is a Marshall quote that I do not fully understand. “Wars are bred by poverty and oppression. Continued peace is possible only in a relatively free and prosperous world.” We all know by now that poverty itself does not breed war. Oppression is a different story, however. So is it the combination of the two – poverty AND oppression – or its each of the separately? That is one of the questions I would like for Gen. Satterfield to explore with us. Thanks all. Have a great weekend.

    1. Eric Coda

      Excellent question Watson. I would like that too answered but I think, in my first blush with your question, that he was talking about both of them together producing war. Maybe neither alone is sufficient. But nonetheless great way to get the ball rolling on Marshall and his thinking.

  4. Randy Goodman

    “When a thing is done, it’s done. Don’t look back. Look forward to your next objective.” George C. Marshall
    Many quotes to THINK about. There is plenty of material for any future series on Marshall.

  5. Valkerie

    Excellent article and I also look forward to learning more about General Marshall. ?

  6. Scotty Bush

    I look forward to this new series. You picked a man whose life and accomplishments can both inspire and teach us about greatness, humanity, and humility.

    1. lydia truman

      Here’s a good source about Marshall, “Marshall, George C., Selected Speeches and Statements of General of the Army George C. Marshall, ed. by H.A. De Weerd. Washington, The Infantry Journal, 1945.”

      1. Lynn Pitts

        Yeah, a new series. Great choice. Thanks lydia for the reference.

      2. Willie Shrumburger

        Another mini-series from Gen. Satterfield. Thanks Scotty, yes, he has picked someone who can, thru his life, teach us how to improve our lot as leaders but also as just plain ole’ good folk.

  7. Gil Johnson

    Interesting his comment about courage: “It will primarily be determined by your character, your reputation, not much for courage—which will be accepted as a matter of course—…” True enough. But courage is, in fact, a key aspect of leadership, especially moral courage. Although, I think he was talking about physical courage (bravery in the face of the enemy).

  8. Wesley Brown

    “Loyalty” was indeed what the believed to be the greatest staff officer trait. But he was also aware that a “yes man” was not worth his salt in a good fight.

    1. José Luis Rodriguez

      Indeed. Those who agree with you all the time should be viewed with suspicion. Marshall understood that. I’m also looking forward to more about Marshall and what helped develop him as a great man.

  9. Kenny Foster

    Excellent article, Gen. Satterfield. Yes, please continue to write about George Marshall more in depth. What he had to say is often captured in several books and articles that your synthesis will help us out understanding how to be a better leader.

  10. ARay Pittman

    George C. Marshall is well known in 20th century US history but still underrated to a great extent. His accomplishments are phenomenal. He was a 5-star army general (the first), Sec of Defense, Sec of State, and held other big-name positions in and out of govt. I look forward to hearing more about him from you. Thanks Gen. Satterfield.

    1. Dennis Mathes

      Point well taken and I will jump on your comments to add that I believe that Marshall was probably the greatest under-appreciated man of the 20th century, bar none.

    2. Danny Burkholder

      Yes, thanks ARay, and the fact that he was the architect of the “Marshall Plan” from which his name was given also says alot about the man.

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