Leadership and Accountability
“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.”
The statement above was written by General Eisenhower before the D-Day Invasion. That statement was intended to be made public if the Invasion failed. Thousands of men and women were involved in the planning, training, and execution of the Invasion. The list of variables that could have prevented success would boggle the mind. Random acts of chance, weather, equipment, and especially enemy efforts all had the opportunity to prevent the plan from succeeding. In spite of all these factors that could have prevented success, General Eisenhower decided that failure would be his burden to bear.
How many public leaders would publicly accept that sort of accountability for any action they were involved in? I cannot think of any. General Eisenhower lived, trained and was educated in a time where personal accountability was a quality that was important.
“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”
This is another quote attributed to General Eisenhower. He identifies Integrity as the supreme quality for leadership. A leader cannot be effective unless he or she has integrity. Integrity was taken for granted in the officer corps that General Eisenhower lived in as a junior officer and then as a senior military leader.
Integrity, Responsibility, Accountability are qualities that are missing in our public leaders. As we remember the significance and the impact of June 6 1944, we need to think about the qualities of the men and women who made that day so important and so successful.