I used the July 4th weekend to finish David Roll’s masterful biography of George Marshall. It’s 600 pages long, but well worth the investment for any serious student of leadership. Marshall was the master at taming his own emotions and ambitions in service of the greater good, both as a military leader and as Secretary of State and Defense. In doing so, he was able to become a principle architect—perhaps the principle architect—of the post-World War II world. After reading Roll’s carefully researched book, it doesn’t feel hyperbolic to hear late Harvard President James Conant call him “a soldier and statesman whose ability and character brook only one comparison in the history of this nation”—George Washington.
So it was dismaying—if not entirely surprising—to learn that President Trump had proposed Generals MacArthur and Patton—but not Marshall (or Eisenhower) for his garden of heroes. The former were undeniably great generals; but the latter were also great men, and exemplars of the notion of servant leadership. Regular readers know we try to avoid politics in this newsletter. But we believe deeply that leadership matters—perhaps now more than ever—and crave more like Marshall in both business and politics.
Since CEO Daily was dark Friday, some feedback this morning, also on leadership. Our report on last week’s Fortune and McKinsey CEO discussion, focusing on the importance of purpose in today’s business, provoked some cynicism, as usual.
“If any of the sentiments these CEOs shared in your call yesterday are real, then I have the answer: change the primary purpose of your business to be the holistic fulfillment of the people involved (as opposed to profit)—Anything short of that is simply lip-service that will last until the end of this news cycle.” —DT
“I don’t want to come across as too cynical because I do think some CEOs really do believe what they’re saying about stakeholders over shareholders, and others probably at least half believe what they’re saying, BUT how much has the CEO-to-worker compensation ratio increased at their companies over the past 30-40 years, or even the past decade, or even during their tenures as CEO?” —CL
But at least some readers see emerging evidence of a real change in business leadership—a view I share.
“Without romanticizing their sentiments too much, it’s nice to see such expressions that are from them as individuals, rather than from an obligated media post. It’s hard for me as a recent grad to find good role models in the business world at this time, so thank you for shedding some light!” —AS
More news below.