The Korean War has often been called America’s “forgotten war.” People remember World War II and Vietnam, but sandwiched between those conflicts was Korea, and people tend to overlook it.
Foremost among those lessons is the importance of leading by personal example. Ridgway knew the importance of getting out among his soldiers, of seeing things from their perspective, of coming to a firsthand understanding of the problems they faced. He made a point of rubbing shoulders with the grunts, not just the colonels, majors, and captains.
I was reminded of Ridgway’s style of leadership the other day when I saw a quotation by a motivational speaker of an earlier generation, Napoleon Hill. He said,
We’ve all no doubt had bosses (I won’t dignify them by calling them leaders) whose attitude was “Do as I say, not as I do,” who hadn’t the foggiest idea how to implement the orders they so glibly dictated without a bit of true knowledge of the situation, but they were forever throwing out orders and then expecting miracles from their (supposed) inferiors. And then they had the gall to act as though they were the ones who had achieved the impossible.
By the way, this is just one of several lessons one can learn from the life of General Ridgway. Seven others are found in Chapter 12, “Command and Control: Leadership,” in my book Combat! Spiritual Lessons from Military History.