Sunday, November 30, 2014

Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II's Most Audacious General by Bill O'Reilly

Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II's Most Audacious GeneralKilling Patton: The Strange Death of World War II's Most Audacious General by Bill O'Reilly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book asserts that General George Patton, who died after being in a car accident, was actually murdered in a plot hatched by a combination of American and Russian spies. While the book does raise some questions, there wasn't enough here to convince me. However, the plot went on many small side trips through the events of World War II. These were both informative and sickening. To hear what men did to other human beings is a reminder that good and evil, right and wrong, do exist, something that somehow is not politically correct to say anymore.

So this may seem random or unrelated, but I'm going to share a business lesson I learned from this book. Patton was not a great manager. He may have been a good leader, and was obviously a gifted strategist, but when it comes to managerial effectiveness, I don't think it was his thing. My key takeaway is that it didn't matter. As a country we needed him for his strengths, and so we had to take the weaknesses too, and that was the right decision. Unfortunately the army, like life, gave him responsibilities in both his weak and strong areas. I'll give a brief example, and then an application.

On several occasions Patton assaulted men suffering from depression who couldn't fight anymore, called them cowards and in one case threatened to shoot the soldier. He was drawing his sidearm when the medical staff restrained him. Those scenes were not in the heat of battle, but in hospitals, and were driven by emotions that arose because of who he was. He felt that mental instability was really just cowardice. But no matter what happened, the Army, and the country, needed him so badly that we essentially had to put up with it.

This is easy for me to apply. Regularly I have the situation where an employee has a specific trait or skill set that I need, and in every case it is hard to deal with his/her weaknesses. It almost seems to correlate. The more specific expertise I need, the more baggage comes with the person who has the solution. I have thought in the past that this is something that I struggle with uniquely, but I realized that it is common. Then I consider how often I might have been that guy with weaknesses that my manager has to put up with. That is a sobering thought, to put yourself in those shoes. We are all imperfect people trying to win wars in spite of weaknesses, both those in others and our own.