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 Posted: Thu Mar 20th, 2008 11:21 pm
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Don
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At Joanie’s request, I’d like to start a “son of” the qualities of a great general thread and see if we can’t collectively narrow down a list of qualities that most of us can agree on. 

 

Important Note:  This is a “what” discussion, as opposed to the mostly “who” discussion on the other thread.  We’re not looking for who is and who isn’t, we’re looking for qualifiers that will help us make that decision --- which sounds as though it might be the “grandson of” thread….  :P

 

What I’ve attempted to do is go back and find the qualities listed in the previous thread.  I didn’t rule any out, so if I missed yours, please bring it back up.  In a few cases, I’ve attempted to consolidate the phraseology and group a few together.  Those who generated the idea are credited in parentheses at the end of each.  The words in caps are my suggestions for a group title.

 

No, Joanie, you don’t get the 16 leadership dimensions yet, that might spoil the discussion.   But we do need to set some sort of cap, as the discussion of the 1, 764 Attributes of a Great General (and the resulting discussions) would be a bit cumbersome.  As Dave Gorski noted, they aren’t all necessarily in play all the time or for every individual.  But I would submit that any list developed should mostly apply to most generals most of the time.

 

So, based on what was already listed in the previous thread, here’s what we currently have:

 

1. TENACITY (could also be focus)

persistence (David White)

Resolve(PvtClewell)

Decision Making - following through(Dave Gorski)

Persistence(Dave Gorski)
          Firm (Dave Gorski)

[size=Don't stop. NEVER stop until the goal is attained!] (CrazyDelawares)

courage of conviction(PvtClewell)

focus (HankC)

 

2. FLEXIBILITY

Resilience (David White)

an ability to successfully adjust their plans in the fog of war(PvtClewell)

Ability to adjust and adapt - situational and with new technology and methods (Dave Gorski)

[size=Adapt, improvise, if the situation requires it and always overcome.] (CrazyDelawares)

agility (HankC)

3. MOTIVATOR

          an ability to inspire and maintain the confidence of their men(PvtClewell)

          Ability to inspire action without coercion - confidence of men, trusted and respected(Dave Gorski)

          High Energy(Dave Gorski)

 

4. CONSISTENCY

Some commanders were brilliant at one battle and dismal at another. (Dave Gorski)

 

5. COMMUNICATOR

Communication of policy and objectives - Military and political(Dave Gorski)

 

6. DECISION-MAKING

          Ability to weigh what is to be gained vs. what is to be risked. (Dave Gorski)

          [size=Establish the goal.] (CrazyDelawares)

 

7. AGGRESSIVENESS

          Aggressiveness - of self and command(Dave Gorski)

          Objective to win vs. trying not to lose - completness of victory with pursuit. (Dave Gorski)

          initiative (HankC)

 

8. CALMNESS

          Even Temperment - rational under stress(Dave Gorski)

 

9. COURAGE

          Physical Courage(Dave Gorski)

          Moral courage  (Dave Gorski)

 

10. PHYSICAL ABILITY

          Physical Capacity (Dave Gorski)

 

11. VISION

          Vision - recognition of big picture and your role in it. (Dave Gorski)       

          [size=See the whole picture or Clarity of purpose.] (CrazyDelawares)

          [size=strategic (overall) vision of the leader (Booklover)]

 

12. SELF-KNOWLEDGE

          Recognition of limits - self and command(Dave Gorski)

          Recognition of the merit of others - not jealous(Dave Gorski)

 

13. PLANNING/ORGANIZATION

          Ability to gather and use resources - intelligence. (Dave Gorski)

          Ability to make solid preperations. (Dave Gorski)   

 

14. PERCEPTION

          Ability to recognize and use enemy leaders shortcomings against him. (Dave Gorski)

          Realistic Expectations(Dave Gorski)

 

15. TACTICIAN

          [size=tactical (in the heat of battle) actions.(Booklover) ]

          Know How(Dave Gorski)

 

16. AUDACITY

risk (HankC)

Can be Bold - unpredictability(Dave Gorski)

17. Not Personal - attacks the enemy strategy(Dave Gorski)
18. imagination (HankC)
19. main effort ((HankC)
20. direction & control (HankC)
21. Success is not solely dependent on the accomplishment of others. (Dave Gorski)
22. Gallant(Dave Gorski)
23. Just(Dave Gorski)
24. Upright(Dave Gorski)

25. Experience(Dave Gorski)
26. Willingness to lead(Dave Gorski)
27. In Agreement with the character of the war - How is it to be fought? (Dave Gorski)
28. a benevolent biographer (Booklover)

29. good follower (Dave Gorski)
 
Again, if I left anyone’s ideas out, submit them, it wasn’t intentional.  Some of the individual entries may fit in one of the groups and I simply didn’t understand what you were saying.  Conversely, maybe some of the ones I grouped should stand alone.  But if I got it all right, what would we have to talk about?  :)

 

So do all of these belong?  Which ones need explaining?  Are there any missing that no one’s mentioned yet?  Let the discussions begin!



