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Construction Genius

Jul 23, 2019

Four Leadership Lessons from the Finest Soldier of the Twentieth Century

  1. Display Cheerful Optimism 
  2. Be Selfless 
  3. Practice Loyal
  4. Demonstrate Determination

This podcast was inspired by a letter on leadership that George C. Marshall wrote in 1920. To download the letter, click this link.

George C. Marshall (1880 – 1959) was the Chief of Staff of the US Army from Sep. 1, 1939 – Nov. 18, 1945 

Henry L. Stimson, the Secretary of War, paid tribute to Marshall: "I have seen a great many soldiers in my lifetime and you, Sir, are the finest soldier I have ever known." 

As Secretary of State from 1947 to 1949, Marshall advocated rebuilding Europe, a program that became known as the Marshall Plan, provided billions of dollars in aid to post war Europe to restart the economies of the destroyed countries. 

This plan had a massive positive impact and has directly led to the general peace and prosperity that Europe has enjoyed for the past 75 years, and led to his being awarded the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize.

President Harry S. Truman was asked which American he thought had made the greatest contribution of the preceding thirty years. Without hesitation, Truman picked Marshall, adding "I don't think in this age in which I have lived, that there has been a man who has been a greater administrator; a man with a knowledge of military affairs equal to General Marshall."


The Essential Foundation: 

Physically Strong:  This is critical to success as a leader. Therefore, take care of yourself. What you eat, how much you sleep, exercise. 

Studied Your Profession: Be a student of the profession, every aspect. If you run a construction company you should have a good grasp of Bid, Build, Bill, and you should be an expert at least one. 

Common Sense: What is common sense? “the knack for seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done.” 

Resist your impulses and pride, battle your prejudices and ignorance, and allow common sense to guide you. 

Display Cheerful Optimism 

To be cheerful is to be “ungrudging”

Optimism: disposed to take a favorable view of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.

How to cultivate optimism: 

  1. Have a 20-year timeframe on everything (This one project [hopefully] isn’t going to ruin the business)
  2. Distinguish between the war (running a successful business) and the battle (this project, day, person) 
  3. Pay attention to your spiritual state. Pump up music, inspirational reading, prayer, meditation, deep breathing. Do whatever you need to do to show up with cheer and optimism.

Be Selfless 

Your job is to “look after the comfort of your organization, prepare for tomorrow, inspect your lines.” 

  1. Inspect your lines:  Look at the numbers, look at the daily logs (if necessary). Look for gaps that need to be shored up. 
  2. Prepare for tomorrow: If you’re in the field, you don’t just want to show up and wing it. Prepare for the daily tailgate the night before. Make a list of the things that you need to accomplish each day. Prioritze and block out time. 
  3. Comfort your organization: How do you comfort? 

Grab your E.A.R

E: Encouragement: You can do it!
A: Accountability: Did you do it?
R: Recognition: You did it!

Practice Loyal

Stay firm in your support for the company 

How to navigate your internal loyalty struggles: 

  1. You’ve chosen this life, no one forced you to be in this position
  2. Believe the best. Don’t assume that others have bad intentions. 
  3. See and say within the boardroom. If you have a problem address it “up the chain of command” not “down the chain of command”.
  4. Disagree and commit 

Demonstrate Determination

Have a firm or fixed intention to achieve a desired end

Determination is displayed when things are alarming. 

If you choose right ends, then that will help when things are challenging

Your job as a leader is to display determination in your cheerful optimism, 

in your loyalty

And by providing comfort: Encouragement, Accountability, Recognition to others 

Next Steps: 

  1. Ask your direct reports which of the four character traits you need to improve:
    1. Display Cheerful Optimism 
    2. Be Selfless 
    3. Practice Loyal
    4. Demonstrate Determination
  2. Display cheerful optimism by checking yourself every day. Spend time working on your inner life. 
  3. Selfless: Make a note of your direct reports: Who needs Encouragement? Accountability? Recognition? 
  4. Check your head if your complaining about corporate direction. See and say. Talk to someone you can trust for an outside perspective
  5. Determination: Keep the end goal in mind on each project and commit to overcommunicating 


FREE Downloadable Resource: Construction Leaders Dashboard 

The Construction Leaders Dashboard is one of the simplest and yet most powerful tools for leaders in construction companies of all sizes that can be used to clarify what you need to focus on in order to be a highly successful leader. It includes: Vision, Mission, Values, Edge, Initiatives, Metrics, Key Relationships, and Development Opportunities. 

To get your copy of the dashboard, click this link.