Military life was literally in Patton’s DNA. He was born to a wealthy family, both in terms of money and in rich military legacy. He is descended from Hugh Mercer, a hero of the American Revolution, and before that Mercer served with British forces during the Seven Year’s War. Patton’s grandfather commanded Confederate infantry during the Civil War, and his great uncle was killed at Gettysburg. Although having never served in the military, Patton’s father attended the Virginia Military Institute. No doubt that discipline and regimen were familiar concepts in the household, but owned wholly by young Patton was his determination.
Learning to read and write did not come easy to young Patton. And they would challenge him even into his college years. But he stuck with it and, with the help of a tutor, he grew into a hungry reader and even wound up writing poetry. He focused on military history––the classics, such as Julius Caesar’s Commentaries, the campaigns of Joan of Arc, and the exploits of Scipio Africanus (the Roman commander who defeated Hannibal and obliterated Carthage to end the Third Punic War). Those are big names to be sure. But they exemplify his focus and that all decisions aimed him in the direction of a military career, the only career he ever really wanted. Knowing that West Point (the US Military Academy) was likely out of his academic reach, at least initially, Patton settled on Virginia Military Institute (VMI) for his first year of college. But that was no cakewalk either. To this day, VMI is known as one of the most rigorous military academies on Earth. Still, Patton performed well enough academically and on his entrance exams to be accepted at West Point for the following year.
|Patton with an early tank in France.
In the closing months of the war, the Patton brand expectation strongly developed. He commanded tanks in battle, once even riding on top of one during an attack so as to inspire his men. On another occasion, he walked in front of a tank as his unit entered an enemy-held village. In advance of an attack, he personally performed a reconnaissance mission. From the outset of his command of tanks in WWI, he ordered no tank to ever be surrendered. He continued leading assaults until he was wounded, although he continued directing the action for another few hours before being evacuated to a hospital. Yeah, old blood and guts had arrived. Though that nickname was over two decades away.
Follow me or hit the highway
Remain in constant contact with opposing forces and press forward—ever forward.
Patton loved the heat of battle—perhaps even the idea of war itself. It was this Klingon enthusiasm for engaging the enemy that led soldiers to dub the old man as, “Old blood and guts,” and joking that it was his guts but their blood.
Old blood and guts
Patton was sharply aware of image and public perception. Throughout the interwar decades, Patton’s command abilities made headlines. Americans knew who Patton was, and he very much cultivated the warrior image they saw. That persona was represented in no small part by his crisp-looking uniforms, but Patton was the only general who wore ivory-handled pistols—which he began wearing in the days just before engagements with Villa’s forces. They became his signature.
Ivory handle pistols
5. Implement internal branding programs to reward employees for behaving in ways that are consistent with the brand personality.
Patton highly regarded his men. He trained them hard, drove them harder in actual battle. His expectations were high. And to help his men meet those expectations, more than most other commanders, he made sure his men had what they needed wherever possible. When they had done their duty to the best of their ability, even beyond, and especially at personal cost, he honored them.