Guiding Principles of the Tuskegee Airmen

By | March 9, 2019

[March 9, 2019] All great leaders in human history have lived by a set of principles that focused their efforts and pushed them beyond what any normal person would go. Their principles will use different words but what they mean is the same thing; leadership in action. It should then come as no surprise that the famous U.S. Army Tuskegee airmen of World War II had their own as well.

The Tuskegee airmen lived by six guiding principles. The U.S. Department of Defense provided an interview with one of these airmen. In it, airman Frank Macon shared his memories and briefly talks about these principles. It is worth listening to in full (see link, 3:35 minute video).

Here are the six principles the Red Tails lived by:

  1. Aim High
  2. Believe in yourself
  3. Use your brain
  4. Be ready to go
  5. Never Quit
  6. Expect to win

Those of us who study leadership will immediately recognize these as a common theme of this blog and consistent with leadership literature. Getting a leader to discuss their own philosophy of leadership may not be easy but they will always discuss these same ideas that the Tuskegee airmen used. Why? Simple, because these principles work.

Several years ago, I had the honor of being at a Tuskegee Airman Chapter meeting at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey.1 I sat at a table with three of these retired airmen and listened to them explain the difficulties of war and their exploits on the ground with beautiful women. Nothing that they told me involved hardship because of prejudice or discrimination.

Their positive attitude was remarkable because in American society today it is expected that a person identifies with some victim group. To use their own words, these men were not victims, they were warriors. And they were warriors from the strongest nation on Earth. They were proud of it.




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.

15 thoughts on “Guiding Principles of the Tuskegee Airmen

  1. Lynn Pitts

    “The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps (AAC), a precursor of the U.S. Air Force. Trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama, they flew more than 15,000 individual sorties in Europe and North Africa during World War II. Their impressive performance earned them more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and helped encourage the eventual integration of the U.S. armed forces.” from

  2. Tracey Brockman

    The Tuskegee Airmen official website. Worth looking thru the pix to see what they look like today and before. Great site. I recommend everyone go to it and browse.

  3. Doug Smith

    ‘Aim High … Fly-Fight-Win’ is the US Air Force motto. Must have been taken from the Tuskegee flyers. That would be a great way to honor them.

    1. Joe Omerrod

      Funny but true. I wonder what the new Space Force motto will be if the Air Force has already taken “aim high?” My suggestion is “To Infinity and Beyond” … hahahahah, oh wait, that might actually be considered.

      1. Bryan Lee

        Don’t hold your breath, it might actually come to pass sooner than later.

  4. Joe the Aussie

    Another great article for my relaxing weekend reading. 🙂 CHEERS!

  5. Greg Heyman

    Long ago I met some of the crew of the Memphis Belle. For those not in the know, they are the B17 US aircrew that became famous during WWII for completing their 25-mission set and actually survived.

  6. Bryan Lee

    It must have been great to actually meet some of the WW2 Tuskegee combat pilots. I never did and it is unfortunate that so many of our veterans of that war have passed.

    1. AutisticTechie

      Yes, we are all less well of for it too.

    2. Dale Paul Fox

      How they got their name: TUSKEGEE EXPERIMENT: In September 1940, Roosevelt’s White House responded to lobbying campaigns by announcing that the AAC would soon begin training black pilots. For the training site, the War Department chose the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, then under construction. Home to the prestigious Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington, it was located in the heart of the Jim Crow South.

  7. Anita

    Thanks! I see the parallels you’ve written about repeatedly here in your blog. Well done making the connections and it bears repeating the message so that it sinks in.

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