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Gen. MacArthur could turn on a dime

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in Leaders & Managers

Few dispute the fact that Gen. Douglas MacArthur was the most complicated person they’d ever met. Interviews with 180 of his associates came to that universal observation. An Australian commander noted that “the best and the worst things you hear about him are both true.”

MacArthur’s main traits:
  • He was adaptable. MacArthur adopted the battle plans and defenses of his subordinates and made them his own. It takes a lot of self-confidence and openness to embrace others’ ideas, especially in a crisis.

  • He learned from mistakes. MacArthur was known as a master of logistics. He made the most of a thin supply chain in the Pacific during World War II, but his success was no accident. During an earlier defeat in the Philippines, he leveraged scarce resources, leaning on the Australians for food, housing and basic supplies.

  • He led directly. MacArthur used a wide range of direct approaches, appearing literally in the combat frontlines to lead his men.

  • He was a contrarian. At a time when the United States was Eurocentric, MacArthur believed that our strategic interests lay in the Far East.

  • He innovated. He brought radical change in two areas: He broadened Army education and wrote a provision into the Japanese Constitution rejecting war.

  • He was always “on.” Whomever he talked to, he played the role most likely to sway them.
— Adapted from MacArthur: A Biography, Richard B. Frank, Palgrave Macmillan.

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