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Marshal Chuikov’s Effective Leadership, Part 2: Outstanding Leadership Theory

Pictured: Lieutenant-General V. I. Chuikov in Stalingrad, 1943. From the Tsvigun family photo archive.

Previous blog posts have focused on Marshal Chuikov's authenticity—but his character, traits, personality, and indomitable spirit transcend far beyond any one leadership theory. Knowing such a remarkable person as Chuikov existed and having the privilege of researching his life and work bring a high level of personal satisfaction. Celebrating his life and work and helping to preserve his memory is both a genuine joy and a moral duty. His leadership qualities are truly outstanding, and I think he is an influential historical figure and role model for students and professionals around the world to study.

Part 2 of the exploration of Chuikov’s effective leadership behaviors introduces a newer theory. House and Podsakoff constructed their Outstanding Leadership Theory (OTL) on the foundation of Path-Goal Theory and expounded upon a leader’s behaviors to provide a broader list of ten qualities.

Vision: Leaders can communicate their vision in a way that aligns with their followers' values.

Passion and self-sacrifice: When leaders believe fully in their vision, they are willing to make sacrifices to ensure that they achieve the vision.

Confidence, determination, and persistence: The best leaders have full confidence in the vision they have and take whatever action is necessary to bring it to fruition.

Image-building: It is important for leaders to be aware of how their followers perceive them. It is important for them to ensure a positive impression of themselves is given to followers.

Role-modeling: The goal of a leader is to model qualities that their followers will seek to emulate, such as credibility and trustworthiness.

External representation: In an organization, leaders serve as the spokespersons for their teams.

Expectations of and confidence in followers: A leader believes that their followers are capable of succeeding and expects them to achieve this.

Selective motive-arousal: Leaders have the ability to tap into the specific motives of their followers and use them as leverage to propel their team members toward achieving objectives.

Frame alignment: A leader inspires his or her followers to take positive actions by aligning certain interests, values, actions, etc. between each other and their leader.

Inspirational communication: Communicating verbally and non-verbally is one of the ways in which leaders can influence their followers to do the right thing.

In his book Stalingrad Guards Go West, Chuikov shares his thoughts on gaining confidence and loyalty within the ranks. He recognized the need to establish a relationship of trust with his troops through clarity of communication and by his active presence with them in battle. By his committed involvement in commanding at the front with the 8th Guards, his passion and self-sacrifice were made evident through sharing the challenges his soldiers experienced. Vasily Ivanovich inspired his troops through his words of encouragement and served as a role model of bravery and fortitude, which lifted their morale during the toughest times. It became a matter of pride to serve in the 62nd – 8th Guards Army under Chuikov’s command:

“Any tactical technique is only valuable when it is understandable to every soldier, when it can be performed by everyone, from officers to ordinary soldiers. Suvorov once said that ‘every soldier must understand his maneuver.’ These words were not spoken by him by chance. Above a map, in the quiet of a dugout or in an office, the commander of an army, front, or staff officer can invent many tactical techniques with the most complex restructuring, which, from a speculative point of view, may also seem very effective. But they must be necessarily simple, easy to execute, they must be mastered, and not only understood by the immediate performers, the soldiers.

When you are dealing with large masses of people in which there are thousands of different characters, fast, slow, with excellent reaction, with delayed reaction, this is not easy to achieve. The training of the troops is precisely measured by the combat techniques they have mastered. In battle, there are no easy maneuvers because the enemy also does not sleep. He is watching you, can guess your technique if you delayed its execution, and apply a counter-technique a result of which you will suffer heavy losses.

The soldiers of the 8th Guards Army, according to the experience of battles in Stalingrad, believed in their commanders. Therefore, everything new that was introduced into the 8th Guards Army was picked up and studied. This is a big, great thing—the soldier's trust in the commander's plan. It gave rise to a desire to understand and master this plan. For the most brilliant thought of a commander, if the soldier did not believe in it, if he did not understand it, is incapable of engendering anything but confusion” (89).


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