What media professionals can learn from General Patton


One of the most iconic motivational speeches in history was actually a series of speeches given by U.S. General George S. Patton, Jr., addressing the inexperienced soldiers of the U.S. Third Army prior to the D-Day invasion of Normandy during World War II. The words of this flamboyant, "colourful," and controversial, but incredibly effective, leader were immortalized in the 1970 movie "Patton."

Let me give a nod here to New Jersey's Rich Vezza, publisher of the Star-Ledger, who first brought my attention to Patton as a leadership model. A little research led me to the aforementioned speech.

I'll share a few excerpts and my interpretation of them in this blog post. If you decide to check out the full text, be warned: It is profanity-laden and graphic. Patton was about to lead thousands of young (mostly teenaged) men into their first combat and he needed, as they say, to "put fire in their bellies."

My first excerpt is, fittingly, from his opening remarks:

"Now, I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."

The bottom-line marketing translation:

"No business ever triumphed in the competitive market by cutting costs. Cutting costs is a short-term, survival tactic, not a winning strategy. The winning business is the one that forces the other bastards to cut costs to survive."

Now I'm not saying cutting costs isn't a good move in the short-term. It is, however, a tactic of deconstructive change. It is applied to parts of the organization that have become obsolete or no longer contribute (sufficiently) to the overall success of the enterprise.

However, while cost cutting may lead to savings, it is not the path to success. Only when an organization embraces constructive change(s) by strategically investing in future growth can the organization be said to have a winning strategy.

Your team needs to feel it is being lead to victory, not hunkering down in a bunker hoping to survive.

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