“The art of leadership is deciding what to do, and then getting men to want to do it!”

Dwight D. Eisenhower


“Eisenhower is my choice as the American of the Twentieth Century. Of all of the men that I have studied and written about, he is the brightest and the best.”

Stephen Ambrose


Dwight D. Eisenhower was a Five Star General in the United States Army. He was the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during World War II where he planned and supervised the invasion of North Africa and the invasion of Normandy, better known as D-Day. Time magazine called him “The Man that Defeated Hitler”. He also served as the 34th President of the United States, serving two terms from 1953-1961. He governed during a time of unparalleled growth in the American economy, mainly due to his efforts to balance the federal budget, keep inflation intact, and to lower taxes. He also sponsored and signed a bill that created the United States Interstate system, he sponsored and signed the first Civil Rights bill since Reconstruction, started the NASA program, and he had the phrase “under God” added to the pledge of allegiance.

Eisenhower was born in 1890 in Texas and was raised in Abilene, Kansas. His family was very hardworking and of average means. Most of the wealthy families in Abilene lived on the north side of the railroad tracks. The Eisenhower’s lived on the south side of the tracks. Eisenhower had a very strong religious background and his father read Bible passages to the children each night before bed. Eisenhower’s father, David, had a tremendous impact on him and taught him many valuable lessons in life such as sharing, hard work, sacrifice, overcoming obstacles and discipline. David Eisenhower worked hard at a local creamery, he attended church on a regular basis, he disciplined his children, and he was a man of principle that was highly respected around town.

There are too many impressive things about Dwight D. Eisenhower to detail in an article such as this. The most impressive in my opinion though is about his unselfishness. Eisenhower’s older brother Edgar, who was one year older, had a dream to become a lawyer and wanted to go to college at the University of Michigan, but there was no way for the family to afford it. To make his brother’s dream come true Eisenhower sacrificed going to college and worked for three years in the local creamery with his father to pay for Edgar’s education. After Edgar completed his undergraduate work at Michigan the younger Eisenhower now had his chance. With the help of a childhood friend, Everett Hazlett, Eisenhower studied and scored extremely high on the US Military Academy entrance exam. He had the support of several influential men in town who wrote recommendation letters to their congressman who in turn recommended Eisenhower for West Point. It was a perfect fit. The United States government pays for your tuition at West Point so there was no financial burden on the family. Eisenhower was very bright, he loved military history, he was a great athlete, and he was tough. Dwight D. Eisenhower was going to join “The Long Gray Line”.

It was not always easy but Eisenhower excelled at West Point. His best subjects were math, science, and geography. All very important to a military officer. He loved riding horses and learning how to build bridges and he was a star player on the Army football team as a running back. Eisenhower also loved the psychology behind leadership. He enjoyed learning tactics and strategies to develop and motivate men. He was very interested in how the mind worked and what made others “tick”. Eisenhower graduated from West Point in June of 1915. His career was ready to begin.

Through my reading and study of Eisenhower I have learned a really important concept about great leadership. You must lead yourself first before you can pour into someone else and train them up to be a leader.

I want to focus on how you must lead yourself first in this article. I used to work with a great coach that always stressed, “first things first, and first things right”. You must do the simple tasks well in order to be a great leader. It is the small things that matter and those small things lead to bigger things. How can you expect to be great at the bigger tasks when you fail
at the smaller tasks?

Paul says in I Corinthians 9:24-27, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable. Therefore I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight like I am beating the air. No, I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

A really important facet to the passage above is having a focus (I do not run aimlessly) and disciplining yourself. Having focus allows you to set goals, design plans, and set a course of action for how you want to live. Then be disciplined enough to follow the road map that you set out.

Matthew 7:5 says, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

If we are going to lead others, we must have our own lives in order. How can we say one thing but then represent something else? We must have integrity, we cannot be hypocritical if we want to lead. I want to focus on four areas of leading yourself where I believe Eisenhower excelled in his life. Courage, Integrity, Discipline, and Unselfishness.


Lead Yourself First


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *