Leadership Series: Inspiration Behind the Marshall Room

A Lifelong Learner

The namesake of the Marshall Conference room is George C. Marshall. Marshall was a devoted servant leader. His leadership and commitment to working around the globe post-war earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953. The award speech for the prize in 1953 highlighted some of the traits which made Marshall so special; hunger for learning, deep care for those under his direction and the highest levels of integrity.

Marshall was a lifelong learner. He wanted to understand everything he could. From his time at the Virginia Military Institute to learning Chinese while on deployment, Marshall understood that his own development was an important lever in his leadership. His interest in learning extended into how he maintained relationships. Marshall had a reputation for getting to know his soldiers. Even when his contemporaries were attempting to stay detached during wartime.

This understanding came from some early leadership experiences. On remote outposts, it was essential to understand the interest of the soldiers to assign duties that would keep them engaged. This lesson served Marshall well as he quickly moved through the ranks within the military. Traditional promotion paths were based on seniority. Later, this changed to a merit based system thanks to the help of Marshall. This benefited a younger Dwight D. Eisenhower who has previously missed promotions he was best qualified for based on seniority.

High Expectations

Marshall’s deep relationships did not soften his expectations of others. He was known for having exceedingly high expectations for others and even higher for himself. Additionally, his care for others, high expectations, and willingness to serve others are the basis for servant leadership. Long before it would have been known by that name. In a review from a senior officer, it was noted that he would prefer to serve under Marshall in the future when asked if he would like to have him again in his command. Marshall’s servant heart helped him to build relationships across all levels in the military and in his later government and non-profit work.

Leadership Model

The Interstates leadership model outlines four disciplines. These include: Leading Yourself, Living with Purpose, Developing Oneself, Relating with Others and Modeling Servant Leadership. Marshall excelled in most of these areas. He realized that being able to lead himself was the first step in being able to extend that leadership to others. Leading yourself is the first step to leading others well. It is not by accident that much of the focus for EIL1 is looking at yourself in the mirror and working on leading yourself before others. I think that George Marshall would agree with this strategy and would fit in well leading the Interstates way!


Blair Harp, Interstates Asset Manager

Check out our previous Leadership Series posts:

Leadership Series: Inspiration Behind the Wythe Room

Leadership Series: Inspiration Behind the Lincoln Room


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