 Posted: Fri Mar 21st, 2008 12:02 am
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JoanieReb
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THANK YOU, DON!

Hey, You know all those things that I said would happen if you didn't start this thread? Haha - I was only kidding.

OK, EVERYONE - I'M JOKING THERE!!!!!

In sincerity, Don was very kind and a real sport to start this thread after I only bugged him twice.

I'm really looking forward to watching this one develop.

Thanks All,

JoanieReb



 Posted: Fri Mar 21st, 2008 12:12 am
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Don
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You're quite welcome, dear lady.



 Posted: Fri Mar 21st, 2008 02:49 am
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Dixie Girl
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i think that sounds pretty good. i think those qualitys sum up most generals



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War Means Fighting And Fighting Means Killing - N. B. Forrest When war does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Stonewall Jackson


 Posted: Fri Mar 21st, 2008 04:51 am
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JoanieReb
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Ah, glad to see you join in, Dixie!

I am too tired to think clearly tonight, have to sleep on all this - but, Dixie, since this is your first visit to this subject, do you think that any of the above characteristics are more important than other ones? If I recall correctly, Nathan Bedford Forrest is a special favorite general of yours (of me, too!), and, as Cleborne Fan pointed out on the "parent" thread, he did not attend military school, but rose to the top by natural ability. Do you think these characteristices fit his profile? Of course, as Don pointed out, we are going for the WHATs as opposed to the WHOs here, but we need the "who"'s to help us define the "what"s! Haha - I TOLD you I was tired, I'm even confusing myself now.

Thanks,

Joanie



 Posted: Fri Mar 21st, 2008 05:55 pm
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Albert Sailhorst
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If I may, I'd like to include another quality : Being Un-Orthodox.

When Gen. Forrest was surrounded at Parker's Crossroads, he gave the order "Charge'em both ways"....which managed to get him out of a rather precarious situation.

Anybody have other examples of un-orthodox tactics?



 Posted: Fri Mar 21st, 2008 06:40 pm
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ashbel
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I think you are leaving out the most important quality of all:

ABILITY TO DELEGATE EFFECTIVELY

At the end of the day generals are managers of large organizations.  Most of the qualities listed above could be used to describe what it takes to be a good private or a good captain.  What separates the the great generals is they understood that they couldn't be everywhere on a battlefield.  They had to delegate responsibility and then allow the commanders under them to do their jobs. 

It is interesting that this principle of delegation and decision making at the lowest level possible is the core of american military strategy today.  For a really great read on this subject see: "Boyd:The Fighter Pilot that Changed the Art of War" by Robert Colam. 



 Posted: Fri Mar 21st, 2008 10:24 pm
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Kernow-Ox
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>DELEGATE EFFECTIVELY

Yes.

Allied with this point is number 13 on our menu - planning/organisation. The general should know how to effectively use his subordinates*. More importantly, he should also understand their ambitions and failings, especially with regard to their relationships to brother officers. There is no point, for example, in entrusting B to an endeavour if in so doing it will cause resentment with C.

Learning loads from this thread and its parent!


* (I hate the term 'human resources' and am trying to avoid it)



 Posted: Fri Mar 21st, 2008 11:40 pm
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ole
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Has anyone noticed that none of these virtues was offered in a class at West Point? This is the kind of stuff that you learn or choose not to learn at your father's knee. It's the kind of stuff that you bring with you when you get some book learning. No one instructed Grant in the fine art of being a pushy fellow. No one instructed Lee in the fine art of being a gentleman.

None of the studies at the USMA changes anything about the baggage you bring there. You learn rules and discipline and popping a cap or two with trajectories and theories, but none of it changes where you came from. Sometime, back there, Grant learned to never turn back, and Lee had his affirmation as a gentleman. West Point didn't do it.

ole



 Posted: Fri Mar 21st, 2008 11:49 pm
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Texas Defender
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Ole-

  Here is a list of things that Grant was graded on in 1843. You can decide for yourself the possible effect that it might have had on him.  ;)

-Math (Caused about 90% of academic failures)

-French

-English Grammar

-Natural Philosophy

-Drawing

-Engineering

-Ethics

-Chemistry and Mineralology

-Tactics

-Artillery

-Conduct

 



 Posted: Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 12:20 am
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Don, I think you left out one I suggested which was RUTHLESSNESS. I put ruthlessness in a separate category from aggressiveness, because one can be aggressive, but ruthlessness takes that to the next level.

As the war wore on, battles began to be fought under the Black Flag principle...take no prisoners, etc. Also the concept of Total War began to take form. One had to be a ruthless general to fight a Total War. By the end of the war, generals who shrank from such a philosophy probably could not be called great.



