World War II has always been a great resource of references for many examples. Such examples as great triumphs, catastrophic losses, for selfless acts and the heinous acts of men. This war has also brought many testimonies of leadership to the table as well. Though one man in this cohort not only wore one hat of leadership, but many. In the motion picture Ike: Countdown to D-Day, the movie views 90 days before the occurrence of D-Day and the many performances of leadership accomplished by Dwight D Eisenhower. In this paper, Dwight D Eisenhower will be shown as a superb situational leader by dealing with diversity of commanders, enacting humility with power and showing confidence in hard decisions.
In the middle of the Second World War, the allies, with the support of their new comrade Stalin, began planning the greatest amphibious invasion of France. The number of vehicles, men and ships vastly eclipsed any invasion force in the past. Between 1943 and 1944, the allied military began training and consolidating their forces for this massive attack. Not only did they Allies need to coordinate an invasion on fifty miles of beach, but keep the Germans from learning the plan. Due to the need for quick consolidation and with many of the forces being American, General Eisenhower was chosen to be in charge of the entire assault (Time 10). Basing much of the movie on the Operation, we are set back only 90 days from D-Day and view fine tuning, training and setbacks the plans received before its execution.
Dwight David Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890 and died March 28, 1969. Born into a moderate family, he gained a high school education and tried to join the Naval Academy. After being rejected due to age, he then applied and was accepted into West Point. After graduating with "the class the stars fell on" he began his military career (Thomas Britannica Online). Although he was kept stateside during WWI, his planning and battle tactics were eventually recognized and put him the war room until his first two operations: Torch and Avalanche, which focused on Italy. After his success in Italy and the backing of the Russians and the eastern front, Operation Overlord began to come together. Although Eisenhower was very much into regulations and standardization, the movie will show how his flexible leadership moved D-Day through the developing stage to the execution of the invasion(Thomas Britannica Online).
A normal theory used in the military regarding leadership is the contingency theory ( Norton 123). The theory calls for certain leaders to be put into certain leadership position for better efficiency. Basing their chose on the leaders motivation (task or relationship oriented), they leaders are then chosen for the right position. Revealed by the theory, a task oriented leader would be chosen for this situation due to the mission possibly becoming unfavorable (Norton 125). The situations that will be shown from the movie will give evidence that the contingency theory being very ineffective. With the diverse need for a flexible leadership between the task and relationship motivators, the evidence will show how situational leadership is the best option.
The first main issue for General Eisenhower was dealing with resentment in the higher ranks. Although the English and American commanders had joined together, personal pride and feelings of superiority began to arise. Such as in the movie the General Montgomery of the English military openly defies the plan at the very beginning and shows his lack of confidence to General Eisenhower. General Montgomery would be looked at as a D3 subordinate, one with high competence but low commitment. In this case Eisenhower should use an S3 style of leadership, or known as supporting. Yet knowing that the English commander does not respect his position, Eisenhower couples supporting with S1 or directing. This is done when Montgomery states that a broad invasion is timid and that a slash invasion should be used instead. Eisenhower first retorts with directing, by stating how the decision is has been made and is final. As Montgomery follows up saying that if the Germans know of a broad invasion, they can be more prepared in a certain spot. Eisenhower questions that if the Germans learn of a slash invasion, would they not be as well prepared. Now using D3 or supporting, Eisenhower recognizes Montgomery's competence yet questions him as a colleague to show he respects him. By doing this, Eisenhower avoids insulting the English commander yet still makes his stand against a problem he realized before the occurrence.
The second issue for the General in charge is enacting humility with the power he is given. He does this twice in the motion picture, once when his public relations officer and another in presenting the operation plans to the king and queen of England. The first situation dealt with the P.R. (public relations) officer wanting to take pictures of the commander working on the plans. Enacting style S4 or delegation, he states the press needs to their true leaders (Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt), due to work being secretive but to also keep an atmosphere of equality on this plan. Eisenhower states that many of times in the movie while he is the final voice on the choices, it is not him alone making operation Overlord happen. During his presentation of the operation to the King and Queen of England, Eisenhower delegates the plan to the generals to explain their specific parts as well as let the General Montgomery go first.
Lastly, the general must some of the hardest decisions. One specific in the movie is when a three star general Eisenhower knew personally leaks confidential information in a full public restaurant. While he knew General Miller, "Beetle", for many years, he gave out dates and landing information that was crucial for the master plan. With General Miller switching from a D4 subordinate (fully competent and committed) to a D1 (lacking competence and committed), General Eisenhower had no choice but to choose leadership S1 or directive. He sends the general back to the US and reduces his rank all the way to Major. While choosing which beach and who to send on the most treacherous mission is difficult, Eisenhower later states how those choices seem easy until you see the person you hurt with them.
General Eisenhower would soon after become president of the United States and be known for his work in WWII and also for the Interstate Highway System. His choices dealing with problems with a flexible leadership style helped him become successful in many ways. While he was not always known to be charismatic, his choices were always contemplated and a team effort when afforded to him. This paper has only shown a few of the leadership examples Eisenhower has done and while his fame is not as popular as others, his works and leadership is tested successful just the same. In dealing with diversity within ranks, acting with humility and still making the tough decisions, Dwight D. Eisenhower gives a superb example of a situational leader.
Thomas C., R. (n.d). Eisenhower, Dwight D. Britannica Online
Eisenhower, D. (2000). A leadership moment in history: The Allied crisis of December 1944. The Psychologist-Manager Journal, 4(2), 169-182. doi:10.1037/h0095890
Northouse, Peter G. Introduction to Leadership: Sixth Edition. Washington DC: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2013.
Time. Time D-Day: 24 Hours That Saved the World. New York City NY: Time Books Inc., 2004
Thomas C., R. (n.d). Eisenhower, Dwight D. Britannica Online