Eisenhower On 'Leading From Within' And The Art Of Collaborative Leadership

The Long March
Then-Major General Dwight Eisenhower at his desk in 1942
Imperial War Museum/Wikimedia Commons

Being the middle brother was a special burden, or blessing, as the case may be. Young Ike. did not carry the expectations or enjoy the deference of being the eldest. He did not carry any of the usual insecurities of being the youngest. Yet being in the middle, he could, if he tried, empathize with both. His younger brothers looked up to him. His older brothers expected him to follow, and they protected him. Describing a schoolboy fight, Eisenhower noted that:

 ... it took me some years to learn that pounding from an opponent is not to be dreaded as much as constantly living in fear of another.… Not that I didn’t need allies, even then. On my first day of school, Arthur kept an eye on me as I explored the playground. It was not long before a bigger boy, one who seemed to me almost as big as my father, began to chase me… Arthur was as big as my tormentor and after this fellow had chased me around the play yard for what seemed an interminable time, Arthur stepped in and said: ‘That’ll be enough of that. Let him alone.’

Eisenhower’s method was collaborative but not exactly collective. Rather than collective organizing, or leading from behind, he more often led from the middle, or what is frequently called “leading from within.”

What does this mean? In Eisenhower’s case, it meant surrounding himself with collaborators and with an institutional structure that made proactive collaboration the driving force of decision-making and action. It was distinguished, on the one hand, from collective leadership insofar as the major decisions were taken by Eisenhower and not exclusively by a group, and, on the other hand, from community organizing insofar as the process of reviewing and executing decisions took place with Eisenhower as a full participant, rather than as a silent guide or a spectator, appearances sometimes notwithstanding.

He called it “leadership in conference,” which operated in most cases from the general to the specific: when confronted by those with “a tendency to become a special pleader,” he explained, “the subject should be skillfully changed and a constant effort made to achieve unanimity of conclusion, first upon broad generalities and these gradually brought closer to concrete application to particular problems.”

Another way to understand that is to recall Eisenhower’s own recollection of one of his first meetings with Marshall. Marshall looked at him, “with an eye that seemed to me awfully cold,” and said, “Eisenhower, the Department is filled with able men who analyze their problems well but feel compelled always to bring them to me for final solution. I must have assistants who will solve their own problems and tell me later what they have done.” The challenge was to do so in the way that Marshall wanted.

Excerpted, with permission, from Eisenhower and the Art of Collaborative Leadership, by Ken Weisbrode, published by Anthem Press. © 2018, all rights reserved.

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Two military bases in Florida and one in Arizona will see heat indexes over 100 degrees four months out of every year if steps aren't taken to reduce carbon emissions, a new study warns.

Read More Show Less

This Veterans Day, two post-9/11 veterans-turned congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation to have a memorial commemorating the Global War on Terrorism built on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Read More Show Less

Between 500 and 600 U.S. troops are expected to remain in Syria when all is said and done, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley said on Sunday.

Milley's comments on ABC News' "This Week" indicate the U.S. military's footprint in Syria will end up being roughly half the size it was before Turkey invaded Kurdish-held northeast Syria last month.

Read More Show Less
Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a fund-raising fish fry for U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa), Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at Hawkeye Downs Expo Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Associated Press/Charlie Neibergall)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — On Veterans Day, Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg is proposing a "veteran-centric" Department of Veterans Affairs that will honor the service of the men and women of the military who represent "the best of who we are and what we can be."

Buttigieg, who served as a Navy intelligence officer in Afghanistan, said service members are united by a "shared commitment to support and defend the United States" and in doing so they set an example "for us and the world, about the potential of the American experiment."

Read More Show Less
Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a Climate Crisis Summit with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (not pictured) at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. November 9, 2019. (Reuters/Scott Morgan)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders promised on Monday to boost healthcare services for military veterans if he is elected, putting a priority on upgrading facilities and hiring more doctors and nurses for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

To mark Monday's Veterans Day holiday honoring those who served in the military, Sanders vowed to fill nearly 50,000 slots for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals at facilities run by Veterans Affairs during his first year in office.

Sanders also called for at least $62 billion in new funding to repair, modernize and rebuild hospitals and clinics to meet what he called the "moral obligation" of providing quality care for those who served in the military.

Read More Show Less