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Quotes from General Patton for Leadership and Team Building

General George S Patton Jnr is one of the most controversial military figures of recent times. He is however an interesting case study for those keen on drawing lessons on team building and leadership from the military.

Noted for his boldness, aggression and dynamism he goes down in history as one of the most effective and flamboyant field commanders of World War 2.

Patton was a lifelong student of military history possessing one of the largest private collections of works of military history. Regarded as one of the most gifted field commanders of that war (always leading from the front and by example), and a great military theorist, he also had his limitations including an inability to dovetail into strategic necessity for tact, diplomacy or co-operation with others at times.

Whilst achieving great tactical results across his career, he was at times also a liability to his superiors often requiring careful handling due to his brusque, aggressive and sometimes narrow focus upon his specific needs rather than those of the bigger picture / total theatre of operation.

He produced many noteworthy military quotes, some of which are featured here.

He is still readily drawn upon as a source and example for military commanders, especially those commanding Armoured units and formations.

There are many great lessons from the military for corporate leaders, and we have some very effective approaches and themes for team building and leadership development within the military theme.

We also have a great case study on our Belbin Team Roles website. Click here to read the Patton leadership and Team Roles Case Study.


“Success in war depends on the “golden rules of war”: speed, simplicity and boldness.”

“The enemy is as ignorant of the situation as we are.”

“You are not beaten until you admit it.”

“It is the unconquerable soul of man and not the nature of the weapon he uses which insures victory.”

“Lack of orders is no excuse for inaction. Anything done vigorously is better than nothing done tardily.”

“A good solution applied with vigour now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes later.”

“We can conquer only be attacking.”

“There is no approved” solution to any tactical situation.”

“In case of doubt, ATTACK!”

“As long as you attack them, they cannot find the time to attack you.”

“One continues to learn about war by practicing war.”

“Never stop until you have gained the top or the grave.”

“Everything is a ‘final heat’.”

“By perseverance, and study, and eternal desire, any man can become great.”

“Haste and speed are not synonymous.”

“You must never halt because some other unit is stuck. If you push on, you will relieve pressure on the adjacent unit and it will accompany you.”

“To be a successful soldier you must know history.”

“Throughout history wars have been lost because of armies not crossing rivers.”

“It may be of interest to future generals to realise that one makes plans to fit the circumstances, and does not try to create circumstances to fit the plans.”

“Strategy and tactics do not change. The means only of applying them differ.”

“Volumes are devoted to armament; pages to inspiration.”

“War is just like boxing. When you get an opponent on the ropes you must keep punching the hell out of him and not let them recover.”

“Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by people. It is the spirit of those people who follow and the people who lead that gains victory.”

“It is very easy for ignorant people to think that success in war may be gained by the use of some wonderful invention rather than by hard fighting and superior leadership.”

“Today, machines hold the same place formerly occupied by the jawbone of an ass, elephant, armour, longbow, gunpowder and submarine. They, too, shall pass.”

“Inspiration does not come via coded messages, but by visible personality.”

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