U.S. military leaders have a long tradition of showcasing themselves as both capable decision makers at the strategic level and capable soldiers at the tactical level. One famous example is a widely published photograph of General Douglas MacArthur charging through the ocean surf during a World War II beach landing in the Philippines. This scene depicts him as a leader who leads from the front.
Equally famous from World War II involved General Dwight Eisenhower, later U.S. President. On the eve of the D-Day invasion, Eisenhower went to meet with paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division who would be leading the airborne assault.
In his book My Three Years with Eisenhower Captain Harry C. Butcher writes, “We saw hundreds of paratroopers with blackened and grotesque faces, packing up for the big hop and jump. Ike wandered through them, stepping over, packs, guns, and a variety of equipment such as only paratroop people can devise, chinning with this and that one. All were put at ease.“
A contemporary example of a strategic-level leader is General Stanley McChrystal. In June 2006 McChrystal’s team successfully hunted down Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, one of the most wanted men in Iraq. McChrystal reportedly accompanied his men on the mission to retrieve al-Zarqawi’s body. He frequently accompanied soldiers under his leadership on operations.