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Lyautey , man of management before the letter 2/2

General Military Review No. 54
History & strategy
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After the baccalaureate, his passage in Sainte-Geneviève in a preparatory class for the grandes écoles marked him. It is true that at "Ginette", run by the Jesuits, social studies were given a prominent place in the preparation of exams and thus served to train men and not just brains. It is there that he really becomes aware of what the "social sense" can be. During his stay in Saint-Cyr, on the occasion of a conference by Albert de Mun, he discovered social Catholicism.

From reflection to action

Drawing on the influence of his readings, his encounters and his ideal of a young officer, he developed a style of leadership that took the man into account. He was impatient to put his ideas forward and have them adopted. Thus, in 1891, at the age of 37, he wrote Du rôle social de l'officier dans le service universel (The Social Role of the Officer in Universal Service). It is the fruit of his reflections and his experience because he had already put into practice this new concept, which was considered revolutionary at the time. Today, one would describe this text scorned by those who have not read it as "politically incorrect".

While addressing his peers, Lyautey targets all those who have human responsibilities and lays the foundations for management with a human face: "What interest would there not be in the officer being animated above all by the personal love of the humble, penetrated by the new duties that are being imposed on him?What would not be the advantage if, above all, the officer were animated by the personal love of the humble, imbued with the new duties which are imposed on all social leaders, convinced of his role as an educator, determined, without modifying the letter of the functions he performs, to enliven them by the spirit of his mission. »

Lyautey resolved the eternal conflict of letter and spirit, for his part, by being flexible, that is to say, by refusing once and for all to bend blindly to the new rules.The eternal conflict of letter and spirit, Lyautey resolved it, for his part, by flexibility, that is, by refusing once and for all to bow blindly to ready-made formulas, by fearing above all to be systematic, by defending the primacy of intelligence and reason over established rules. To those who, on several occasions, have accused Lyautey of disobedience, it is easy to retort that all he ever did was to intelligently interpret the orders he received.

Doing well and letting it be known

With regard to Captain Lyautey's social achievements, it should be noted that he waited for the most opportune moment to be the most visible and legible, that of his command time at the head of the 1st squadron of the 4th mounted chasseurs regiment at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Cultivated, using his charm, speaking with ease, his presence was quickly disputed in order to intervene and animate the Parisian literary salons. For him, it is a real media relay.

Very quickly, his squadron is reputed to be the model squadron of the French army. There he created the first refectory, the first soldier's home with a library and courses for the illiterate. New relationships were established between the cadres and the troop. We talk about the well-being of the soldiers, their training, their education. They were even made to participate in an elected advisory commission: never before seen!

It's all happening. At the request of Eugène-Melchior de Vogüé for the Revue des Deux Mondes, Captain Lyautey wrote the text published in the issue of 15 March 1891 under the title Du rôle social de l'officier dans le service universel. He delivers his analysis, the fruit of his experience and his prospective reflections without any care. His irruption on the public scene, despite the anonymity of this article, has the effect of a bomb.

It is explosive in many ways:

- it attacks the practices in his milieu, the army, and proposes progress marked by humanism;

- it transgresses the rules of the "great mute". Later, Lyautey will confirm his point of view on this subject: "Here is a lieutenant who knows how to write! But what is to be saluted is above all his courage. It takes courage to come out of silence, and he does so with a sincere and measured tone;

- He extends his words to "all social leaders", as he puts it, because he defines the basis of a management with a human face as opposed to a dehumanized and stress-generating management, which he will also confirm later on: "There is only one way forward, that of social work, only one rule: to act in a spirit of justice and respect, the only one that liberates man;

- Finally, it requires reactions and positions to be taken by both the military and civilians, which will lead to new and sincere friendships and lasting enmities often tinged with jealousy or sectarianism.

More than exemplary, Le rôle social is therefore a founding text and a reference that has not aged a day.

To better interpret his attitude, behaviour and reactions, there is nothing like highlighting a few quotations from his many writings:

- "He who is only a soldier is only a bad soldier, he who is only a teacher is only a bad teacher, he who is only an industrialist is only a bad industrialist. The complete man, the one who wants to fulfil his full destiny and be worthy of leading men, to be a leader in a word, must have his lanterns open to all that is the honour of humanity;

- I believe with such faith that the value of the man of action increases tenfold if he knows how to exteriorize himself, to keep in touch with all the manifestations of human thought, not to specialize in his compartment. Nothing is more odious and dangerous than professional deformation. All my effort tends to escape from it. So it is with joy that I cultivate the sympathies that come to me from outside the army.

Management with a human face

His intuition mixed with his sense of man, of the individual as a unique being, allows him to know from each one what he can give back and how far we can push him to give his maximum. He feels it, he guesses it. He judges, he gauges and he classifies: "There are two categories of beings, those who radiate: the elite; those who absorb: the parasites. I have never surrounded myself only with the radiant ones. They have multiplied my strength tenfold," hence the legitimate pride of those around me.

