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Eisenhower on restraint

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in Leaders & Managers

The earlier you learn to exercise restraint as a leader, the better for everyone. Dwight D. Eisenhower was lucky and gifted enough to absorb that lesson fairly young.

First, his mother taught him about self-control using this adage: “He that conquereth his own soul is greater than he who taketh a city.”

But the most incisive lesson came in 1912, when Eisenhower was an upperclassman at West Point Military Academy and a plebe, or first-year student, accidentally bumped into him. Eisenhower berated the guy, shouting that he looked like nothing more than a low-class barber.

In fact, the plebe had been a barber, and said so. Feeling awful that he’d mocked another man’s work, he told his roommate, “I’ve just done something that was stupid and unforgivable. I managed to make a man ashamed of the work he did for a living.”

The future general and president vowed never again to humiliate another human being.

—Adapted from Eisenhower, John Wukovits, Palgrave Macmillan.

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