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Vol. 5, No. 12
(626) 350-1500 Ext 102 

Extraordinary achievements demand extraordinary leaders.

© 2007 William A. Cohen, PhD

The Table of Contents for this Month’s Edition of the Journal of Leadership Application

(All will be found below)

This Month’s Topic: You Don’t Have to be a Warrior to Use Battle Leadership

This Month’s Thought for Leaders

Leadership Lessons from Last Months Book The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

This Month’s Free Downloadable Book: Xenophon

News for Leaders

You Don’t Have to be a Warrior to Use Battle Leadership

I am sometimes challenged by those who have never been in battle about the application of battle leadership to civilian pursuits. It is as if because the principles of battle leadership were learned in war, that we should ignore them completely. Yet food preservation, lifesaving medicines, and surgical methods have all been adopted even though they are by-products of warfare. In fact, some very important non-military leaders have recommended battle leadership.

Frances Hesselbein, celebrated as as one of the best CEOs that the Girls Scouts of America ever had, and current Chairman of the Leader-to-Leader Institute is explicit in her recommendation that leaders study and follow the basic principles of battle leadership. She says, “Leadership matters. It matters in the life and death situations in which a lack of trust, teamwork, clear focus, confidence, motivation could spell disaster – leadership matters in combat.”

Peter Drucker, The Father of Modern Management, told me years ago that the first systematic book on leadership was on battle leadership. It was written by the Greek general Xenophon more than 2000 years ago. “And it is still the best,” Drucker said. Later Drucker also wrote,”The Army trains and develops more leaders than do all other institutions together – and with a much lower casualty rate.” Of course Drucker wasn’t just referring to the Army, but to the armed forces in general — and by casualty rate, he wasn’t referring to those killed or injured, but to executives who were successful in higher level positions versus those who failed as leaders.

Asked who does the best job developing leaders: major corporations, Harvard and other leading universities, or consultants, legendary General Electric CEO Jack Welch’s answer was the military. And leadership researcher and writer Professor Warren Bennis at the University of Southern California has repeatedly proclaimed that the basis of everything he knows about leadership he learned as an infantry officer at Ft. Benning, Georgia in 1946.

No wonder business journals such as The  Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine and others have lauded military training as the best education for corporate leadership.

Why is this? What is so special about battle leadership? Well here is a little chart I made up and use in some of my seminars:

Condition Battle Leadership Ordinary Leadership
Physical Hazards Extreme Normally Low
Pressure Very High Low to High
Comfort Limited Normally Acceptable
Sleep Deprivation Frequent Rare
Hunger Deprivation Average to High Low
Consequences of Failure Almost Always Severe Moderate to High

The bottom-line is that if you can master battle leadership, you can use it to lead successfully anywhere. That was the thinking of more than two hundred battle leaders who went on to become very successful civilian careers who responded to a survey or who I interviewed some years ago as part of a research project. They said that it was their knowledge and willingness to apply battle leadership that led to their success.

But battle leadership is not running around shouting orders. In fact, you don’t have to have been in battle to apply battle leadership. Dwight David Eisenhower was never personally in battle. Yet as a general he led the largest invasion in the history of the world, was a successful president of Columbia University and President of the United States. He led by following the principles of battle leadership.

What are these principles? I call them “The Stuff of Heroes” or “The Eight Universal Laws of Leadership.” These are:

        1.     Maintain Absolute Integrity

       2.     Know Your Stuff

3.     Declare Your Expectations

4.     Show Uncommon Commitment

5.     Expect Positive Results

6.     Take Care of Your People (And Customers)

7.      Put Duty Before Self

8.      Get Out in Front

Follow them and you too will be following the leadership principles which lead to success.



“A leader accepts responsibility for others. This means that the welfare of those you lead must always come before your own. Since your primary duty is the accomplishment of your organization’s mission, the welfare of your subordinates comes second, and your own welfare last.”