Lyautey needs to be admired, to be "swallowed" as he says. He doesn't seduce to please, he seduces to dominate and to make men give him the maximum, to the point of fanaticism. He conquers hearts, he has around him a team that devotes itself body and soul to the "boss", who proclaims: "Team spirit triumphs over all difficulties. »

He has a highly developed spirit of synthesis. He deliberates after having gathered as much documentation and opinions as possible and decides coldly. He has been described as impulsive and violent. He shows himself as such in word and deed in his terrifying explosions, but never in actions involving his responsibility as a leader.

He uses a spectacular process: he is an actor and puts himself on stage in order to provoke reactions, to show his passion in order to share it and even to gain prestige. If someone has paid the price for this show, he knows how to use his power of seduction to put it back on stage with skill.

At Lyautey, there is also a dominant principle that governs everything else, which is the will and even the obsession to succeed, which generates a constant struggle against the forces of inertia and the inclinations of the desire to succeed. It condemns action for action that is only agitation. Action only makes sense in order to achieve. He has the culture of results but with concern for the human factor.

"The greatest proof of esteem that can be given to the people you have the honour of leading is not to sycophant them, but to speak to them seriously, showing them things as they are.

"The goal, always the goal."

For him, the most important thing in the conception and conduct of action is "the subordination of means to the end". It is the result that counts because it is the result that creates and he is eager to create. Didn't he go so far as to say: "Achieve first, then regularize". The famous "What is it all about? Foch's famous "What is it all about?" translates for him into this questioning: "What is it about doing? ».

But, before acting to achieve, there are two phases to be respected: decision making and the expression of order. In decision-making, boldness and prudence are combined: "One can never anticipate enough unexpected events. It is preceded by a personal reflection and a collective reflection during which Lyautey, who deliberates aloud, presses his collaborators:

"Well, what do you think? The solution? What solution? "It should be noted that Lyautey practiced brain storming in many circumstances and long before the letter: "Like a spark, the idea is born from the shock".

The decision must be taken in time, that is to say without delay or haste, taking one's time if circumstances permit, but without losing time either, and in any case in calm and serenity. The more serious the situation, the calmer and more determined Lyautey is: "A will, a continuation, a continuity, a decision to break everything, that's how all great things are made; obstinacy is the main virtue of all builders."

The order must bring about the result, therefore all the acts necessary to achieve it. In order to do this, the subordinate levels must be able to understand it in its form and execute it in spirit. In Lyautey's idea, they must be able to appropriate it as if they had been involved in the decision and integrate the obligation of result.

The Right Balance

"I conceive the command only in the direct, personal form of the presence on the spot, of the incessant tour, of the implementation through discourse, through personal seduction, through the visual and oral transmission of faith, of enthusiasm". His tours were organized so as not to waste time, to see and learn as much as possible, and he did not hesitate to make direct contact with the population outside of his entourage, outside of protocol.

There are still two points to remember from Lyautey's teaching: the control of the chief on the spot and the delegation. Lyautey knew how to surround himself with choice collaborators and knew how to give them responsibilities. There are basically two ways of doing this: either by delegating in distinct attributions by subject, by theme, by topic, or by decentralizing all attributions by zone, by region. It is this second method that dominates at Lyautey.

Delegation should enable the manager to save time and free his mind to devote himself better to his job as a leader: thinking, deciding, coordinating, controlling and doing nothing of what can be done by a subordinate. It is also a means of creating leaders below one's own level. "Ah! initiative, of all the active virtues, is the one I appreciate the most, it is the one that, in my sphere of action, both among those I can simply help and among those I command, I prefer to meet above all".

How many times Lyautey has spoken out against the so-called leader who does everything and the one who says he is overwhelmed. He said he needed to rest less the physical than the mental and he had learned never to waste a minute, never to do anything that was useless or simply mediocre, to be organized, meticulous and methodical.

Colonel Gallieni had taught him to relax, to take a "brain bath" every day before dinner. It was "that hour devoted to walking with a companion, chatting, without being allowed to utter a word of service", during which, once the work was done, they refreshed their minds by talking about literature or philosophy.

Woe to details," said Voltaire, "it is a vermin that kills great works. Lyautey was convinced of this. Yet in some cases the chief can and should be interested in details, because success may depend upon them, as may the judgment passed upon him. In fact, Lyautey was meticulous in his handling of official ceremonies and the staging of large receptions.

In conclusion, I offer a quote from Lyautey, all the terms of which deserve to be weighed. More than a road map, it should appeal to officers as well as to "all social leaders. This reminder of guidelines and objectives to be achieved reinforces our belief that Hubert Lyautey, Marshal of France, is indeed "an example, a symbol, a reference". It is in this sense that he can still "serve France".

"A leader, one who begins by serving and obeying in order to learn how to command, and the fact of serving and obeying in the best possible way is already an act of leadership, since it means setting an example. But also, he who serves and obeys does not abdicate, neither the independence of his judgment nor the free play of his initiative, who observes and prepares himself, he who, later on, by always giving the example of the die, is the one who is the first to serve and obey.He will dare, when his conscience and the situation make it his duty to do so, to freely submit his opinion, an opinion which is always welcomed, even by worthy leaders. »

Title : Lyautey , man of management before the letter 2/2
Author (s) : le colonel (er) Pierre Geoffroy Président de la Fondation Lyautey