Leadership: Dwight David Eisenhower vs. Donald John Trump

I was rereading Stephen E. Ambrose’s history of President (General) Eisenhower from the perspective of personality. and I came to a paragraph that stopped me cold, causing me to reflect on a great leader vs. that present derelict of a human being that presently occupies the White House.

Now most military experts would not claim Eisenhower to be among the greatest military geniuses of all time, but as a leader and motivator of men and military organizations, even George Washington himself might not have been his equal.

All his life Eisenhower had been a champion of teamwork and cooperation. This outlook made him a natural and successful football coach, and thus as he moved about the country from military post to military post as a young Army officer, long before the advent of WWII, he was in high demand to help coach the local football teams.

In June 1944, it was a case of the right man rising to a position of leadership at just the right time. The allies — the United States, Great Britain, Canada and estranged fragments of other nations — were preparing to launch the world’s greatest amphibious operation against the forces of Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy France. It would involve thousands of ships and planes and hundreds of thousands men and millions of tons of support equipment and supplies.

Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall had decided that General Eisenhower should be the one to lead this colossal undertaking in which initially the allies would be outnumbered ten to one, with allied air superiority and naval gunfire being the only equalizers against Hitler’s legions.

Most likely Eisenhower was chosen to lead the campaign against Germany’s fortress Europe because of Ike’s unique ability to cause man of diverse backgrounds to work well together. Both the British and American high commands thought themselves far superior to the other. And since as that old campaign saying goes, everyone likes Ike, it made Eisenhower the natural preference to direct an alliance full of prima donna generals and admirals, those needing to pull together against a ruthless enemy.

Here are the words that hit me, causing me to think about the differences between Eisenhower and Trump regarding leadership.

Ambrose writes, taking about the joint allied high command:

“The officers could study and analyze a problem and make recommendations, but they could not decide and order.

Someone had to give the bureaucracies direction; someone had to be able to take all the information they gathered, make sense out of it, and impose order on it; someone had to make certain that each part meshed into the whole; someone had to decide; someone had to take the responsibility and act.

It all came down to Eisenhower. He was the funnel through which everything passed”

All his life, as with every great leader, Eisenhower had trained himself to take responsibility — to lead.

Now lets contrast Ike’s taking full command of a task and the Donald’s response to the Corona pandemic: It’s not my responsibility, says the ‘leader” of the free world. Let the states handle it. Besides it’s all China’s fault.

Then, too, Eisenhower had enormous concern and empathy for the front line troops. On the other hand, unless it is written out for him to read, Trump is too busy patting himself on the back to ever show any concern for the front line doctors and nurses that are risking their lives to save others.

Yes, Ambrose’s words reminded me of the best and worst examples of American leadership. Eisenhower successfully did the work of a leader. Trump desperately tries to put on a show of leadership, but fails miserably.

Eisenhower was organization personified. Trump is chaos personified.

Jim Ridgway, Jr. military writer — author of the American Civil War classic, “Apprentice Killers: The War of Lincoln and Davis.” Christmas gift, yes!

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