| ||EISENHOWER LEGACY DINNER 2010|
"Loftus: Today’s CEOs could learn from Ike"
By Dave Bergmeier, Editor
A keynote speaker said today’s corporate leaders could learn a lot from a man who came from humble beginnings to be the most influential leader in the middle of the 20th century.
During Friday’s legacy dinner at the Eisenhower Presidential Library, New York author Geoff Loftus expounded on his book “Lead Like Ike: Ten Business Strategies from the CEO of D-Day.” Loftus said a good starting point was what would Dwight D. Eisenhower say to American today. “What makes Ike relevant today?” Loftus rhetorically asked those in the audience. “Ike was truly a great leader by American standards.”
(Click here to read a full transcript of Geoff's remarks at the Legacy Dinner.)
As he did his research, Loftus noted that an effective leader does not have to be a great man or woman. However, when a leader has high moral principles and vision it makes all the difference.
This weekend marked the annual remembrance of Eisenhower, who was Supreme Allied Commander in the European Theatre and architect of the victory over Nazi Germany. The five-star general served his country by twice being elected president, serving from 1953-61. This weekend marked the 120th anniversary of his birth. Ike was born Oct. 14, 1890, and died in March 1969.
Loftus said he understands that corporate America has to take risk and that is indeed the backbone to capitalism. The author noted that Eisenhower also took calculated risks as architect of D-Day on June 6, 1944, which led to the eventual surrender of Nazi Germany in May 1945.
The general’s leadership followed high quality trails. Ike never lost sight of the mission. He assessed great risks properly. He managed people well, was honest and humble, Loftus said. Managing people with humbleness at times seems to be a lost skill set, the author said. If anyone had any doubts, all he would have to do is hear Ike’s personal accounts of handling the wishes of president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, British prime minister Winston Churchill and the men they directed Ike to oversee.
Eisenhower’s vision was focused on defeating a strong Germany Army. It was Ike who believed that the only way to accomplish sucess was to go through Normandy, France. The general relied on great information, pressing for details and finding Germany’s weak point.
“Eisenhower understood the mission,” Loftus said. “He was willing to make changes and listen to (British) Gen. Bernard Montgomery.”
Eisenhower understood the risks when he put the finishing touches on the D-Day assault. Some in the inner circles wondered if the loss of life would be too high for the June 6, 1944, invasion. Ike believed, Loftus said, that the attack plan would have fewer casualties on the allied front and that proved to be correct. The general had two strengths at his disposal, air superiority and the muscle of the United States war machine capacity.
What Loftus found in his research was that Eisenhower was realistic when he assessed and faced the facts. The general also had a compassion for the men and women on the front line.
“The cost of his mistakes could be determined in human life,” Loftus said and Ike understood that the loss of human life was catastrophic to a family back home.
Gen. Eisenhower also understood that being a leader meant taking responsibility and communicating that to the entire allied forces. That is a lesson that today’s CEOs should take to heart.
“It is impossible to be a great leader if you don’t know how to communicate,” Loftus said.
Eisenhower’s visit to troops days before the D-Day invasion was legendary. His calm demeanor and communication skills left those men and women with no doubt that their task was to defeat the German army, the author said.
He said in his research, for every BP disaster, there have also been examples of corporate responsibility. He praised Tylenol, which 25 years ago faced paralysis when its aspirin was tainted. The company leaders put consumers first, ahead of company goals and bottom line, and the consumers rewarded them in the long run with their loyalty and trust.
The general also understood commanders on his staff. He correctly assessed and placed Gens. Omar Bradley and George S. Patton where they could be successful. He knew of Patton’s flamboyant ways, but also recognized that he was an effective commander in Africa and Sicily.
In summary, the author said Eisenhower was the most important man of the 20th Century, setting the standard, Loftus said. The general also rewarded the men and women who served with him.
“Eisenhower was honest and honorable,” Loftus said. “He was respectful even when he disagreed with someone.”
Perhaps Eisenhower’s greatest lesson that can be learned today was his willingness to spread credit and take sole personal accountability for failure. That could be seen in the general’s letter that was to be issued in case the D-Day invasion failed.
“Eisenhower was honest. He was a great leader then and that’s what would make him a great leader today,” Loftus said.
In tough economic times such as the U.S. currently is going through, the author said the mind set that occurs at times is that it is almost impossible for a CEO to admit he or she made a mistake. One of Eisenhower’s lessons that he taught so well as a general was that while it was important to be confident, mistakes were going to occur and to owning up to them right away was the best policy.
Great leaders have to take responsibility, Loftus said.
“That’s why Dwight Eisenhower was relevant then and is relevant today,” he said.
Stewart Etherington, president of the Eisenhower Foundation, thanked those who attended activities. The support of foundation members and the community helps to keep the center vibrant and preserves the legacy of Eisenhower found at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.
“It truly is a gem on the plains,” Etherington said.
He introduced dignitaries and praised the work of presidential library director Karl Weissenbach and his staff. Attendance has increased the past two years, Etherington said and programs have left an indelible mark on visitors, including a speech by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, remembrance of the Korean War and opening of the Righteous Cause, an exhibit to educate visitors about the atrocities of Nazi Germany.
Next year will mark the 60th anniversary of Eisenhower leaving office and special programming is planned.
Eisenhower Foundation director Mack Teasley recognized two award recipients from the USS Eisenhower, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier (Nimitz class). Chief Petty Officer Juan Ramos received the Gen. Eisenhower Leadership Award. Chief Petty Officer Keith Adams received the President Eisenhower Leadership Award for his service to the community.
|Right, Geoff Loftus and his wife, Margy, speaking with Master Chief Byrum Exum of the U.S.S. Eisenhower.
Above, the dining room at the Eisenhower Presidential Library, set for the Legacy Dinner.
At right, Geoff at the podium, delivering the keynote address.
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