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 Posted: Tue Mar 18th, 2008 08:50 pm
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amhistoryguy
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I think this question can be taken in several different directions. Might a "Great" Civil War General simply be one that history has been kind to ? Do we compare two generals in similar circumstances and label one "Great" and one "horrible.' ? Or, are we looking at leadership qualities demonstrated by an individual ? If we look at leadership qualities, IMO, it is possible that those criteria are timeless, and can be used over time, with some modification.
A good or great leader doesn't necessarily have to have all the qualities of a great leader, nor does he have to use them all all of the time, in every situation. When I started to come up with a list of positive leadership qualities, I quickly discovered that dependent upon circumstances, a particular quality that is beneficial in one instance could be a detriment in another. Some qualities apply only to the battlefield, yet "great" commanders lead and take care of their commands off the battlefield too. Most "Great" military leaders are also good followers - good soldiers and can take orders as well as give them. Most "Great" leaders are also blessed with "great" subordinates to carry out their orders. IMO, many generals labled "great" owe their greatness to their subordinate generals, but that is just my opinion.
Some commanders grew into their roles over time, and often at the expense of their commands. Some commanders were brilliant at one battle and dismal at another. All things to keep in mind when weighing "Greatness," IMO.
Anyway, here is a list of qualities that I use to judge performance of CW leaders:
Physical Capacity
Willingness to lead
In Agreement with the character of the war - How is it to be fought?
Know How
Experience
Decision Making - following through
Communication of policy and objectives - Military and political
Ability to adjust and adapt - situational and with new technology and methods
Persistence
Realistic Expectations
Not Personal - attacks the enemy strategy
Aggressiveness - of self and command
Even Temperment - rational under stress
Physical Courage
Ability to inspire action without coercion - conficence of men, trusted and respected
Recognition of limits - self and command
Vision - recognition of big picture and your role in it.
Ability to weigh what is to be gained vs. what is to be risked.
Success is not soley dependent on the accomplishment of others.
Can be Bold - unpredictability
Ability to gather and use resources - intelligence.
Objective to win vs. trying not to lose - completness of victory with pursuit.
Ability to recognize and use enemy leaders shortcomings against him.
Recognition of the merit of others - not jealous
Gallant
Firm
Just
Upright
High Energy
Ability to make solid preperations.

There might also be a moral component we could add - Moral courage.
It is an interesting question to explore.

Regards, Dave Gorski

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