Born in 1890, Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States and a celebrated Army General who helped mastermind the Western Front offensives of World War II. Despite his incredible achievements as a leader, he was known for remaining humble. He came from simple origins and returned to his roots at retirement. Mr. Eisenhower passed away in 1969, leaving a legacy of truly great leadership.
It goes without saying that Dwight Eisenhower was one of the greatest American leaders of all time. As the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during WWII, he was responsible for several major offensives, including the invasion of North Africa, the invasion and liberation of France from Axis forces, and the Western Front invasion of Germany. Later, his leadership as our nation’s President was a time of prosperity and achievement. In addition to supporting civil rights movements, he authorized the creation of NASA and kicked off the “space race”.
Eisenhower’s Leadership Traits
Dwight Eisenhower was characterized by leadership traits that spanned several styles. Of foremost importance was his likeability. Even though he was one of a small handful of 5-star Army Generals, troops and subordinates could relate to him. He actively sought out the advice of his staff and was known for taking into consideration the observations and thoughts of combat soldiers. In this way, he demonstrated Democratic leadership traits. With bravery, devotion, and impeccable leadership, he asked a lot of his troops while remaining grounded in the realities of the war effort.
At the same time, he was not afraid to take the reins and make tough decisions. Some of these decisions influenced the direction of the war effort in North Africa and Europe, while later decisions shaped the U.S. economy, foreign relations, and the space exploration program. In some ways, many of his decisions can be viewed as coming from an autocratic style of leadership, but Eisenhower reserved this style for only the most difficult times of his career.
Mr. Eisenhower was also known as an optimist. As a leader, his vision of a greater America was shared by the staff working with him and society at large. His passion, coupled with his kind, caring disposition, inspired others around him to bring his visions to life. He was able to “sell” his ideas and his mission to others; in many ways, he was a salesman of the highest caliber. Here, those traits are typically found in transformational leadership styles.
Throughout his career, both as a politician and as an Army leader, he took responsibility for the failings of his team. Many “leaders” are quick to take the credit when things go right, but in politics as well as in war, even the best-laid plans can lead to failure. Mr. Eisenhower stepped in whenever things didn’t go as planned; he was unafraid of failure and knew that it was simply a part of life.
Finally, he was able to bring together diverse personnel into strong teams that got the tough jobs done. He was an expert at managing the egos of the team members he worked with, inspiring them to put aside any personal and professional differences to achieve their goals as a team.