wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
search bar left
search bar right

Patton - Leadership and CommunicationPatton - Leadership and Communication


Patton (1970)


Famous for...

Oscar winning George C. Scott’s portrayal of the American World War Two general, George Patton (1885-1945).

Scott refused the award, comparing the Oscars to a “meat contest”.


Based on...Patton - Leadership and Communication

The story of Patton’s World War Two leadership from two books:

  • Ladislas Farago, Patton: Ordeal and Triumph.
  • General Omar Bradley (pictured right), A Soldier's Story (Bradley was in the film).

 Patton - Leadership and Communication


Franklin J. Scaffner (pictured right).



Seven including:Patton - Leadership and Communication

  • best film.
  • best actor (George C. Scott).
  • best director.


Key charactersPatton - Leadership and Communication

George Patton (George C. Scott), American general.

Omar Bradley (Karl Malden), American general.

Bernard Montgomery (Michael Bates), British general (pictured right meeting Patton, on the left).


The storyPatton - Leadership and Communication

General George Patton gives an inspiring speech to his troops (pictured right) and then the film moves to Tunisia, North Africa, where he has taken over command of the American army, demoralized by a recent German defeat.

With the help of the British (led by the equally egotistical general, Bernard Montgomery), he defeats the Germans (without their leader, Erwin Rommel).

In July 1943 Patton:

  • leads the American invasion of Sicily.
  • races to capture Messina and then the capital, Palermo (before Montgomery does). Patton - Leadership and Communication

Patton is relieved of his command after slapping a shell shocked soldier in an army hospital, calling him a “yellow bastard” (pictured right).

This incident results in his exclusion from the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Instead (much to Patton's disgust) he is put in charge of a fictonal, decoy army in south-east England.

After begging for another command, General Omar Bradley (his ex-deputy, pictured right below) asks him to lead the American Third Army.

Patton brilliantly advances across France (including victory in the Battle of the Bulge) and finally into Germany.Patton - Leadership and Communication

He loses command of the Third Army after his controversial comments about;

  • the Russians (whom he hates).
  • the Nazis.
  • American politics.


Lessons for leadership


1. Be tough but tenderPatton - Leadership and Communication


  • is ruthless with the enemy and his troops.
  • rules by fear and insensitive brutality (slapping the shell shocked soldier).

But he also:

  • is kind to those who are prepared to fight.
  • realizes that the spirit and ability of his troops win battles.
  • respects the bravery of the Germans (saying their killing is “such a waste of fine infantry”).

 Patton - Leadership and Communication

2. Teamwork is vital

He believed that a successful army is not a group of individuals (however talented or brave they are) but a team, which:

  • effectively co-operates with one another.
  • relies on adequate supplies of food, water, fuel and weaponry.

 Patton - Leadership and Communication

3. Winning is everything

Victory at any cost is the theme of Patton’s opening speech.

He believes that enjoyment is less important than:

  • winning.
  • doing your duty.  


4. Always attack the enemyPatton - Leadership and Communication

He always told his troops to:

  • advance constantly.
  • never retreat or hold your position.

So he says:

“Audacity, audacity, always audacity!”


5. Love leadership

He was motivated by his love of fighting. Watching a battle he says:

“I love it more than my life”.

 Patton - Leadership and Communication

6. Success is temporary

After losing command of the Third Army, Patton says at the end of the film:

“All glory is fleeting”.

He is also reminded of this when he is not involved in the D-Day invasion.

Religion helps him through difficult times. After disastrously slapping the shell shocked soldier, he prays in church, quoting Psalm 63 about God's love and support in battle.   

 Patton - Leadership and Communication

7. Learn continuously

Patton is a great student of military history particularly in ancient Greece and Rome.

In Tunisia he visits the site of a Roman victory over the Carthaginians, reflecting on the lessons he can learn from it.

He also learns from:

  • the German general, Erwin Rommel’s (pictured right) belief in attack.
  • his daily Bible reading.


 8. Admit when you’re wrongPatton - Leadership and Communication

He has the humility to apologize to his troops for:

  • slapping the shell shocked soldier.
  • accusing him of cowardice.


9. Communicate with confidencePatton - Leadership and Communication

His opening speech inspires his troops, because of his

  • oratory.
  • charisma.
  • confidence.

Like the British general, Bernard Montgomery, he is:

  • extremely egotistical.
  • totally confident in his own ability (never contemplating retreat or defeat).


  • keeps in constant touch with his soldiers.
  • encourages them to take pride in fighting and have confidence in victory.


10. Act with speed and disciplinePatton - Leadership and Communication


  • is a strict disciplinarian.
  • clamps down on small things (like appearance and punctuality).

This made his troops:

  • constantly alert.
  • immediately responsive to his orders.

Speed of attack was crucial for him, incredibly moving his army 100 miles in three days to win the Battle of the Bulge.


Key quotes on war

I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country, Patton.

We’re not just going to shoot the bastards; we’re going to cut their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks, Patton.

 I love it. God help me, I do love it so. I love it more than my life, Patton.


Key quote on leadership

Audacity, audacity, always audacity!, Patton


Key quote on success

I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed, Patton.

Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser, Patton


Key quote on teamwork

An army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team, Patton (on a successful army).


Two film websites to recommend

1. filmsite.org (run by Tim Dirks).

2. aveleyman.com (run by Tony Sullivan)


Free Newsletter
Enter your name and e-mail address to receive our free newsletter with analysis of business issues and new business books