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The remaining avenue by which ‘,n'' may attain heroic stature involves a muc more deliberate journey. Here, a her® assembles an image gradually throug exemplary personal conduct in the course of day-to-day living. Rather than waiting to land in a position where he can some how do special things, this individm1 dedicates his life to doing even simp1 things in a special way. These are
cerity and in unstinting measure, ■ - j lived the same heroic role that he play*- for those around him. By word and dee throughout a lifetime of military serv'C^ George Patton made it his business to sa isfy his subordinates’ need for heroism 11
On 1 August 1944, the U. S. Third Army was officially activated on the war- torn continent of Europe. Boldly leaping to the offensive, this newest Allied field command immediately embarked upon a brilliantly executed campaign later to be described as “the biggest rampage in the history of war.”1 This army led the breakout from the Normandy beachhead, made a headlong dash to the German border, turned the tide in the Battle of the Bulge, and slashed deeply and decisively into Germany itself. Leading this unprecedented martial romp was Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr. A 58-year- old former cavalry officer and early pioneer of armored warfare, Patton was much more than just the Third Army’s operational commander. Patton was the Third Army’s hero.
The union of heroism and leadership holds immeasurable potential for success. Heroes command respect, foster group unity, and inspire emulation in others. Leaders direct collective activity to accomplish organizational goals. By combining the moral power of one with the position power of the other, heroic leaders achieve as a matter of course what would otherwise seem fantastic. Alexander’s conquest of Persia, Horatio Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar, and Douglas MacArthur’s miracle at Inchon all represent classic illustrations of this heroic alchemy in action. Patton’s battlefield triumph in Europe, therefore, was far from some accident of history. By bringing a measure of personal heroism to his position of responsibility, Patton effectively loaded the odds in his favor before the first die was cast.
Whether in business or religion, politics or athletics, our institutional heroes translate abstract values into real-life demonstrations of those standards. By convincingly showing us what is possible, heroes inspire us to strive for a similar level of achievement. As a focal point for popular attention and respect, heroes foster unity among their admirers through the mechanism of commonly shared values and beliefs. George Washington, Henry Ford, Vince Lombardi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., are all popular American heroes who inspired and unified a nation. Other men and women, no less heroic for having operated on a smaller stage, have similarly facilitated organizational achievement and cohesion in local, regional, and institutional arenas. Heroes make society work.
Heroes also help satisfy a more personal need to find an organizing principle in life. As contemporary sociologist Alvin Toffler points out, choosing to pattern oneself after a particular personal hero “rescues us from the need to make millions of minute life-decisions. Once a commitment to a style is made, we are able to rule out many forms of dress and behavior, many ideas and attitudes as inappropriate to our adopted style.”2 Otherwise, each of us would be left to make innumerable value-laden choices based on little more than instinct.
There are two principal ways one can achieve heroism. The first is premised almost exclusively upon events beyond one’s control. Here is the realm of the ordinary man rising to an extraordinary challenge, of great moments igniting the fire that smolders within each hero’s breast. Though their conduct at the moment of decision is unquestionably heroic, these individuals owe much to the fortunes of life. As heroes, all earned their title by essentially being the right person in the right place at the right time.
quiet, everyday heroes, but they are roes nevertheless. Even more import;'11 • their very existence demonstrates that one can achieve a hero’s status by dint commitment and plain hard work.
Initially, Patton himself was just such11 self-made hero. Although the gener^ would eventually be caught up in even ■ plainly beyond his control, he had deter mined from the outset of his army carC to be a hero and had worked diligently 1 accomplish that result. “Soldiers, tlc general once wrote, “are natural hef worshippers. Officers with a flair > ^ command realize this and emphasize their conduct, dress, and deportment t qualities they seek to produce in the men.”3 Patton did all of that and mom An Olympic athlete, model soldier, an recognized authority on armored warfare’ Patton was also a consummate battlefie actor, famously distinct in his appc‘,r ance, speech, and conduct, a legendary disciplinarian who sported ivory-handi ^ revolvers and who would practice making his “war face” in the privacy of his °vv home.4 Yet there was nothing ol the shm1 in George S. Patton, Jr. In absolute sin
command. George C. Marshall,
The opportunity to lead an army in bat- ’e ultimately transformed Patton from ^eing a hero for his men into becoming a hero for his nation. Yet one need not lead 'n situations of life and death to become a heroic leader. Dedication, character, and Perseverance can accomplish the very same thing. One of the greatest military heroes of this century never led men in combat nor enjoyed even a peacetime who would eventually become the Arrr>y’s most senior officer and the “or- Banizer of victory” in World War II, consistently managed to draw all of the Wrong” assignments during his career military service. Yet his remarkable CVel of professional competence, exemPlary devotion to duty, and ability to in
spire achievement in others made him an increasingly valuable hero within the institution that he served. In fact, Marshall’s quiet brand of heroic leadership was so successful that he was to be twice summoned from military retirement to serve his nation further in cabinet-level positions. The only soldier ever to win a Nobel Prize for Peace, George Marshall proved conclusively that any military leader who truly wants to be a hero has the potential to do just that.
