The Transitional Leadership of General George C. Marshall

Note:  This article was orginally published in the Texas Military Forces publication The Dispatch

As overseas contingencies and operations lessen for our current military forces, many service members returning home may not only question his/her own future career, but that of the profession. Common questions may include a desire for one to predict the types of future conflicts or focus on overall costs of maintaining the most expensive defensive strategy in the world. Regardless of the era or generation, post-war transitions result in leaders providing tough answers to difficult questions, while keeping the well-being of the country a top priority. During these times of uncertainty, the U.S. needs strong leaders across all levels who adhere to attributes necessary to navigate these transitions. Through monumental achievements, ethical qualities and an extraordinary philosophy and managerial style, Gen. George C. Marshall serves as a model of such a leader.

General_George_C__Marshall,_official_military_photo,_1946_JPEGBefore discussing the attributes and competencies contributing to revered success, it is important to provide some background and insight to the leader dubbed “a man for all seasons.” A shy and reserved youth and mediocre student at best, it was a love for history and a desire to seek advanced education at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) that launched his career. Fast forward to the day Marshall became the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, at which time, Germany invaded Poland and ushered in World War II. Over a three-year period, Marshall transitioned the U.S. Army from 189,000 outmoded and ill-equipped soldiers into the 8,000,000-soldier force that won the war.

Following the war and its victories, he broke through parochial services plans and rebuilt the total force that included maintaining the National Guard as an integral force, part of America’s first line of defense. This decision is one we benefitted from during a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. As secretary of state and the orchestrator of the so-called Marshall Plan (European Recovery Plan), he helped rebuild European economies and stem the spread of communism. In fact, Marshall is one of a few incredible leaders in our nation’s history whose attributes and competencies are worth emulating in today’s ever-changing environment. Continue reading

Decisions – Leadership Lessons from D-Day

D-day arrived on June 6, 1944 and the cross channel assault, part of Operation Overlord, began and changed the course of World War II. Because no operation ever goes as planned, the leaders that day were faced with a barrage of unimaginable decisions in order reduce the loss of life yet protect the goals of the operation.


During his address to the House of Commons that same day, Winston Churchill expressed his confidence in the Supreme Commander’s abilities. Addressing the weather and other unpredictable aspects of both the airborne and amphibious landing operations he said:

General Eisenhower’s courage is equal to all the necessary decisions that have to be taken in these extremely difficult and uncontrollable matters.

These decision amid extremes were likely what General Eisenhower had in the forefront of his mind when he proclaimed that

When you come right down to it, leadership is, of course, being exerted all of the time in the capacity of boosting morale, confidence, and all that, but leadership is most noticeable when tough decisions have to be made…. But making decisions is the essence of leadership; that is, handling large problems whether at war or peace. (As recorded in a personal interview by Edgar P. Puryear, May 2, 1962)

These decisions are the unglamorous part of being a leader the public rarely sees. Even though they may become routine, even in rough situations, decisions are rarely made between two clear choices.

The choice of timing the invasion is a good example of huge decisions made on unclear information. The allied forces had just a few days each month when all of the tide and moonlight conditions were optimal for the landings. However, when the first dates arrived the weather was poor. With assurances but not guarantees the conditions would improve General Eisenhower made the decision to commence operations, setting D-day to the 6th of June. Had he decided to delay (a very safe decision) the next window of opportunity was two weeks away (the weather was worse on those days). To accentuate how unclear the weather predictions were, the Germans believed the weather was too poor for operations making allied attack improbable. So most leaders were gone and many troops were given leave.

The leadership lessons from D-day:
1. Leadership is difficult work.
2. Decisions making is the essence of leadership
3. Decisions are never clear
4. Leaders are lonely – ultimately only one person decides

Lessons from Peter’s Restoration – Sermon Notes


When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17 NIV)

The questions and answers
What did Jesus mean when he asked if Peter loved him “More than these?”  Possible choices ( there is no agreement on which one it is):
Do you love me more than these (other disciples love me)?
Do you love me more than (you love) these (other disciples)?
Do you love me more than (you love) these things (your fishing nets and equipment)?

Types of love:
Agape  = a perfect, unselfish love
Phileo = Lord, You know that I’m Your friend,” or “I’m fond of You

1.  Jesus, “do you Agape me.”  Peter, “I Phileo you”
2.  Jesus, “do you Agape me.”  Peter, “I Phileo you”
3.  Jesus, “do you Phileo me.”  Peter, “I Phileo you”

The commands
1.  The first command Jesus gives Peter is literally translated from Greek as “pasture the lambs.  As present tense it calls for continual action of care and feeding

2.  The second time Jesus gives the command it literally translates as “tend My sheep” emphasizing a supervisory capacity, not only feeding but ruling over them.

3.  The third time, the literal translation is a combination if the previous two commands. “pasture tend the sheep”. Here Jesus combines the different Greek words to make clear the job of the shepherd of the flock of God. They are to tend, care for, and provide spiritual food for God’s people in continual action to nourish and care for their souls, bringing them into the fullness of spiritual maturity.

Paraphrase Reading

Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more perfectly and unselfishly than you do the things of your former life? (Or more than these men do?)”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I have affection for you.”
Jesus said, “provide continual care for my lambs who are my disciples.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you unconditionally love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I am fond of you .”
Jesus said, “be a shepherd  care of my disciples like a shepherd takes care of a flock.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you have affection for me like a friend?”
Peter was grieved because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?”
He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you like a  friend.”
Jesus said, “you are responsible for the spiritual well being of my disciples like a shepherd is responsible for nurturing his flock.

(John 21:15-17 Paraphrase)

1.  Change of Attitude.
Peter mourns and becomes meek
Before the denial, Peter was anything but meek…he was over confident in himself.

Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! 
(John 13:37, 38 NIV)

Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “ ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 
Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” 
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” 
But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:31-35 NIV)

Peter was grieved. He knew the answer that Jesus was looking for but couldn’t give it. 

Why didn’t he ever answer yes, I agape you? In his heart he knew it wasn’t true…he had just called curses down to deny Jesus.

Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. (Matthew 26:74 NIV)

2.  On Elders. Peter handed off the responsibility to oversee and provide care for disciples to the elders.

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (1 Peter 5:1-6 NIV)


3.  Continue to follow
Peter said, I’m going fishing.”
Jesus had appeared to them two other times.  Yet Peter was back to his old life.  The temptation is to go back. Don’t. 

4.  Be ready to lead
Peter did not know—that Jesus would ascend into heaven but when he did he preached the first gospel sermon and, with the help of Jesus brother James, lead the establishment of the church. 

Others tried to assert their authority on the church. 

John is establishing the role of Peter.

5. There is Hope for me
Peter gave a less than perfect answer but Jesus accepted it. Jesus meets us where we are.

Like Jesus, we should extend the mercy He gives to others

Don’t think you have to be perfect. If you were you would be the rabbi not the disciple. Just continue learning from the master.

Jesus extended mercy…we should too.


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3-10 NIV)

Follow Me – Sermon Notes

Many statements don’t stand the test of time.  Even the most visionary people say things that are proven false and useless with time. In his final days, John records an exchange between Jesus and the disciples who deserted him.  The final two words of the exchange are timeless:

Scripture Reading:

Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:18-22 NIV)

Follow Me = Discipleship:

As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:16, 17 NASB)

The words “Follow Me” have little meaning  in our modern world, but they meant everything to a Jew in the first century.  A disciple of a Rabbi (or Talmid) would study the Rabbi so closely they would eventually think and act like the Rabbi. 

The talmid watched his rabbi’s every action, word and deed, trying to think and act in a similar fashion. His deepest desire was to follow his rabbi so closely that the student would eventually think and act exactly like the rabbi. An old Rabbinic blessing puts it this way: “May you be covered with the dust of your Rabbi.” Meaning, the student was to walk so close to the rabbi that the very dust kicked up by the teacher’s walking would fall on him. Source link.

