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The Art of Command

The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell

Harry S. Laver
Jeffrey J. Matthews
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 294
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  • Book Info
    The Art of Command
    Book Description:

    What essential leadership lessons do we learn by distilling the actions and ideas of great military commanders such as George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Colin Powell? That is the fundamental question underlying The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell. The book illustrates that great leaders become great through conscious effort -- a commitment not only to develop vital skills but also to surmount personal shortcomings. Harry S. Laver, Jeffrey J. Matthews, and the other contributing authors identify nine core characteristics of highly effective leadership, such as integrity, determination, vision, and charisma, and nine significant figures in American military history whose careers embody those qualities. The Art of Command examines each figure's strengths and weaknesses and how those attributes affected their leadership abilities, offering a unique perspective of military leadership in American history. Laver and Matthews have assembled a list of contributors from military, academic, and professional circles, which allows the book to encompass diverse approaches to the study of leadership.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7312-2
    Subjects: History, Management & Organizational Behavior

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Steven W. Boutelle

    In March 1969, I, along with two dozen other young men, stumbled off a chartered bus in front of the white World War II–era barracks at Fort Lewis, Washington. Waiting for us and already barking orders was Drill Sergeant Mata. I had joined the United States Army. I was a volunteer, a private who planned to serve his three-year enlistment and return home to Oregon. (Two weeks after entering boot camp, I received an official induction notice in the mail.) Unbeknownst to me, boot camp was actually the start of a thirty-eight-year military career—a four-decade journey of public...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Introduction: Leadership for War and Peace
    (pp. 1-10)
    Harry S. Laver and Jeffrey J. Matthews

    Few people would challenge the assertion by presidential biographer James MacGregor Burns that “leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth.”¹ Yet, in the three decades since the publication of Burns’s seminal workLeadership, our understanding of the leadership process has improved tremendously. Among the most important developments is the widespread recognition that successful leaders, operating at any level of responsibility, are not simply endowed at birth with great leadership ability. As General William Tecumseh Sherman once observed, “I have read of men born as generals peculiarly endowed by nature but have never seen one.”²...

  6. 1 Integrity and Leadership: George Washington
    (pp. 11-32)
    Caroline Cox

    In March 1783, when peace negotiations with Great Britain were under way and the end of the Revolutionary War was in sight, the American army faced one of its greatest crises. The restless officers of the Continental Army believed they had endured enough hardship. Their pay was in arrears, as usual, and their accounts had not been settled for the food and clothing that they had provided for their men. From their winter quarters at Newburgh, New York, the officers petitioned Congress in Philadelphia to address their grievances. They even hinted of a possible mutiny. Some congressional delegates were sympathetic...

  7. 2 Determination and Leadership: Ulysses S. Grant
    (pp. 33-60)
    Harry S. Laver

    In a downpour on 6 April 1862, Brigadier General William Tecumseh Sherman spent the early evening searching for his superior, Major General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Union Army of the Tennessee. He found him crouched under a tree with rain dripping from his down-turned hat and a dim lantern providing meager light. “Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?” “Yes,” Grant replied. “Lick ’em tomorrow, though.”¹

    Undoubtedly Sherman was taken aback by Grant’s unremitting resolve. The day’s fighting around Shiloh Church had ended with the coming of twilight, but the federals found little comfort in...

  8. 3 Institutional Leadership: George C. Marshall
    (pp. 61-92)
    Larry I. Bland

    By the end of March 1945, massive Anglo-American formations were streaming across the Rhine River, encircling the key German industrial area of the Ruhr. In the east, the Red Army was less than fifty miles from Berlin. On 30 March, British prime minister Winston Churchill had cabled his representative on the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington, DC, “Pray . . . give [General Marshall] my warmest congratulations on the magnificent fighting and conduct of the American and Allied Armies under General Eisenhower, and say what a joy it must be to him to see how the armies he called...

  9. 4 Cross-Cultural Leadership: Dwight D. Eisenhower
    (pp. 93-124)
    Kerry E. Irish

    Many people have analyzed Dwight D. Eisenhower’s leadership as supreme Allied commander in Europe during World War II. Less known are the origins of his leadership principles and the fact that Eisenhower did not relate to other Allied leaders in an impromptu manner, relying on charm and a smile, as much as he endeavored to execute long-held and deeply believed cross-cultural leadership concepts. Indeed, much of Eisenhower’s prior military career was a study of coalition leadership. From his tutorial under Brigadier General Fox Conner in Panama to his appointment as chief of staff of the American military mission to the...

  10. 5 Charismatic Leadership: Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller
    (pp. 125-154)
    Jon T. Hoffman

    Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller requires no introduction to an audience of marines. Veterans and partisans of the army, navy, and air force might debate over the preeminent leader in their respective services, but there is absolutely no doubt that Puller is the hero of the U.S. Marine Corps—the very icon of the institution. His larger-than-life image is etched indelibly in every marine almost from the first day at boot camp or Officer Candidate School. His stern, leathery, square-jawed visage stares down from every wall in every building throughout the corps. Countless times every day his name is...

  11. 6 Visionary Leadership: Henry H. “Hap” Arnold
    (pp. 155-178)
    François Le Roy and Drew Perkins

    In the closing months of World War II, General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold was awarded his fifth star and thus became the only air commander to earn the rank of General of the Army. In May 1949, three years into his retirement, Arnold became the first and only military officer to receive the honorary rank of General of the Air Force. These extraordinary distinctions recognized the instrumental role Arnold played in the development of American air power. His leadership effectiveness resided not only in his ability to foresee the crucial place of air power in modern warfare but also in...

  12. 7 Technology and Leadership: Hyman G. Rickover
    (pp. 179-208)
    Thomas L. “Tim” Foster

    In November 1981, two months before the end of his unprecedented sixty-three-year navy career, which included thirty-five years overseeing the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover lectured to a Columbia University audience on the components of effective leadership: “What it takes to do a job will not be learned from management courses. It is principally a matter of experience, the proper attitude, and common sense—none of which can be taught in a classroom.”¹ In less formal surroundings, he called leadership and management courses “crap.” Graduates, he believed, too often came away with the false notion that,...

  13. 8 Adaptive Leadership: Harold G. “Hal” Moore
    (pp. 209-230)
    H. R. McMaster

    InCommand in War, Martin van Creveld notes that “the history of command in war consists of an endless quest for certainty.”¹ In the 1990s, consistent with van Creveld’s observation, initiatives under the auspices of “defense transformation” sought to achieve “dominant battlespace knowledge” to permit commanders to make the right decisions, target the enemy with precision munitions, and even anticipate enemy reactions. In 1995, Admiral William A. Owens, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, predicted that it would soon be possible to “see and understand everything on the battlefield.”² The vision of future war as lying in...

  14. 9 Exemplary Followership: Colin L. Powell
    (pp. 231-264)
    Jeffrey J. Matthews

    Nine days before Christmas Day in 1989, General Colin L. Powell received word that an American marine lieutenant had been shot near a roadblock manned by the Panamanian Defense Forces. Powell also learned that a U.S. Navy lieutenant and his wife who had witnessed the shooting had been physically assaulted by Panamanian interrogators. On 20 December, these provocations, combined with Panama’s increasingly volatile political situation under dictator Manuel Noriega, contributed to President George H. W. Bush’s decision to launch a military invasion code-named Operation Just Cause. These events represented the first major foreign policy crisis not only for the Bush...

  15. Recommended Reading
    (pp. 265-268)
  16. List of Contributors
    (pp. 269-270)
  17. Index
    (pp. 271-276)