10 Lessons From A Man Who Helped Save The World

The quotes are General Dwight Eisenhower’s. The titles are my brief and imperfect interpretations. All quotes are from Eisenhower’s book, Crusade In Europe, his memoir about his time in WWII as a top commander for the Allies. 

Keep It Simple and Do What’s Obvious 

“It is a characteristic of military problems that they yield to nothing but harsh reality; things must be reduced to elemental simplicity and answers must be clear, almost obvious.”

“…the plan was complicated and that is always a disadvantage.”

Think Things Through Thoroughly Before Committing Yourself To A Large Endeavor 

“In the development of a concrete plan to implement the approved Allied policy to defeating the European Axis first, we attempted to study and analyse each step, and each important factor so thoroughly that no opportunity, risk or needed preparation would be overlooked.”

Give Those You Lead Every Chance To Succeed

“Admittedly there are certain things to be learned from battle experience that can be absorbed in no other way. On the other hand, any commander who permits a unit to enter battle lacking any advantage, any needed instruction, or any useful understanding that could be imparted to that unit beforehand, is guilty of a grave crime against the soldiers he leads.”

When Pursuing Important Objectives Remember To Also Protect Yourself Against Vulnerabilities

“Always, in war, whether problems of tactics, strategy, or logistics are involved, concentration for positive, offensive purposes must be calculated in light of minimum needs in areas where the enemy might damage us decisively.”

“…war is always conducted in the realm of the possible and of the estimated rather than of the certainly known. It never pays to be too sure about the future!”

Be Flexible When Circumstances Require, But Be More Patient In Executing Your Long-Term Strategy 

“The doctrine of opportunism, so often applicable in tactics, is a dangerous one to pursue in strategy. Significant change in the field of strategy have repercussions all the way back to the factory and the training centre. They must be carefully scrutinized.”

“Our frustration in the attainment of our immediate tactical goals in the eastern sector involved no change in the broad purposes of the operational plan. It was merely another example of the age-old truth that every battle plan comprises merely an orderly commitment of troops to battle under the commander’s calculations of desirable objectives and necessary resources, but always with the certainty that enemy reaction will require constant tactical adjustment to the requirements of the moment.” 

Good Leaders Engage With Team Members To Build Mutual Trust And Harvest Ideas That Make The Team Stronger 

“I would talk about anything so long as I could get the soldier to talk to me in return…There is, among the mass of individuals who carry the rifles in war, a great amount of ingenuity and initiative. If men can naturally and without restraint talk to their officers, the products of their resourcefulness become available to all. Moreover, out of the habit grows mutual confidence, a feeling of partnership that is the essence of esprit de corps. An army fearful of its officers is never as good as one that trusts and confides in its leaders.”

Figure Out Where You Have An Advantage And Avoid Going Against The Odds 

“Intelligence agencies were required to make exhaustive daily analyses of enemy losses on all parts of the front. The purpose was to avoid attacks in those areas where the balance-sheet in losses showed any tendency to favor the enemy. During this period we took as a general guide the principle that operations, except in those areas where we had some specific and vital objective, such as in the case of the Roer dams, were profitable to us only where the daily calculations showed that enemy looses were double our own.” 

Don’t Underestimate The Tenacity Of Someone Who Is Defending What They Believe Is Theirs 

“Experience up to that time led us largely to discount the quality of the defense to be put up by the Italian formations; however, in the coming operation they would be defending their own territory, which could easily make a great difference.” 

If You Need To Fight Don’t Give Your Opponent A Chance To Prepare Or To Readjust 

“…nothing is so useful as the attainment of strategic surprise; a surprise that suddenly places our own forces in position to threaten the enemy’s ability to continue the war, at least in an important area.”

“Speed of movement often enables troops to minimize any advantage the enemy may temporarily gain but, more important, speed makes possible the full exploitation of every favorable opportunity and prevents the enemy from readjusting his forces to meet successive attacks. Thus through speed and determination each successive advantage is more easily and economically gained than the previous one. Continuation of the process finally results in demoralization of the enemy. There upon speed must be redoubled —  relentless and speedy pursuit is the most profitable action in war.”

“Against a defeated and demoralized enemy almost any reasonable risk is justified and the success attained by the victor will ordinarily be measured in the boldness, almost foolhardiness, of his movements.”  

Don’t Let Pride Or Irrationality Stop You From Retreating From Previous Decisions When It’s Wise To Do So

“In retrospect it is difficult to understand why the German, as he saw his armies north of the Moselle undergo complete collapse and destruction, failed to initiate a rapid withdrawal of his forces in the Saar Basin in order to remove them from their exposed position and employ them for defense of the Rhine. More than once in prior campaigns we had witnessed similar examples of what appeared to us sheer tactical stupidity. I personally believe that the cause was to be found in the conqueror complex: the fear that to give up a single foot of ravished territory would be to expose the rotten foundation on which was built the myth of invincibility . . . it was more of Hitler’s intuition in action!”

“We owe much to Hitler. There is no question that his General Staff, had it possessed a free hand in the field of military operations, would have foreseen certain disaster on the western bank and would have pulled back the defending forces . . . militarily, the wise thing for the German to do at that moment would have been to surrender.”