                                                                                                          – COHEN’S MAXIMS NUMBER 4, 1984

Leadership Lessons from Last Month’s Book: The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

If you missed my introduction to this book, I recommend that you look back at last month’s journal. The link to it is HERE. There are numerous important lessons for leaders in Grant’s famous book. Here are a few:

Grant made a trip on horseback in the wilds when he was a young lieutenant with a brother officer who was very experienced in the outdoors. Grant was not. In the middle of the night they heard a terrifying sound: the howling of wild wolves. Grant states that he would rather have been somewhere else. His friend, Benjamin, did not propose turning back. Instead he asked, “Grant, how many wolves do you think are in that pack.?” Grant suspected that his friend would expect him to overestimate the number. So he put his estimate far below what could possibly be correct, and answered: “Oh, about twenty.” His friend just smiled and rode on. Shortly they came upon the “pack.” There were just two wolves. Grant learned a valuable lesson about fearing the number of adversaries before actually counting them. “There are always more of them before they are counted,” Grant wrote in his book.

Grant served in the War with Mexico, and got to know many of the officers both with whom he served, and those he fought against during the Civil War twenty-five years later. He observed that the media tend to clothe a successful enemy commander with almost superhuman abilities. General Robert E. Lee, was in this category. Not that he wasn’t a great commander, but Grant said that knowing him personally, that he was mortal, and could be defeated. This is an important lesson for all of us no matter whether we face an adversary in business or in battle and whether it is a person, a company, or a situation.

Another lesson has to do with our underestimation of our own abilities. Grant had been a captain during the War with Mexico but had left the Army later. Officers with no military experience were being appointed to high positions left and right when the Civil War broke out. George McClellan, who had also left the Army and was three classes behind Grant at West Point was appointed a major general. With great hesitancy Grant wrote the War Department and offered to serve in any position offered, but that he thought himself fit to command a regiment, that is become a colonel. He never got a response. He also attempted to see General McClellan with the objective of being offered a position on his staff. He never got an audience. Grant began work drilling and training recruits without any official position or rank. Fortunately for Grant, when the elected colonel of a volunteer regiment had to be replaced, the Governor of Illinois appointed Grant to this command and made him a colonel. There are a couple lessons here. First, as I’ve already stated we sometimes tend to underestimate our own abilities. Due to his considerable abilities as a leader, Grant was promoted to brigadier general, and then with military victories under his belt, to the rank of major general. Finally, President Lincoln promoted Grant to Lieutenant General and made him General-in-Chief of the Union Army. Grant was the boss of all, including those who had overlooked or snubbed him previously.

His first battle in command of a regiment also supplied Grant and us, an interesting lesson about fear and meeting a competitor as well as whether a successful staff manager should even be considered for line assignment. This latter question was the subject of a class which I had under Peter Drucker when he was my primary professor in my doctoral program back in the late 1970’s. Grant had been in combat during the Mexican War, but not as a line officer. He had been staff, a regimental quartermaster. Now as a commander and not a staff officer, he was ordered to capture a town held by a Confederate regiment commanded by a Colonel Harris. This was his “competitor.” The closer Grant got to the town, the more fearful he became. The Confederate regimental commander had more combat experience. The Confederates were in a defensive position and better prepared. Grant was inexperienced. His regiment was inexperienced. Every bad thought of the disaster that could happen ran through Grant’s mind. As Grant wrote in his memoirs, “I would have given anything then to have been back in Illinois.” But, Grant kept his men moving towards the objective. When they got to the town and carefully entered it, they found it deserted. The Confederate regiment had fled! Wrote Grant: “It occurred to me at once that Harris had been as much afraid of me as I had been of him. This was a view of the question I had never taken before; but it was one I never forgot afterwards. From that event to the close of the war, I never experienced trepidation upon confronting an enemy, though I always felt more or less anxiety. I never forgot that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had his.”

Of course there are many others lessons in Grant’s book. I would be happy to hear from you if you would like to contribute your favorite lesson or from this month’s book which follows. You can write to me at .

Free Downloadable Book: Anabasis (Also translated as Our Military Expedition to Persia) by Xenophon

For years I avoided reading this book.  In fact, I had never heard of it until the world famous management guru, Peter F. Drucker became my professor at 
what is now the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University in California. Drucker claimed that 
the first systematic book on leadership was written by Xenophon two thousand years ago, and was still the best. This was in 1976. 

