The Partnership of Leadership

To lead best is often to lead with partners. Collaborating with someone else is not second nature to leaders, who frequently get where they are through sheer force of individual will. But history is full of examples of leadership become more effective when it functions with partnership. Here is one of the most overlooked examples.

In 1938 General George Marshall has risen to high levels of responsibility for planning and organization within the U.S. Army. His chief problem is a lack of resources. His only slightly less chief-problem is a lack of access to the President of the United States. He helps solve his problem through partnership.

In this case, the partnership is extremely unlikely. Harry Hopkins, one of Roosevelt’s closest and most trusted advisors, is about as opposite of Marshall as you can get. He is urban and East Coast. He is a political animal, happy in smoke-filled rooms and making back-door deals. He is a chain smoker and miserable outdoors. Above all, he is devoted to the success of one man, his boss, President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Marshall is none of these.

And yet, Marshall and Hopkins discover that they share a belief in the danger of a weak American military. They also share the belief that this weakness is a mortal danger in these particular times, the rise of German, Japanese, Italian, and Soviet/Russian authoritarianism and totalinarianism. They know that American military strength must be restored.

And so, Hopkins helps Marshall. They act as partners in increasing budgets for the U.S. army, navy, and nascent air power.

The partnership of leadership is a complex but very important topic to understand.