A Great Definition of Leadership from a Great American Leader

By Joe Darby

But Today, It Fits No One

You’ve probably heard of Gen. Jimmy Doolittle. Or at least his name is probably familiar to you. If you’re a history buff, you may know a lot about him.

The general, a good man as well as a great one, was one of the remarkable American leaders of the 20th century,, a century in which our nation produced so many men and women of top quality. Doolittle once gave as good a definition of leadership as you are ever likely to find. I’ll get to that it a moment. But what is so sad, is that none of our so called leaders of today even come close to living up to the general’s description of a leader.

Before we examine my contention on that point, let me take a moment to tell you briefly about Doolittle’s remarkable life, so you can know a little more about him. He spent his earlier childhood in the incredibly rough frontier towns of Alaska, in the first decade of the 1900s, having to fight his way through life almost every day.

After his family moved to California, he began to fly, became one of our nation’s top test pilots and was instrumental in helping develop many improvements to aircraft during the 1920s and ’30s. He joined the military and quickly moved up through the ranks.

He first gained international fame when he led the famous raid on the Japanese homeland in April 1942, flying normally land-based B-25 bombers off of an Navy aircraft carrier. The raid did wonders for the morale of the American people, who were still dealing with the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and the loss of the Philippines. But Doolittle’s top job in World War Ii was as leader of the 8th Air Force, based in England, the portion of our forces that was primarily responsible for bombing Germany and helping to win World War II. Doolittle came up with many innovations that made the US air war more efficient and effective and saved many lives of Americans who flew our big bombers.

His name was a household word by the end of the war, one of our most respected military leaders. So, let me get to the general’s definition of leadership, which he provided in an interview with a military historian a few years before he died in 1993. Here it is:

“Integrity, morality, understanding, accepting responsibility for your actions and providing encouragement and praise when necessary.”

That pretty much sums up a great leader. But who among our recent leaders can live up to those standards? Certainly not Donald Trump, who had no integrity or morality and never accepted any responsibility whatsoever for the failures of his administration. Anything that went wrong was always someone else’s fault. Trump, in his own eyes was perfect. And the only praise he ever doled out was to someone that toadied up to him and kissed his rear. If someone made the tiniest criticism of Trump, they were immediately declared evil and stupid. Is that the behavior we want in a leader?

And what about Joe Biden. He too lacks integrity and is just as willing as Trump to pass on the buck of responsibility to someone else. Or he simply denies that anything is wrong. The evacuation of Afghanistan actually went quite well, our economy is in pretty good shape and there is no crisis at our southern border. Just ask Joe. He’ll tell you. Does he take any responsibility for our present chaos and woes? Well, heck no. On the integrity issue – remember that years ago he was involved in a plagiarism scandal in which he copied the work of another person but made it appear it was his own. So his bad habits are obviously life-long.

I said earlier that there is no one today who can live up to Doolittle’s definition of leadership. There is one man who has caught my attention that could fulfill the role, though he hasn’t yet been tested on a national stage. That man is Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas. He is a solid conservative but not a far-right radical, he is intelligent and seems to be a gentleman of integrity. There is something of a quiet dignity about him, the opposite of Trump. I honestly cannot see anyone on the Democratic side with whom I would feel comfortable leading our country at this time. We need good leaders on both sides. But I’m afraid if Gen. Doolittle were alive today, he would have to look very hard to find a good as well as a great person who could lead us.