The Trials Of Leadership

Because of excellent reviews, last year I started reading a couple of books on D-Day and the Battle for Normandy eg here. However, even after just a few chapters, the complexity and uncertainty in nearly everything was both daunting and revealing (the famous ‘fog of war’). Directing and managing this must have been a nightmare as well as extraordinarily stressful.

However, especially in the popular media, Eisenhower (the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces) gave the impression of coping well, not just with the decision making but also with handling the powerful and often eccentric egos of the key players. I was curious how he did this and managed to keep sane at the same time!

So, I was interested to recently read (from the Economist):

‘The ultimate sin, for the Oprah generation, is to be repressed. Nonsense, says Mr Brooks. Dwight Eisenhower spent his life repressing his inner self, and it helped the Allies win the second world war. He “spent the nights staring at the ceiling, racked by insomnia and anxiety, drinking and smoking”. Yet “he put on a false front of confident ease and farm-boy garrulousness” to raise the troops’ morale. He was splendidly inauthentic. Later on, as president, he was willing to appear tongue-tied if it would help conceal his designs. Indeed, he was happy to let people think him stupid, which “is how we know he was not a New Yorker”.’

As an aside, in productivity books and articles, the so-called Eisenhower matrix or box (see below) is often cited:

Eisenhower MatrixPicture credit: here.

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