Cracker Jack Military Leadership

[May 2, 2021]  Wilson Cox, a childhood friend of mine, seemed to eat nothing but Cracker Jack caramel corn.  Those over the age of 40 know what I mean when the “prize” that came in each box was small, cheap, and meant for little kids.  If you’ve run into this Cracker Jack kind of military leadership, you’re not alone.  It’s insignificant, cut-rate, and good for not much.

Weak, haphazard Cracker Jack leadership is making a comeback.  Generalizing a bit, this style of leadership is what we called “fly-by-night” or “quirky” leadership a few decades ago.  Over time, I have seen modern military leadership evolve into a fake, distorted, thumbnail style version that substitutes for the old gritty leadership of old.

We are now witnessing a takeover.  Cracker Jack leadership is becoming the norm.  Older, often retired senior military officers and enlisted are talking about our junior military leaders’ halfhearted attitudes and semi-conscious motivation.  What is worse is their lack of fundamental patriotic values and virtues that helped make leaders want to improve upon their leader attributes.

Confidently, these junior leaders talk about their leadership concepts as getting people to do things, but only if they want to do it.  Their drive is lower, their focus is less, and their view of America is no longer one of exceptionalism but one of a nation with a questionable history.

The extent to which I might have had something to do with spreading this trash is precisely zero.   Some of us have tried to make amends by telling the story of military leadership, highlighting those things left out of the Cracker Jack leadership, correcting their errors, and giving better insights.

We wanted to be part of the solution, but we have failed.  This takeover of our military institutions is a more significant threat than initially imagined.  Cracker Jack leadership is very attractive, and everybody, regardless of skill and experience, can succeed.  It’s a one-size fit all style of management, not leadership.  And it’s easier – less responsibility and less work.

I fear that this infectious ideological disease is spreading among the most senior leaders in our military.  I see it now in Darryl A. Williams (Superintendent of West Point) and Lloyd Austin (now the current Secretary of Defense), and many others.  These generals are more interested in getting rid of traditional gender roles, changing pronouns, and defeating patriarchy than defeating America’s enemies.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “Cracker Jack Military Leadership

  1. Jonathan B.

    Very funny, Gen. Satterfield. Thanks for bringing back a few memories from my dad’s childhood. He told me a lot about those times and how he and his friends ate Cracker Jacks and many other sugar laden candies.

    1. Doc Blackshear

      I remember too. What I remember also from my dad was that he had an idiot for a boss and the boss gave him such a hard time. I think my dad’s boss might have had a bit of this “cracker jack” leadership as well.

  2. corralesdon

    Sad commentary on the state of our US military. How fast they went “woke” is amazing and unfortunate. Such an example that shows how important moral leadership is today.

  3. Max Foster

    Here is another characteristic of Cracker Jack leadership. They refuse to or unwilling to take a stand on any important issue. Case in point, President Joe Biden, who doesn’t take a stand on difficult issues. He avoids saying anything, for example, about the crisis at the border, on abortion, on transgender men competing in women’s sports, etc. Why? Because he is beholden to leftist radicals and he knows good Americans are opposed to him on the issue. Better to say nothing and have people wonder what he believes that say something and be criticized.

    1. H. M. Longstreet

      Anyone surprised that resident Biden can’t take a stand. He is barely conscious anyway.

    2. Gil Johnson

      Biden and Harris, two of the Keystone Cops. Another old reference that you must be over 50 to understand. Okay, but look it up. Nuff said.

      1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

        Keystone Kops, an incredibly incompetent police force, dressed in ill-fitting, unkempt uniforms, that appeared regularly in Mack Sennett’s silent-film slapstick farces from about 1912 to the early 1920s. They became enshrined in American film history as genuine folk-art creations whose comic appeal was based on a native irreverence for authority.

  4. Joe Omerrod

    Gen. Satterfield, I’m glad that you are starting to name names in your blog. Gen Williams and Austin are two classic examples of failed very senior leaders. They reject current military values for “woke” and “evolving” values. They do this so that the PC mob doesn’t come to their house.

  5. Audrey

    I have found that junior leaders (usually very young) are prone to a style of leadership that is more direct. This might be called “Cracker Jack” leadership by Gen. Satterfield, but I just call it poor leadership. I don’t believe the description here is any longer used.

    1. Randy Goodman

      But Cracker Jack is very descriptive and most know what it means. Some will not.

  6. Greg Heyman

    Great article. I’m a bit young to remember this candy but my dad said it was his favorite (or one of his favorites). He blames those days on his bad teeth. Too much sugar. Any way, he notes that it never created a problem in his household and his mom encouraged him to buy boxes of it to share.

  7. Guns are Us

    I well remember the old Cracker Jack boxes with the small and highly anticipated prize inside. I was always disappointed but wanted another box to eat so I could get another, maybe maybe maybe, some great prize. Their marketing strategy was fantastic.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      Yes, and I too loved the caramel popcorn inside. It stuck to my teeth and all my friends shared it with us. Sweet and gooey.

    2. JT Patterson

      Ha Ha, brings back childhood memories. I tried to eat a box of it a couple of years ago and remembered my time as a kid. Wow, a box of sweets sparking memories.

    3. Yusaf from Texas

      I think most of us do remember. I also remember many of my bosses who were also cracker jack leaders – simple, insignificant, and meant for small-minded peoples.


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