Principles of Leadership

Douglas MacArthur was one of the greatest military leaders the United States of America ever produced. General MacArthur’s discipline and leadership extended beyond his military service. He was of course an effective general but also a renowned statesman, administrator and corporate leader.

Through the years, biographies of MacArthur have noted what they call “The MacArthur Tenets,” and they developed a series of questions that reflect the human relations and leadership principles that people saw in him.

These are the types of questions that all leaders should be asking themselves from time to time. Better yet, perhaps they should be asking their mentor or maybe even their followers. 

I am not particularly found of the term “subordinate” and the tone of some of the questions is a bit terse but given the fact the both MacArthur and at least some of his biographers had military backgrounds I understand their use of the term and the inclusive, direct nature of the questions.

Here are the questions the biographers came up with:

  • Do I heckle my subordinates or strengthen and encourage them?
  • Do I use moral courage in getting rid of subordinates who have proven themselves beyond doubt to be unfit?
  • Have I done all in my power by encouragement, incentive and spur to salvage the weak and erring?
  • Do I know by NAME and CHARACTER a maximum number of subordinates for whom I am responsible? Do I know them intimately?
  • Am I thoroughly familiar with the technique, necessities, objectives and administration of my job?
  • Do I lose my temper at individuals?
  • Do I act in such a way as to make my subordinates WANT to follow me?
  • Do I delegate tasks that should be mine?
  • Do I arrogate everything to myself and delegate nothing?
  • Do I develop my subordinates by placing on each one as much responsibility as he can stand?
  • Am I interested in the personal welfare of each of my subordinates, as if he were a member of my family?
  • Have I the calmness of voice and manner to inspire confidence, or am I inclined to irascibility and excitability?
  • Am I a constant example to my subordinates in character, dress, deportment and courtesy?
  • Am I inclined to be nice to my superiors and mean to my subordinates?
  • Is my door open to my subordinates?
  • Do I think more of POSITION than JOB?
  • Do I correct a subordinate in the presence of others?

Your answer to these questions can go a long way towards helping you become the type of leader people want to follow, regardless of your position or title. How would you answer them and how would the people you are responsible to lead answer them?

Oh by the way, honesty absolutely counts when answering.

6 thoughts on “Principles of Leadership

  1. Great series of questions Steve!

    I’m not surprised by the use of language either. And subordinate would be appropriate when dealing with rank in military….unless it has suddenly become a democracy in modern times! (Reminded of Gene Hackman in Crimson Tide saying, ‘We’re here to preserve democracy! Not practice it! – grins)

    As a high ranking military man, I have great respect for any man ( or woman) who can deliver such character that seems to understand the nature of equality even with people who are considered ‘subordinates’. It shows, at least in the way these questions were framed, the man did not let power go to his head. Or if he did, he learned from it.

    As I look over the questions, I certainly couldn’t give myself an A grade over all. At the present, I feel I’m good at some of the questions, still poor in others. In the past, I know I was poor at some that I feel currently good at. I also don’t think I am good at the ‘good’ ones 100% of the time. I know that even in my parenting, If I’m exhausted and under high stress, I have far less patience to deal with some of the ‘drama’ that seems to be aligned with the teenage years! However, when I have messed up, I make it a rule to own it and make things right.

    The one that drives me nuts about others is this one:

    ‘Am I inclined to be nice to my superiors and mean to my subordinates?’

    Especially when people I really like exhibit it. When I encounter it, I feel like…’Oh no you didn’t just show partiality to x,y,z because they are a) famous or b) wealthy or c) considered ‘powerful’ in some way….

    Like nails down a chalkboard!

    Thanks for such a great list of questions Steve and for introducing me to another person I would love to learn more about.

    Have a wonderful weekend and Happy 4th!

    • Thanks Samantha, I had four years of military history and studied military leaders throughout history. MacArthur was one of the best but there were some that were not so good.

      I too hate (not too strong a word here) “leaders” who show favoritism to people they think can do something for them. Then they turn around and treat what they think are lesser people like crap.

      I hope your “4th” is also safe and fun, no big plans for us, a music festival on Sunday with 70’s groups for oldsters like me and my bride. 😊

  2. What were your top 5 favorite military leaders throughout history?

    I understand your meaning of hate. A couple of months ago, I made a statement to a colleague and quickly said, ‘I hate passive aggressive people.’ I quickly caught myself because the truth is, I don’t hate the person, I hate the BEHAVIOR. And it’s the same with this particular behavior. I see it people who I happen to like!

    Thanks Steve. The holiday will be low key for me as well. My baby brother always goes bonkers in acquiring fireworks for quite the neighborhood show each year. (ex-Navy man….and yes, since I was Army….we tease each other! grins) So that is always a spectacle to see what he comes up with each year. : )

    Enjoy your 70’s music festival! That’s not old! I love a lot of music from the 70’s! Speaking of the 70’s, one of my favorite rock groups from that time is HEART, and I just recently found out Ann and Nancy are releasing a new album (grins) here soon! I’m excited!!!!

    Wishing you and your bride a lovely time ‘dancing’ or snuggling to the oldies! xo

  3. Steve am curiously following your tweets and blogs. This is a one thrilling piece that if all would be leaders of tomorrow emulated, the world problems would already be solve by 40%. We would be bothered with matters to do with innovations and inventions. Leadership and it’s evils due to unprincipled characteristics of leaders would be buried centuries a go. Am happy to share this piece with my fellow generational leaders. Africa must borrow a leaf.

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