General George Marshall was not only one of the greatest generals that this country has ever produced but he served as US Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and was the architect of the European recovery plan which bears his name, the Marshall Plan. Nominated by President Franklin Roosevelt to be Army Chief of Staff, Marshall was promoted to General and sworn in on September 1, 1939, the day German forces invaded Poland, a post he held until the end of the war in 1945. As Chief of Staff, Marshall organized the largest military expansion in US history, inheriting an outmoded, poorly equipped army of 189,000 men and, partly drawing from his experience teaching and developing techniques of modern warfare as an instructor at the Army War College, coordinated the large-scale expansion and modernization of the US Army. Though he had never actually led troops in combat, Marshall was a skilled organizer with a talent for inspiring other officers.
Many of the American generals who were given top commands during the war were either picked or recommended by Marshall, including Dwight Eisenhower, Leslie McNair, Mark Wayne Clark and Omar Bradley. Indeed Marshall is well known for having promoted Eisenhower over 300 higher ranking generals to lead the American Expeditionary Forces. Scholars have long debated whether Marshall kept a 'little black book' of promising young officers who might merit future promotion. One thing that is more certain is that Marshall did have a very clear idea of the qualities he looked for in promoting someone to officer. In a letter he wrote to General John Pershing in November 1920, Marshall listed his views on the qualities of a successful leader. I found many of these qualities transcend the military officers and are useful when evaluating employees to become compliance practitioners or Chief Compliance Officers (CCO). The qualities Marshall listed are as follows:
General George Marshall was a transformational leader of the US Army. He accomplished this largely through focusing on people. This is also true for a CCO or other senior leader who has to set up a team to deal with a high profile area in a business. It is often said that the true mark of a person is how he or she does in tough situations. One of the best quotes I have ever heard about the US Army Officer Corp from World War II is by the historian Bernard Lewis who said "what was really new and original [about American officers] was the speed with which they recognized their mistakes, and devised and applied the means to correct them." If you can imbue your Compliance function with people who have this trait, or can learn this skill, you will go quite a long way towards having a world class program.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2012
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