Amtgard Leadership and Service Archive

Patton on Amtgard

by Celwyn of Solstice

(Previously published in the Solstice Newsletter February 2004, edited 2005 by Sir Michael Hammer of God and the author)

One might not think that quotes from an Army general are appropriate to Amtgard leadership. But as you get into the higher ranks of the American military you find that the generals are administrators, more inclined to convincing people to follow them, not barking orders as they do in lower ranks.

George S. Patton had some wonderful quotes encapsulating his thoughts about leadership. Here are some of my favorites and some comments on their application to Amtgard.

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."

This is very true when it comes to Amtgard. Of course, sometimes they surprise you by giving you something you totally don't want. They learn more and you have time to get other work done, but make sure you set deadlines. A little monitoring of progress toward the deadline makes sense but usually it's better not to micromanage.

"Officers who fail to correct errors or to praise excellence are valueless in peace and dangerous misfits in war."

Seems pretty self-explanatory. It can't all be praise, gold stars and A for effort when it's not what you need. At the same time, we need to reward and encourage excellence especially when you may not see the nuts and bolts, only the finished seamless project. This applies to awards as a tangible praise for excellence as well.

"All officers ... must be vitally interested in everything that interests the soldier. Usually you will gain a great deal of knowledge by being interested, but, even if you do not, the fact that you appear interested has a very high morale influence on the soldier."

Even if you yourself are not personally interested in RP, or Quests, or awards, or jugging, your players might be. Don't tell them what they should want, listen to them. As the quote says, you can gain a great deal of knowledge this way. Remember that everything you learn about keeping your current members happy probably also applies to retaining new members.

Also, this quote applies to crown qualifications. There's really no reason why in order to lead, one has to be able to produce art. It may be a matter of proving the seriousness of your intent. However, by taking the time to make passable art and science pieces, you gain an understanding of the artisans in your group. And that is why it is the method by which you prove your seriousness.

"There is a great deal of talk about loyalty from the bottom to the top. Loyalty from the top down is even more necessary and much less prevalent."

I can't stress enough the virtue of top-down loyalty. When you make sure your people are taken care of, they will take care of you. Thinking that your title or rank permits you to be arrogant to people is wrong - you are demanding respect then, not commanding it and I can almost guarantee you won't get it. Sadly, there are a lot of so-called leaders and wanna-be leaders who don't understand loyalty to their people or treating others, as they would want to be treated. Think about what you have done this week to earn the respect of your fellow Amtgarders.

"Plans must be simple and flexible. Actually they only form a datum plane from which you build as necessity directs and opportunity offers. They should be made by the people who are going to execute them."

You have to be flexible. Things break, people get sick, natural disasters happen. Entropy is alive and well in the world. KISS: Keep it simple, stupid. The more levels of complexity, the greater the chance of failure - or the plan never being executed at all. The second half of the quote is also significant. Let your feast-o-crat plan a menu he can prepare and your odds of getting it on time and under budget are much better then if you plan the menu for him.

"Keep your own orders short; get them out in time; issue them personally by voice when you can."

People don't want to be talked at, lectured or given pages of e-mail to read. They have other things to do. Brevity is the soul of wit (ok, that's Shakespeare not Patton). The point is that timeliness is important. Also, the phrase ‘personally by voice’ is very powerful. It is the personal touch as opposed to a broadcast; the obvious extension of trust to the person you are delegating to.

“A General Officer who will invariably assume the responsibility for failure, whether he deserves it or not, and invariably give the credit for success to others, whether they deserve it or not, will achieve outstanding success.”

This quote is fantastic and might even be more true in a hobby organization were participation is voluntary. When you behave as described in this quote, people literally line up to help you. Also this represents the true duties of monarchy. The actual work isn’t ever done at the executive level, but often the failures start when the monarch delegates poorly and he must take the responsibility for authorizing the decisions, and letting the failure happen. Whether or not the failures were his doing, they are his responsibility.

Beyond this partial truth, it ties back to the top down loyalty mentioned earlier. If you have this kind of loyalty to your people, you won't ever have to worry if they are willing to be loyal to you or not.

References:  Patton on Planetarium Management