I had been reading books on leadership ever since I had become a Patrol Leader in the Boy Scouts. As a West Pointer and later an Air force officer, I had 
read even more. I had never heard of Xenophon, but I knew that if he wrote this book two thousand years ago, it was not going to be written in modern, 
dynamic style and I would be bored silly. So almost intentionally, I looked the other way, even when I saw a modern translation. 
I didn’t actually read Xenophon until years later. I sat down to write my first book on leadership. I remembered Drucker’s words and when I next spoke to him 
by phone, he told me how fascinating the book was. At the time, I was a colonel in the Air Force. “You’ll like the book, “ Drucker said. “Xenophon was a 
military man, too. In fact, he was a general.” 
So here was arguably the foremost management philosopher of our time telling me this book, written 2000 years ago by a general had something to say not 
only to me as a military leader, but to business leaders as well. I couldn’t see how I could tell others about what I learned without following Drucker’s 
recommendation and reading Xenophon. I was glad I did.
Xenophon was part of a 10,000 man Greek army hired by the Persian pretender to the throne, Cyrus the Younger, to defeat his brother in the fourth century 
B.C.  At the time, the Greeks were considered the best infantrymen in the world. Cyrus thought that with these troops he could surprise and defeat his 
brother’s vastly superior force and seize the throne. 
At first things went well, but in a crucial battle, Cyrus himself was killed, the leading Greek generals were killed through treachery, and the campaign 
collapsed leaving the 10,000 Greeks stranded in Babylon surrounded by hostile forces.  Xenophon was elected as one of the replacement generals.
Our Military Expedition to Persia tells the story of the fight to return to the Black Sea against overwhelming odds. This march, the most famous in history, 
took five months. It is a story of courage, improvisation, and discipline, self-sacrifice, and above all . . . LEADERSHIP. 
Xenophon practiced leadership in a different time and a different place. His leadership challenges were of a different type than those I faced in the Air Force, 
or later in business or as an academic leader.  But Drucker was right. The basis of his illustrations, the lessons of his experiences, the principles or laws of 
integrity, commitment, duty and the others that I discovered in my research of modern leaders were absolutely and dramatically confirmed. Whatever your 
leadership challenges, you can learn from Xenophon’s experiences, and like Drucker, I am happy to recommend it to you.

Here, through the courtesy of the Gutenberg Project is the link to this book: Anabasis by Xenophon translated by H.G. Dakyns

News for Leaders

Free Webcast on The Lost Lessons of Peter Drucker November 7th

On AMA Wednesday November 7, 2007 at 12:00–1:30 p.m. EST the American Management Association is sponsoring a Webcast on the “Lost Lessons of Peter Drucker”


Registration is FREE. You can register now at]


Depending on time, I hope to cover the following issues:


  • How to build self-confidence Drucker’s way
  • What you need to be an effective manager
  • How to approach problems with your ignorance; not your experience
  • Why and how you must develop expertise outside of management
  • How to create the future
  • How to avoid fear of failure and loss of job


In any case, there will be a Q and A after the presentation.


Attending the Webcast is complimentary, but reservations are required. You can register at Open&mtg=1716700001]


or call 1-800-262-9699 to sign up. Please mention code CK4 when you do. The Meeting Number is  17167-00001.


Workshop on Leadership Conducted at the 8th Annual Telegree Alliance was held October 26th

On the 26th of October I was honored to conduct a two-hour workshop on The Eight Universal Laws of Leadership for the 8th Annual Telegree Alliance, a CFO and Controllers Conference for the rural telecom and energy industry. The conference was held in Monterey, California, but attendees came from around the country. Leadership spells the difference for every discipline, but being good leaders and being able to teach good leadership is especially critical for financial leaders. The high ranking executives, both men and women, in this industry were not only knowledgeable of their specialty, but fully recognized the importance of good leadership.

1st Annual PepsiCo. Leadership Center Research Conference Keynote Speaker on November 3rd at California State University Los Angeles

For more information contact: Guadalupe Crystal Morales PepsiCo Leadership Center at (323) 343-5270

Drucker Day Presentation and Book Signing on November 10th at the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management, Claremont Graduate University on November 10th

For more information contact: Melinda Moers Harriman, Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management (909) 607-7359

Have a great month!


William A. Cohen, PhD, Major General, USAFR, Ret.



(626) 794-5998/791-8973

FAX (626) 791-8973


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