It is good that one can become a hero based upon individual effort alone, because society’s need for a crop of new, national heroes is currently running at an all-time high. Perhaps the most significant result of this shortfall has been to redirect our ongoing search for heroes to more local arenas. Understandably, this individual quest is initially focused upon our most constant and visible authority figures: the professional supervisors, managers, and leaders for whom we toil at work each day. As a consequence, America’s workplace leaders at every level of responsibility have been given an unrivaled opportunity both to satisfy their subordinates’ needs and to advance their organizations’ interests.
Nowhere is there greater potential for heroic leadership in the workplace than in the profession of arms. There, the contemporary social need for credible heroes intensifies an already well-developed institutional reliance upon leadership by example. From the routine discipline of peacetime service to the smoke and din of battle, military men and women require their leaders to do much more than direct tasks. The reasons are simple enough. At its very least military service imposes standards of personal conduct and appearance considerably more exacting than those applied to civilian life. At its most demanding, the martial profession requires its practitioners willingly to accept prolonged exposure to injury or death. Human nature being what it is, no leader can manage or compel successful performance at any point in this atmosphere of sacrifice and danger. Instead, effective military leadership has always required an ability both to model desirable behavior and to inspire performance under stress. This is classic hero’s work.
The quiet George (Marshall, left) and the flamboyant George (Patton) had quite different styles. Both generals seemed to accomplish wartime miracles, inspiring many others to follow their leadership. They were heroes. Everyone has the potential to be a hero, one way or another.
Those leaders who can perform it— especially in today’s hero-poor environment—will almost certainly meet with success.
Whether in peace or war, the military effect of exercising heroic leadership simply cannot be discounted. Individuals who work for heroes traditionally seem to stand taller, work harder, and manage to do more with less. Their collective discipline, morale, and performance is second to none; they generally set the pace that other commands will eventually have to follow. Nearly 200 years ago, Napoleon Bonaparte observed that in determining the outcome of martial undertakings, “the moral is to the material as three to one.”5 Heroes are moral assets of virtually limitless potential. Their active service at any level of the military chain of
Do You Have a Hero?
All of our old heroes seem to have disappeared— without being replaced by new ones. On the one hand, the media bombard us constantly with images of celebrities, quasi-idols, and overnight sensations. But most of these would-be heroes remain on the public stage only for a matter of days and then disappear forever into history’s limitless void. Many amount only to discrete fragments of an incomplete heroic image. Most distressing of all, in the blinding illumination of this information age, even those who become fully formed and constant heroes consistently have their images shattered by revelations of past impropriety and present-day deception. Ours is an era in which government officials are regularly indicted, religious leaders confess to immoral behavior, and financial wizards are exposed as cheats. At a time when our athletes are dying of drug abuse and Miss America is stripped of her title, it becomes exceedingly difficult to find contemporary heroic role models in whom one can truly believe. When a recent nationwide poll asked young adults to name the public personality they most admired and wanted to emulate, the three most popular responses were an actor, a comedian, and absolutely no one at all.1
Accompanying today’s lack of heroic example is a virulent popular cynicism regarding heroes of the past as well. Thus are we reliably informed that the martyred leader of
our American Camelot was, in fact, a womanizing friend of organized crime or that the father of our country was really just an unusually fortunate politician possessed of decidedly limited intellectual prowess. Hero-debunking on a national scale is much in vogue. Not long ago, People magazine contributed to the image-bashing spirit of our times by publishing a several-page feature devoted entirely to identifying great American heroes “whose claim to fame has been tarnished by the facts.” Included on that dubious honor roll were Betsy Ross, Paul Revere, Pocahontas, Davy Crockett, Sitting Bull, and other legendary figures from history.2 'Susanna McBcc, "Heroes are Back," U. S. News and World Report. 22 April 1985, p. 45
2“Heroes,” People, 12 January 1987, pp. 64-68.
Lieutenant Christopher A. Abel, U. S. Coast Guard
Do you have a hero? Please send your response to Ms. Follin Armfield, Proceedings, U. S. Naval Institute, U. S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland 21402, by I January 1989. We will publish the results in our March 1989 issue.
