A Challenge to Great Leaders

By | October 25, 2023

[October 25, 2023]  Folks in America are quick to judge the ability of leaders to lead based on their politics or their mannerisms rather than their ability.  This bias, so inherent in us Americans puts us at a great disadvantage on the international stage where highly intelligent, experienced, and motivated leaders influence our view of the world, and our actions within it.  There is one person that I highly respected that helped me be a better leader, and that person was the U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Some will call him names and brush aside his ideas but that would be another mistake and they are put at a serious disadvantage.  I see this in the current American White House in the selection of yes-men in significant positions of influence and power.  Take for example, Lloyd Austin III, past four-star general, who has been late to the game ever since he was appointed.  I have a bias here, to be clear, and that bias is that senior leaders must be highly competent.  SECDEF Austin is out of his depth; a judgment based on his lead-from-behind and poor leadership ability.

A few years ago, I wrote an article with a couple of quotes from Rumsfeld (see link here) and how it was crucial to balance competing views or ideologies that can color our perceptions and decision making.  We must also balance competing resources, in particular when unpopular but necessary prioritization is important.  Rumsfeld has an off-putting and blunt but effective way of carrying out his duties as the SECDEF.

Here are some of my favorite quotes that Rumsfeld made:

“If a prospective Presidential approach can’t be explained clearly enough to be understood well, it probably hasn’t been thought through well enough.  If not well understood by the American people, it probably won’t ‘sail’ anyway.  Send it back for further thought.” – Donald Rumsfeld\

“Don’t think of yourself as indispensable or infallible.  As Charles De Gaulle said, the cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men.” – Donald Rumsfeld

And, here are some guidance that he gives to his incoming staff to help them navigate the treacherous waters of senior politics:

“Don’t be a bottleneck.  If a matter is not a decision for the President or you, delegate it.  Force responsibility down and out.  Find problem areas, add structure and delegate.  The pressure is to do the reverse.  Resist it.” – Donald Rumsfeld

“Our task, your task… is to try to connect the dots before something happens.  People say, ‘Well, where’s the smoking gun?’ Well, we don’t want to see a smoking gun from a weapon of mass destruction.” – Donald Rumsfeld

“Members of the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate are not there by accident.  Each managed to get there for some reason.  Learn what it was, and you will know something important about them, about our country and about the American people.” – Donald Rumsfeld

“Congress, the press, and the bureaucracy too often focus on how much money or effort is spent, rather than whether the money or effort actually achieves the announced goal.” – Donald Rumsfeld

“Many people around the President have sizeable egos before entering government, some with good reason.  Their new positions will do little to moderate their egos.” – Donald Rumsfeld

As you can tell, Rumsfeld is a realist.  His words of advice are spot on.


Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “A Challenge to Great Leaders

  1. Eddie Gilliam

    Excellent article. Leadership. Leader is the root word of Leadership. A leader is person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.
    “the leader of a protest group”. What qualities do leaders have to be effective. They must good listener, why because ther doesn’t know everything. To many so call leader fall into that trap, not wanting to listen to the people. We need people to lead. Take for example Moses listening to his father in law Jethro when he saw Moses was trying to do all the counseling of all the people issues. This leds burn out. Jethro told Moses get wise men under him to deal with the smaller issues of the people. Moses obeyed. Leader don’t be afraid to let your staff help you lead the business or group. Next point leader will not be a yes man. This type of leader is not effective. I know that first hand from my military career of those who was my leadership. Leader are willing to be a team player. They don’t want all the credit when things going well, nor do they blame others for lack of success. Keep your ego in check.

  2. Randy Goodman

    Indeed, being a great leader comes with many challenges. What this means also, and what Gen. Satterfield is getting at, is that the great leader must have other great leaders working for him and keeping them focused on the direction that things must go. Otherwise, they go off on their own and screw things up. US President Biden has zero great leaders working for him. And on top of that, he is corrupt and incompetent.

    1. The Golly Woman from EHT

      Nailed it, Randy. Sad for America and the West that they have such weak leaders. Weak leaders make the world a more dangerous place to live and work.

  3. Wesley Brown

    We no longer have great leaders in America. Just a bunch of wimps like slo-Joe Biden.

      1. Pastor John

        🙏 As we should 🙏
        Great leaders are not born, they learn it.

      2. Eye Cat

        I agree with you all. Let us help our good leaders and push back on those who show obvious signs of impairment or evil doings. US Pres Joe Biden comes to mind immediately. He is awful and leading us down the path of WWIII.

  4. Harry Donner

    Good man, Rumsfeld. We need more realists like him in government. Doesn’t take a bunch of horseshit to get the typical American nutjob thrown off their throne.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Good comment, Harry. And lots of good ideas today on this forum by Gen. Satterfield. ✔

  5. Dale Paul Fox

    A lot to be said about this article and perhaps you can, Gen.Satterfield, expand upon this idea soonest. I really do like the idea. We in America are too concerned about appearances rather than the reality in front of our noses. We need to get off our high-horse and rumage around on the planet to see for ourselves what is going on.

  6. Winston

    Great advice and a challenge to us all, not just to great leaders or to those who aspire to great leadership. That is why Pres Biden is so awful. He doesn’t even know where he is.
    “If a prospective Presidential approach can’t be explained clearly enough to be understood well, it probably hasn’t been thought through well enough. If not well understood by the American people, it probably won’t ‘sail’ anyway. Send it back for further thought.” – Donald Rumsfeld

  7. ZB Two Two

    Great article demonstrating this in PowerLineBlog:
    Bari Weiss is one of America’s top independent journalists, with a popular podcast. We have followed her work here for a while. The Gazan invasion of Israel, with its attendant horrors, seems to have pushed her over the edge. Read the whole thing; it is eloquent:

    Journalist Bari Weiss, a Jewish liberal who quit the New York Times over its anti-Semitism, writes:

    ”As a Democrat who has been left homeless, who is now definitely in the center but probably leaning increasingly right, I am left yet again with an appreciation, despite the… pic.twitter.com/AuhPs87oyv

    — American Woman (@AmericanFWoman) October 23, 2023

    Please continue “leaning increasingly right,” Bari. You will be welcome on our side.

  8. Bernie

    If one cannot look beyond the weirdness of a leader to see their true abilities, then that person cannot fully function. People are not perfect.

    1. Qassim

      Get your copy of Gen. Satterfield’s books today and leave a message on Amazon.

      Please read my books:

      “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
      “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).


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