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Army Grit: Field Marshal Viscount Slims Key to Victory

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Technical Report,05 Jul 2016,25 May 2017

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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By driving the previously invincible Japanese out of Burma in 1945, the Fourteenth Army and its commander, Field Marshal Viscount William Slim, demonstrated that they had the right stuff. To cope with wars demands, military personnel have to know what it means to dig deep during self-study, training, and execution. Psychologist and MacArthur genius grant winner, Angela Duckworth argues that grit, which she defines as a combination of key qualities, is essential to exceptional achievement. Duckworths research-backed grit construct sheds lights on why some succeed and others do not. This monograph, using the historical case study method, reveals that Slims personal attributes were highly correlated with Duckworths construct and that he forged a gritty culture within the Fourteenth Army. This study first analyzes how Slims grittiness grew to enable him to overcome near insurmountable personal and professional obstacles along his path to the mastery of the military art. It then traces the Allies bitter defeat in 1942, Slims implementation of a thoughtful morale-building and progressive training program within the Fourteenth Army, and the gritty teams actions that resulted in victory. The results of this analysis demonstrate grits relevance to the modern Army. The grit construct is a useful addendum to existing Army leadership doctrine. Its emphasis on nested goals, common understanding, and continuous communication make it a natural fit for the mission command philosophy. In the contemporary complex operating environment, grittier Soldiers and leaders are better suited to cope with, learn from, and overcome the challenges inherent to the nature of war. This study concludes with suggestions, culled from Duckworths research, for how best to grow grit, not just in yourself, but within your organization as well.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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