“Eisenhower and the Business of War” by Marshall Krupp

by Jun 10, 2024

Eisenhower and the Business of War – Right People, Right Seats

In collaboration with Aleksandr Dolia, Executive Assistant


Here is a story that all leaders can understand. It highlights the burden of leadership that unfolds in every business. This comparison is not meant to dismiss or minimize the significance of D-Day or the lives that were lost or changed as a result of a world war. Instead, it serves to illustrate the valor, recognition of leadership, and commitment of individuals in war and in our businesses.

On the eve of the D-Day invasion, General Dwight Eisenhower spent the remaining hours of daylight with the paratroopers who were about to jump behind German lines into occupied France. There are a lot of words that could be shared about the strategy of war and Eisenhower’s leadership. But for a moment, let’s simply look at one event—a single moment captured by an Army photographer that became the most enduring image of America’s greatest military operation in 1944.

“It’s one of those images that just causes you to pause,” said James Ginther, the archivist of the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas. “There’s clearly something going on. There’s conversation, but we don’t know what it is, and it invites us in.”

What makes this picture so iconic is that it perfectly captures all that was at stake on D-Day—the burden of command and the lives in the balance. It offers us the recognition of the burden of leadership and the maintaining of alignment of our employees in business.

The more you know about the picture of Eisenhower and his troops, the more perfect it becomes.

Asked why it was so important for Eisenhower to visit the troops the day before Allied forces landed at Normandy, Ginther replied, “Because wars aren’t won by armies. They’re won by individual soldiers, and he knew the value of that.” Business is about people, and to succeed each member of our teams must be rowing in the same direction as everyone else on the boat.

Wallace Strobel, the soldier in the helmet in that photo, passed away in 1999, but he recalled his brief encounter with Eisenhower in a 1994 interview with CBS News. “I was very young; it was my 22nd birthday,” he said. “We were really ready to go. We were all set, we had everything loaded. And someone came running down the street and said, ‘Eisenhower is here!’ Well, everybody kind of said, ‘So what?’ We had more important things!”

Nobody snapped to attention or fell into formation. But then, Strobel recalled, “You could hear the excitement as he came close. So, then we turned and kind of looked out, and then he came over and at that point he stopped in front of me.”

Asked why Eisenhower, who was in command of two million Allied forces in Operation Overlord, chose to speak with paratroopers, Ginther said, “Because they’re the key to the whole operation.”

Although Eisenhower had to make “a soul-wracking” decision before going forward with D-Day, he gave no hint of that as he mingled with the paratroopers an hour before they were to board their planes.

So, what exactly did the general say to Lt. Strobel? “He said, ‘Where you from, lieutenant?’ And I said, ‘Michigan.’ He said, ‘Oh, Michigan, I used to fish there. Great fishing in Michigan.'”

CBS asked, “So, in that famous photo, they’re talking about fishing?” “That’s what Wally Strobel says,” Ginther noted.

“That kind of changes my preconceptions of that photo. You look at it and you think he’s going, ‘Give ’em hell.’ Maybe he’s going just look like he’s casting?”

Strobel told CBS, “It was as though he was trying to calm everyone down.”

Eisenhower later told Cronkite the paratroopers had tried to put him at ease as well: “They were all getting ready and all camouflaged and their faces blackened and all this, and they saw me and recognized me and they said, ‘Quit worrying, general, we’ll take care of this thing for you,’ and that kind of thing. It was a good feeling.”

A better feeling the next morning, when the main landing force went ashore on the beaches of Normandy. “All preliminary reports are satisfactory,” Eisenhower cabled in his first dispatch. “Airborne formations apparently landed in good order.”

It was too early to predict success, so Eisenhower closed by saying he had visited the paratroopers the night before, “and the light of battle was in their eyes.”

We as leaders have to make tough decisions from time to time, and like Eisenhower, we may need to calm everyone down. If we have the right people in the right seats, if we have trained our people and given them the right tools, and if we are all aligned with the goal and the mission, as leaders, our employees can and will give us the same answer: “Quit worrying, general, we’ll take care of this thing for you.” Hopefully, they will have the light of battle in their eyes.

Leading is not just a science; it is an art. If we are to succeed, we need to have the knowledge, skills, and experience of both.

Share your thoughts on how you are the Eisenhower leader of your business.

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Want to know more? Join “THE EOS® HOUR” with Marshall Krupp every 4th Monday of the month from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

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EOS®, the Entrepreneurial Operating System® takes entrepreneur businesses on a journey of mastery of the EOS tools which enables businesses to elevate their leadership teams to make better decisions, maintain a level of accountability, at attain greater success more simplistically.  The components of EOS® are Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process, and Traction, which when used effectively attains a healthier organization with greater success.  Marshall Krupp is a recognized Certified EOS® Implementer serving clients through the nation.  He is also a national speaker, a past award-winning Vistage Worldwide Chair, and a past career of providing crisis management strategic advisors service to businesses, governmental agencies and not-for-profit organizations.   Review more at www.peerexecutiveboards.com and at www.eosworldwide.com/marshall-krupp.  Review the YouTube video… https://youtu.be/NNyY7k8uXLE.


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