 Posted: Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 12:32 am
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PvtClewell
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According to Smith's biography on Grant, Grant graduated from West Point in 1843 ranked 21st in a class of 39. In his final year, he was 16th in engineering, 28th in ethics, 25th in artillery tactics, 17th in geology. He was ranked 156th in a corps of cadets of 233 in conduct. "Only in horsemanship did he excel," writes Smith. "To the consternation of his plantation-reared classmates from below the Mason-Dixon line, no cadet could rival Grant's ability in the saddle."

Go figure, huh?



 Posted: Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 12:50 am
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CleburneFan
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EMBRACED  TECHNOLOGICAL  INNOVATIONS

Both admirals and generals in the Civil War faced many new advances in weapons. Not only did leaders who sought out new technology have battelfield or maritime advantages, those who sought ways to counteract new technology could neutralize the latest weapons and techniques...if they could. 

Generals and admirals who resisted  new technology risked both battlefield and manpower losses. Yet, some generals clung to Napoleonic tactics even when more effective artillery and longer range, more accurate weapons, and deadlier munitions made Napoleonic tactics obsolete. Such generals still had the idea that old ways were manlier, more gentlemanly. For example, they felt digging in with entrenchments was somehow cowardly.

As late as November, 1864 John Bell Hood  insisted on a deadly frontal attack against heavily fortified Union entrenchments at Franklin resulting in nothing less than a slaughter that included six of his generals.



 Posted: Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 02:41 am
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ole
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Texas Defender: Did you make my point for me? Or did I miss something? In your list, I did not see "Stubborn SOB" as a course of study.

ole



 Posted: Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 03:24 pm
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Texas Defender
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Ole-

  At West Point, cadets faced a very severe academic challenge. Some had little education before they arrived there. (Thomas Jackson was one. Yet he not only survived, but  improved his standing every year, graduating in the top 1/3 of his class).

  Those who made it through received what might well have been the premier education in engineering and math available in the country at that time. When they came out the other end, they expected to succeed, and probably already had a feeling of superiority. People who feel superior are usually more determined, and thus, more stubborn, than others. West Pointers built much of the infrastructure of a growing nation.

  My question to you is- did they succeed because they were already "stubborn SOBs," or did the West Point experience mold them and make them so? Was it cause or effect? Was it nature or nurture? Was it genetics or the necessity of adapting to the environment?

  My feeling is that both elements played a part. Of course, there were individual differences in ability and temperament. But you can't discount the West Point experience factor. It transformed many young lads into confident, stubborn SOBs.



 Posted: Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 03:43 pm
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ole
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Good point.

ole



 Posted: Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 03:56 am
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Don
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Okay, I have four additions to our list: ruthlesness (my apologies, Cleburne), unorthodoxy, ability to delegate effectively and embracing technology. I currently have "stubborn SOB" under Tenacity.

That's 33, which seems a bit much to me. What can we remove from our list? As always, please justify your selections.



 Posted: Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 04:19 am
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JoanieReb
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While I think about what has to go....

...I will say, that especailly after having just made reference to it on the parent thread about an hour ago, this one has to stay:

10. PHYSICAL ABILITY

          Physical Capacity (Dave Gorski)


It is figurative and literally (having made up all of grouping 10, hee-hee) in a class by itself.

Unlike in modern in times, disease and injury were so prevelant and took such a toll that for every one soldier whom died in battle, two died of disease.   Health and wholeness (literally) were vital (again, literally) to a commander's ability to perform well - and this was often seriously impeded by problems that could be either cured or compensated for fairly routinely in today's world. 

Think of Ewell, Hill, and at the most extreme, Jackson.

I recently read an account of Lee's concerns in early 1864 regarding the attrition of his officers.  Now, at that time, attrition in everything was concerning him (troops, supplies, munitions, real victories), but everytime he lost an officer to illness or injury, as well as death, he had only a shallow pool from which to replace un-replacable experience and spirit.  He became, towards the very end, notably dependent on John Gordon Brown, whom had never attended a military academy, but was a "talented amateur" whom had risen from the ranks.  JG Brown was seemingly indestructable (Hey, Private Clewell, I think you could do a clever remark relating him to The Unsinkable Molly Brown?), as those who recall his Sharps-tietam experience well know.


Last edited on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 06:31 am by JoanieReb



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 Posted: Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 03:53 pm
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CleburneFan
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Don wrote: Okay, I have four additions to our list: ruthlesness (my apologies, Cleburne), unorthodoxy, ability to delegate effectively and embracing technology. I currently have "stubborn SOB" under Tenacity.

That's 33, which seems a bit much to me. What can we remove from our list? As always, please justify your selections.


Maybe we could have a few sets with subsets underneath each set of traits.  I honestly think it is difficult to make a short list of the traits of great Civil War generals. There are so many factors involved.

Not every great general possessed all traits in equal measure or consistently over his career. For example, some started out well, then didn't live up to their promise (McClellan, Hood) and others had a hard time getting started, then developed into greatness (Grant).



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