{short description of image}  



Sub-title: Ten Principles from the Nation's Most Powerful Leadership Lab - Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2007, 199 pgs.


Comment -
Joe Franklin is my cherished friend and classmate since 1951. Among his many personal attributes is humility. The extensive draw he makes on his own career experiences are very understated in terms of his own achievements and made strictly as examples of his observations in practice to illustrate the ten principles he desires to stress to the potential leader reading this book.


Introduction -
General Franklin explains that his book is based on his personal experiences and how he links them to lessons taught at the U. S. Military Academy and then to the ten generalized principles to each of which he devotes a chapter. He insists that successful leadership is the result of effort and not endowments at birth.
He writes. "Becoming a leader is as much about marshalling the abilities you have as anything else. Talent is overrated. The roadside is littered necessarily people who didn't know what to do with their talent, or who didn't care enough to make the most of their gifts." He insists also that the American Army is an ideal place in which to learn and exercise leadership, being "the most egalitarian element in our entire society." He writes, also, that the entire educational regime at West Point is geared to develop leadership and continually changes to meet the new challenges of the world.
"Allow me to add this footnote: the education and training given today at the U. S. Military Academy are far more advanced than anything we experienced back in the post-World War II or Korean War Era."


Looking Back -
A Summary of the author's personal life emphasizing incidents and his choices that stand to provide the sources for his selected principles.
He writes: "My purpose in writing this book is not necessarily to help you avoid the pitfalls of our greatest leaders, or to produce the next General Douglas MacArthur. It's something simpler, maybe even nobler. I'd like to share with you some of the things I've learned in my years as a soldier, an officer, and a leader in the corporate and not-for-profit worlds, and how everything, for me, is filtered through the prism of the West Point experience" And: "Anyone who reads "Building Leaders the West Point Way" has to adapt the principles I've written down here to his own situation."


Chapter 1 - Duty
General Franklin gets right down to the essence by writing." In plain words, (duty) means doing the right thing, when it should be done, without having to be told to do it." The remainder of the chapter is an extrapolation and elaboration on this simple statement with plenty of specific examples to show its meaning in real world situations. There are sub-sections on: "Good Steel comes from a hot fire" - "First Summer; Beast Barracks" - "Learning Responsibility" - "Learning to serve the larger community" - "Duty is not always black and white'- "Beyond the call of duty" - and "There is a time to step down". And there are highlighted comments, such as: "In many ways our society has become fractured. Young people are growing up without the experience of being part of a team and the sense of responsibility that goes with it."


Chapter 2 - Honor
The concept appears to be simple and clear, but in real practice it sometimes becomes hazy; because it also includes the concept of not condoning breaches of honor by others, friends and associates. As the author writes: "The Honor Code at the U. S. Military Academy makes toleration of an honor offense equivalent to committing an offense against the Code." Another simple admonition he repeats is: "Choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong." Well, in our society and many others non-toleration of an observed honor offense is indeed frequently very much the 'harder right'. But in my opinion the concept applies in many more situations than only those involving honor. General Franklin provides the reader with an excellent description of how the concept of 'honor' is inculcated at West Point begining with the first days of the new cadet's experience. He translates this to civilian life and the code of conduct of business organizations. In this section he relies on and describes his experiences in exercising leadership in an important corporation


Chapter 3 - Faith
In this chapter the author writes that he views the term in a much broader context than only religious beliefs. As he writes: 'I think that's an important element of leadership because, after all, virtually everything we do is based on an act of faith." He continues to apply 'faith' to "Faith in your country and your mission". And, "In America we are fortunate to have an educated people who understand intuitively that faith goes beyond country and flag to the foundation of the republic itself." Thus, 'faith' involves 'belief' and 'trust'. The leader must show to his subordinates his own 'faith' in the sense of having 'trust' in his superiors and the accomplishment of the missions assigned in order to instill in them their own 'trust' - faith and belief - in him and the future including coming success.


Chapter 4 - Courage
General Franklin makes two main points in this chapter. One is that courage may be needed and manifested in many different situations. It is not only the courage one thinks of shown on a battlefield. It may also be shown by the leader making a risky decision in a corporate boardroom and in many other situations as well. So broadly, courage is the ability to face and accept risk in whatever form it appears and act to overcome it. The other point that the author stresses is that it is not foolish action. He points out: "There is no shortage of misguided actions and inappropriate behaviors that are sometimes mistaken for courage." His many examples define the boundaries of what is courage and what is foolishness or stubbornness.


Chapter 5 - Perseverance
Or has the author writes, "dogged determination". He continues: "Perseverance is unique in that it is the one common characteristic of all success. Of the principles discussed in this book, perseverance is the only one that is absolutely critical." That is saying something in no uncertain terms. Again the many specific examples drawn from real life situations support this conclusion. Again, he writes, "You can have all of these other attributes - honor, faith, courage - and yet, if you lack perseverance, you are destined to fall short of your goals, whatever they might be." He includes discussion of several other related topics in this chapter but the main point is that the obstacles one faces in accomplishing the mission or reaching his goals are not singular but more likely continuous and one must be continually faced and overcome.


Chapter 6 - Confidence
The chapter begins with the author's conclusion. "There are three types of confidence essential to leadership. One is the confidence required to give advice and to dispense orders. The second is being confident and comfortable enough with yourself that you can ask for advice from others. And the third is the confidence to depend on subordinates, to delegate authority and stand back to let them do the job." He writes that while they are linked, confidence and courage, are fundamentally different. Once again, the real life examples from his personal experience illuminate the topic.


Chapter 7 - Approachability
Now this is a characteristic that I find unusual in such a list of key principles. But General Franklin certainly exemplified it throughout his several careers and in his relationships with friends. His examples offered here are chosen to show that what is a very personal attribute does indeed enhance one's success as a leader. One theme he stresses is that 'approachability' facilitates communication - that is individuals including subordinates will feel comfortable in addressing their leader and in the process provide much information that may be critical to the organization's success.


Chapter 8 - Adaptability
The author found this attribute important even back in the 'old days' of the 1950-80s. How much more critical it is today in our volatile and rapidly transformative world cannot be stressed enough. He writes," As we look down the road, we'll find that successful adaptability includes having the vision to see what's coming and figuring out how to manage it." He provides an entire section on "Encouraging Innovation". He describes the manner in which this skill is 'taught' at West Point. And then he compares the situation in the Army and in civilian business organizations.


Chapter 9 - Compassion
General Franklin insists about compassion that "it must be factored into leadership." The essence of his thought here is that the leader is dealing with fellow human beings and must treat them as such with great understanding of everyone's human frailties and shortcomings as well as their strengths. The leader must be tough and demand achievement of high standards. But there are ways to achieve this, better ways, than to be a martinet. The author has a wealth of personal situations to provide that show how this is done in practice.


Chapter 10 - Vision
The author summarizes this attribute: "Vision is an awareness of what must be done, as opposed to possessing some particular skill or intellect or clairvoyance that others do not possess." Of course it is related to 'adaptability'. As with all these principles, General Franklin stresses being active. Vision, then, is not only being able to see into the future to identify risks and opportunities, but also being immediately active in formulating one's responses that will maximize results.


Looking Ahead
His two-page summary distills the message. "If this book accomplishes only one thing, I hope it will be to disabuse the reader of any notion that leadership is as easy as figuring out where the crowd is going and running around to get in front of it. Leadership is a hard, often lonely pursuit, but it is there for those willing to work for it."


Return to Xenophon.