During World War II, the two American military leaders in charge of operations in the Pacific could not have been more different in their personalities and leadership styles. Both General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz were in charge of two different sections of the Pacific, answering to no one but the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They both had incredible success, both in their individual and joint campaigns. Yet, only one of these men became an American celebrity, admired for his amazing leadership skills.
MacArthur was a showman, fond of strong gestures and motivating speeches. Occasionally accused of being a megalomaniac, Macarthur believed very strongly that the Pacific fleet should be united under his authority. He expected his officers to inform him about everything, and he expected his orders to be carried out precisely as he specified them. His opinions on his officers’ advice and reporting abilities are shown very clearly in two of his quotes:
“I realize that advice is worth what it costs – that is, nothing. Expect only five percent of an intelligence report to be accurate. The trick of a good commander is to isolate the five percent.”
On the other hand, Nimitz was said to be a team player, who relied on his staff’s expertise to successfully manage themselves and to provide useful advice when needed. Naval historian Robert Love wrote that Nimitz “had the ability to pick able subordinates and the courage to let them do their jobs without interference. He molded disparate personalities into an effective team.”