Consider when the words were written matters

John wrote his gospel at the end of his life, late in the first century.  The  first generation of apostles and disciples had died/most martyred, including Peter. (Note:  John is believed to be the only apostle to die of natural causes.)  Christians were increasingly being split by false teachers.  By the time John wrote his gospel many differing views of who Jesus was and what it meant to be a Christian were placing a stress on the new religion.  Such views included:

 Docetic – Jesus was an illusion 
Gnostic – special knowledge and all matter is evil 
Ebbionite – Jesus was the Messiah but just a man/ not devine. Followed the law and jewish rites
Jews –  believers who insisted the Law (circumcision) was still required

Note: Persecution added more strain to the Christian faith. Suffered persecution under Nero (c. 64-68), likely when Peter and Paul became martyrs. Were under persecution by Domitian (r. 81-96) when John was written.

Paul often references these divisions:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! (Galatians 1:6-8 NASB)

I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:11, 12 NASB)

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. (Romans 16:17 NASB)

Opinions still divide:
With thousands of known Christian denominations the problem of divisions is prevalent today.
Pew study in 2007 found that:
More than one-quarter of American adults (28%) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion – or no religion at all. If change in affiliation from one type of Protestantism to another is included, 44% of adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether.

Summary of Jesus’ Teachings:
Save the lost “…He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21 NASB)
God’s Love “…For God so loved the world” (John 3:16 NASB)
Kingdom of God “…the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21 NASB)
Love God “…love the Lord thy God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Mark 12:30 pp)
Love others “…Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31 NIV)

May The Lord bless you and keep you, may The Lord lift his face to shine up one you, and be gracious unto you….May you be covered with the dust of your rabbi and may the peace that passes all understanding descend on you and bless you with peace

Say what you think

“I constantly make sure we’ve created an environment that encourages people on the team to really say what they think, to get their ideas out on the table and to give them an opportunity to argue those perspectives and make sure they’re not holding them inside . . . .   That’s something I’m constantly working on — how can I create that environment, how can I ask the right questions, and how do I go around and make sure people tell you what they really think?  That takes patience, but it’s the right thing to do.”  John W. Rogers, Jr., Chairman, CEO and chief investment officer of Ariel Investments, based in Chicago


Leadership is hard

I learned that leadership is hard.  Leadership sounds easy in the books, but it is quite difficult in real life.  I learned that leadership is difficult because it is a human interaction and nothing, nothing is more daunting, more frustrating more complex than trying to lead men and women in tough times.

I learned that you won’t get a lot of thanks in return.  I learned that you shouldn’t expect it.

I learned that the great leaders know how to fail.  If you can’t stomach failure, then you will never be a great leader.

Admiral William Harry McRaven, US Special Operations Command, in a speech at the United States Military Academy, January 18, 2014


The Army Leader is a Teaching Leader

Over a decade of war has changed the fabric of the U.S. armed forces.  Short mobilization cycles and changing theater tactics necessitated the development of a learning culture within the organizations.  This learning culture, however, is fundamentally NOT the culture that has sustained our premier forces throughout our history.  As the armed forces move into a garrison environment and resources diminish, it is time for the culture to shift back to what we fundamentally are…a teaching culture.

General Colin Powell, in his autobiography It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership, explains that he has been a professional speaker, trainer, and teacher his entire adult career.  He explains

From my first day in my unit as an Army officer, I had to speak to and teach troops.

General Powell built his success on the enduring Army culture where leaders teach troops and other leaders.  They not only learn they pass knowledge on.  Instilling the desire to improve and learn is the important part of any the learning culture; A teaching organization further infuses learning with the culture of passing it on to others.  Noel Tichy, author of the Leadership Engine puts it this way:

(Organizations) that consistently outperform competitors (have) moved beyond being learning organizations to become teaching organizations….That’s because teaching organizations are more agile, come up with better strategies, and are able to implement them more effectively…. Teaching organizations do share with learning organizations the goal that everyone continually acquire new knowledge and skills. But to do that, they add the more critical goal that everyone pass their learning on to others…. In a teaching organization, leaders benefit just by preparing to teach others. Because the teachers are people with hands-on experience within the organization—rather than outside consultants—the people being taught learn relevant, immediately useful concepts and skills. Teaching organizations are better able to achieve success and maintain it because their constant focus is on developing people to become leaders.

In short, leaders train leaders. Continue reading

Early Christian Banquet Worship

Pliny the Younger.
They affirmed, however, the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.