Memo to the boss: don’t do my job for me
In August 1942, General Bernard Montgomery arrived in North Africa to take command of the British 8th Army. He began replacing the senior officers, and one of his new corps commanders was Brian Horrocks. Montgomery put Horrocks in charge of stopping German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s last offensive in what is now known as the Bat- tle of Alam el Halfa. The British defences held and Rommel was forced to withdraw.
Horrocks was understandably pleased with himself until a liaison officer from 8th Army headquarters brought a letter from Montgomery. It began: “Well done – but you must remember that you are now a corps commander and not a divisional commander ...” It went on to list four or five mistakes Horrocks had made, mainly around interfering with the tasks of his subordinates.
Horrocks realised that Montgomery was right, so he called him and said, “Thank you very much.” Horrocks went on to become one of the most successful generals of World War II.
Fast forward to 2012. I was leading a