Toxic Leadership

Nice little piece from Military Review about toxic leadership.

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14 thoughts on “Toxic Leadership”

  1. I supose that it was just happenstance that the photo head of this article is of “dugout Doug.”


  2. Mac was an interesting study. Doughboys loved the man, but the GIs hated his guts. He was basically the same man in France as he was in the SW Pacific.

    He made some mistakes in choosing staff. Many of his staff were quite odious and that redounded to his discredit. And he did micromanage on several occasions. Both of His Army Commanders complained about it, and he threatened to relieve one and send him home.

    The sobriquet “Dugout Doug,” however, was unfair. Few demonstrated the same high level of physical courage he did. The Portland Oregonian took him to task for it too. He did take many physical risks that were not really necessary, but “Dougout Doug” was never a fit for him.

    For all that, Mac never created a toxic command environment. It could have been better, and he could have accomplished that by firing Southerland and a couple others on his staff.

    1. Quartermaster:

      I am currently reading Ian W. Toll’s “Pacific Crucible” and he (Toll) says that was the name given to Douggy by his troops on Bataan. D.D. was very nearly solely responsible for the loss of the aircraft on 8 December 1941 in the Philippines. He also made very poor decisions on troop positions in the early Philippine battles. In all, he showed extremely poor leadership. A general is responsible for picking his staff and if they are FUBAR, it is a reflection on him.
      In WWI, he performed well and the Inchon landing was inspired; his later moves in Korea, not so much so.


      1. Mac’s first steps in the Pacific in WWII were atrocious. And his focusing virtually all PR on him personally embittered many troops. Especially his shameful treatment of the 4th Marines.

        But once he figured out that he would have to fight for New Guinea, he did a masterful job of it, and was probably the single best practitioner of the operational art. Having said that, he did tolerate a decidedly mediocre staff, place far too much faith in Walt Krueger, and not enough in Bob Eichelberger.

        He was in many ways both the best and worst commander of the war. Truly a fascinating character.

    2. think the only reason MacArthur did not suffer the same fate as Short was he was in the PI and getting him out and someone back in was not possible at the time. His move to retreat into Bataan was a good move, but not getting the food stores into the lines was a very bad move and cost the garrison in the end.

      That Mac was on Coregador simply was a matter of no other option for his CP. The sobriquet was unfair. He used to watch air attacks from outside the tunnels and would go back inside only when his wife asked him to do so. He would have shared the fate of his troops is he had not been ordered off by FDR. Even though he had screwed the pooch royally, he had become the symbol of the only successful resistance to Jap advances at the time.

      I disagree with Brad on Kreuger. Mac had two good Army commanders in Krueger and Eichelberger. Both ended up being threatened with being relieved and sent home when war correspondents had sent home stories that lauded them. Mac had a strong narcissistic streak and wanted all press attention focused on him. Krueger was a longsuffering man that just tried to to do his job. Eichelberger wrote some pretty scathing letters to his wife about Mac, many of which were righteous.

      I don’t know that I would go so far as calling Mac’s staff mediocre, but he could have gotten better people. Southerland, his COS during WW2 was a pretty sorry guy personally who brought his Aussie mistress to the PI. It was one of the few times anyone around Mac ever heard him use profanity when he tore a trip off Southerland for that as he had ordered Southerland to leave her behind in Oz. He had similar problems during Korea.

      Much of what went on in Korea was caused by lack of guidance of DC. He crossed the 38th parallel and DC pretty much went along with it. If that was as far as they wanted him to go then they should have said so. They didn’t and they tried to rewrite history later. It was also a mistake to give Walker his head and let him tear up the peninsula towards the Yalu. But, once more, that was a result of lack of guidance from DC and DC dropped the ball when they had evidence that China was about to come in and said nothing. The Acheson gang tried to blame that on MacArthur, but it never struck. What they weer trying to blame him for was beyond the ability of theater level intelligence. Acheson and his gang have born the blame for much of what happened in Korea.

      After MacArthur’s relief, casualties soared in Korea. The supply situation eased somewhat, but Ridgeway was an ETO style General, and that came with the style of combat he knew which resulted in high casualties. The entire thing ground down into a power politics war which tend to spend troops like water for symbolic trash rather than solid military aims.

  3. My father served under Mac in New Guinea and the Admiralties. Had a picture of himself being inspected by MacArthur before Hollandia. Dad swore by the guy.

    Also, stories say that MacArthur gave an impassioned and poetic speech to the Joint Chiefs in Tokyo in August of 1950. CNO Forrest Sherman was skeptical of the plan and reluctant to land in the dodging tides and confined waters of Inchon. The remarks were so powerful, that some men were moved to tears by them. MacArthur talked about the “fatal decision of inertia”, and of hearing “the ticking of the second hand of destiny”. Admiral Sherman, with tears in his eyes, was supposed to have said “The Navy will be there, General!” CHROMITE, the landings at Inchon, were wildly successful.

    MacArthur was many things, but he was a hell of a leader.

    1. I don’t think Mac could have accomplished half of what he did if his command environment was toxic. He did have something of a narcissistic streak (Patton was just as bad, if not worse), but he could inspire. The run up to Inchon is an excellent example.

  4. I don’t have an opinion on MacArthur, but I do think that “toxic leadership” is an overused phrase right now. The leaders I saw in the 80s were out of hand compared to the guys I see today. I have seen a few that I would consider toxic, but too many people that get chewed out by somebody are suddenly complaining about toxic leaders. There is a big difference between deliberately and selectively choosing the time, place and tone of a dressing down of a particular subordinate and having that be your default method with all. What i mean by that is that if one person is complaining that he is in a toxic environment, he is probably a whiner, but if all in the environment feel the same, it is a different matter and probably accurate. The toxic leader is apt to dismiss all as whiners, if he is even aware of the sentiment. Theoretically, the army’s new 360 degree assessment requirement could help with this, but I am not at all optimistic about it. Though I appreciated the feedback I got on my last one and will do another in February, they are only as good as: 1) who you ask for feedback; and, 2) whether those people actually take the time to give you any feedack, let alone good feedback.

    1. Just don’t ask Brad. You already know he’s a sniveler. He’d prolly whine about something you did to him back in grade school and call you a toxic leader.

  5. Esli, about MacArthur, I have heard both sides of the story from his contemporaries. To be honest, I am not really impressed by his attitude. About the concept of “Toxic Leadership”, the first thing you notice is that they are not real leaders. You raise some very important points. The first one is they are willing to listen. The “Boots on the Ground” many have seen something good to so-called leader has now seen. This information may change his whole perspective. The other thing is this, you will never know if that feedback is actually good or bad, without actually listening to it. Well done.

  6. Is it a coincidence that I read this right after the one on the USMC’s new alcohol policy?

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