command exerts a positively electric motivational influence. In the searing test of combat, that inspiration can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
William Halsey’s return to command in October of 1942 represents one of the most memorable examples of this phenomenon in action. Halsey’s predecessor in command of the South Pacific Fleet, Vice Admiral Robert Ghormley, was technically qualified for the job but was unable to project a hero’s image. As a consequence, Ghormley’s leadership was found wanting when his subordinates needed inspiration during the darkest days of the Guadalcanal campaign. Ships were sinking, men were dying, and the outcome of the battle was in doubt. Needing a hero and fast, Chester Nimitz directed Halsey (just released from a hospital stay) to relieve Admiral Ghormley at once. The effect of the change was dramatic. Given the moral equivalent of a runner’s second wind, the battle weary sailors of the fleet greeted Halsey’s return with cheers of excitement and relief. Ashore, an officer on Guadalcanal recalled that
"one minute we were too limp with malaria to crawl out of our foxholes; the next we were running around whooping like kids. I remember two Marines working up to a brawl. One
of them was arguing that getting [Halsey in command] was like getting two battleships and two carriers, and the other was swearing he was worth two battleships and three carriers. If morale had been enough, we’d have won the war right there.”6
Working to become the next Patton or Halsey is a genuinely worthwhile pursuit. Each man represented heroic leadership at its best and both deeply touched the soldiers and sailors fortunate enough to serve with them. Nevertheless, the work ot becoming an everyday hero can be demanding in the extreme. The very essence of personal heroism is conduct noticeably better than ordinary. Those who aspire to be heroes, therefore, must first willingly accept the fact that society will apply more stringent standards to them than to the general population. “Good enough” simply is not. In addition, would-be heroes must shoulder the burden of adopting an entire heroic lifestyle. One cannot be truly heroic in one regard and wanting in another. Role models who rise to heroic proportions are those without fissures or gaps. As a result, military heroes cannot shed their heroic burden together with their uniform at the end of a day. In every pursuit, on duty and off, the responsibility for exemplary conduct becomes a hero’s constant companion.
Prospective heroic leaders must ded1' cate themselves fully to several fundamental principles in their lives. The first of these pillars of heroic example is *° know one’s work and to perform it wen- Although others may best them at a given facet of their profession, heroes are masters of the whole. From this professions expertise flows the ability to inspire confidence in others.
Second, heroes must subscribe to a strong sense of moral values. Whereas a technician can do things right, a heron- leader does the right thing. As Chid o Naval Operations Admiral Carlisle A- * 1 Trost recently pointed out, he must consistently be willing to “stand up lor h|S beliefs even if he stands alone."7 OvCf time, such a principled, disciplined ap proach to life will command the resped of others. A hero’s admiration can neWr be far behind.
Heroism also demands an unwavering
commitment to personal integrity- \ hero’s word must truly be his bond. A>r Force legend Curtis Lemay once wrote that personal integrity “is the true maC of a professional,” instantly “recognize and respected by all.” Most important o all, this integrity was an attribute “which one must possess in total or not at d ■ Once compromised, it is gone forever.
Finally, heroic leadership requires an unflinching dedication to play by the
. The rewards to be obtained from plae- 'ng these heroic principles into action can e spectacular. Everyone needs heroes in '•e. By recognizing this and responding to it, heroic leaders strike a chord that res°nates deep within one’s soul. They assist in guiding each of us from a maze °l individual moral chaos and inspire a Measure of collective achievement that
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rules of the game. Thus must the protective hero invariably present an impeccable personal appearance and mani- est an unquestioning obedience to authority. Unless invested with the power to change the rules, it is the hero’s solemn duty to abide by and enforce them.
A trio of practical caveats come attached to this heroic prescription. First, •here is an absolute need for personal sincerity in setting a heroic example. False uuroics are notoriously easy to spot and will mark one for life as a charlatan. Sec- °nd, heroism demands constancy. Heroic Performance by fits and starts is hardly heroic at all. To be a role model, one niust provide a consistent image in appearance and deportment, in principle and deed. Third, the heroic military eader must present the example of his image forcefully and often to those men and women whom he seeks to inspire. Heroism kept to one’s self is heroism
Would otherwise escape our grasp. Hemes make each of us better. Now, with lhe need for heroic example having bc- u°me especially acute, leaders at every evel of society face an unparalleled opportunity to excel. But the road to hero- lsm can k0(k difficult and long. A st°ut heart and a strong will are prerequisites to making the journey successfully, each of us has the ability to answer the hero’s call. The most heroic among us Will be willing to give it a try.
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v ' Essame, Patton: A Study In Command (New »rk: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1974), p. 157. .''Win Toftler, Future Shock (New York: Random ni’usc, 1970), p. 278.
Carles M. Province, The Unknown Patton (New 4p k Hippocrcne Books, Inc., 1983), pp. 102-3. red Ayer, Jr., Before the Colors Fade (Boston. The Houghton Mifflin Company. 1964), p. 55.
obert Debs Hcinl, Jr., Dictionary of Military and Quotations (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute
«wss: l%6)- p- 196-
jlliam F. Halsey and J. Bryan III. Admiral HalT-' v Storv (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co.. 1947), p. 116.
Carlis|c A. H. Trost. “Leadership is Flesh and lood," u. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, February 1??». P- 80.
^,r Force Leadership (AFM 50-3) (Washington, . ‘ C.: Department of the Air Force, 1964) p. 60. in (\rQt*ership: In Service of Country and Humanity New London, CT: U. S. Coast Guard Academy, l9f>X), p. 197.