A legacy leader is one who transforms their surroundings. Legacy leaders make lasting improvements to their communities that benefit future generation. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate why General (GEN) Benjamin 0. Davis Jr. was a legacy leader. This paper will illustrate how GEN Davis’ story has contributed to my own personal growth. Lastly, this paper will illustrate how GEN Davis’ story has helped shape the legacy I want to leave behind. Attributes and Competencies. Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 6-22, Army Leadership, states the attributes a leader must possess are character, presence, and intellect.
Additionally, ADP 6-22 states there are three categories of competencies, leading, developing, and achieving. A leader serves to lead others; develop their environment, themselves, others, and their profession; and to achieve organizational goals. (U. S. Army) Throughout his life, GEN Davis continuously demonstrated the attributes and competencies of a successful leader. Attributes. Character. Values and identity define a leader’s character. Values are a leader’s principles and standards of behavior while identity is a leader’s self-concept.
A leader of integrity adheres to their values and set standards for their followers to emulate. (U. S. Army) GEN Davis was a man of exceptional character. He valued respect and hard work. His character assisted him through four difficult years at the West Point Military Academy. GEN Davis became the first black American to graduate from the academy in the 20th century. While at West Point, GEN Davis endured “silencing,” a West Point practice used to ostracize cadets who committed honor violations but refused to leave the academy. Even though GEN Davis had never committed an honor violation, he was silenced by his fellow adets. GEN Davis lived alone in a two-person dormitory and ate most of his meals alone. Despite the circumstance, he maintained respect for himself and many of his classmates. He developed a strict routine requiring him to wake-up two hours before first-call and study. Due to his hard work and dedication to success he excelled in academics and athletics. After four years, despite mistreatment, he graduated, ranking 35th of 276 cadets in his class. (Davis) Presence. Appearance, demeanor, actions, and words determine a leader’s presence. (U. S.
Army) Six years after graduating from West Point Military Academy, GEN Davis commanded the 99th Pursuit Squadron, the Army Air Force’s first entirely black fighter squadron. After four years commanding the 99th Pursuit Squadron, GEN Davis took command of the 332d Fighter Group. Both the 99th and the 332d saw combat during World War II. GEN Davis distinguished himself as one of the best pilots in both units, never shying away from dangerous missions. GEN Davis led by example. He was a leader of great presence. He instilled a sense of pride and determination to succeed into his subordinates.
During his command, leaders in the U. S. War Department endorsed a letter stating “The negro type has not the proper reflexes to make a first-class fighter pilot. ” (Davis) Under his command, GEN Davis’ men understood they were fighting two wars, one abroad and one at home. They believed if they could perform admirably in overseas combat. mistreatment of black Americans would end, and white Americans would have no choice but to recognize their worth. GEN Davis’ presence was invaluable to his success as a leader. Intellect. Intellect is defined as the mental and social faculties a leader applies in the act of leading.
GEN Davis demonstrated tremendous mental and social intellect throughout his career, particularly in 1943 when he defended the use of black pilots in combat operations to the U. S. War Department. Early in 1943, white leaders from the 33d Fighter Group wrote a report for the U. S. War Department stating the 99th Pursuit Squadron demonstrated insufficient air discipline and had not operated satisfactorily as a team. The letter continued, stating the squadrons formations disintegrated under fire and its pilots lacked aggressiveness.
The writers of the report intended to convince the U. S. War Department to remove the 99th Pursuit Squadron from combat operations and relegated it to coastal patrol missions. GEN Davis was furious. He believed the criticism was unwarranted and unreasonable. He felt the details of the alleged deficiencies should have been brought to his attention upon observation. Despite his frustrations, GEN Davis demonstrated tremendous social intellect while defending his squadron. He personally believed racism was the main motive behind the letter, but he realized calling attention to racism would not have helped his argument.
The inferiority of blacks had long been a prevailing belief in many U. S. government institutions, including the U. S. Military. Instead, GEN Davis used a reasoned approach, presenting facts in a way that would appeal to fairness and win out over racism. After hearing GEN. Davis’ argument, the Army conducted a study into the role of blacks in combat, both in the air and on the ground. Part of the studies final report stated “An examination of the record of the 99th Pursuit Squadron reveals no significant general difference between this squadron and the balance of the P-40 squadrons in the Mediterranean Theatre Operations. (Davis)
Because of GEN Davis’ argument and the resulting study, the Army allowed the 99th Pursuit Squadron to continue combat operations in Europe. Competencies. Leads. Army doctrine states an effective leader’s influence extends beyond the chain of command. GEN Davis played a large role in the desegregation of the U. S. Military. The performance of the 99th Pursuit Squadron and the 332d Fighter Group dispelled myths which stated blacks were inferior and incapable of performing in many combat roles. The units also demonstrated that white and black Soldiers could work side by side without conflict.
In July 1948, President Truman signed an executive order providing for the integration of the armed forces. GEN Davis helped draft blueprint for integration that went into effect in 1949. GEN Davis’ influence extended well beyond his chain of command, effecting the entire military. Develops. Successful leaders operate to improve or sustain high performance in their organizations. They create positive environments that positively affect an organizations climate and culture. In every command GEN Davis held, he instilled a sense of pride in the organizations members.
His subordinates always understood the importance of what they were doing. He had a quiet confidence that was contagious. Achieves. Ultimately, all leaders are judged on their achievements. GEN Davis achieved many successes throughout his career. He commanded the 99th Pursuit Squadron, the 332d Fighter Group, the 51st Fighter Wing, and the 13th Air Force. He served in World War II and the Korean War. He was awarded the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal.
Most importantly he was successful in changing the perceptions of millions of Americans regarding the capability of blacks in combat. Personal and Professional Growth. GEN Davis’ story has had significant influence on my life and identity as a leader. Like GEN Davis, I place high value on respect. I make a conscious effort to always respect myself and others. I try not to let the unwarranted opinions of other people affect the way I see myself. As a young adult, I wanted everyone’s praise, now I understand that not everyone will like me, and I am ok with that. The life of GEN Davis has been an excellent model for me to emulate.
I have learned that if I work as hard as I can toward my goals, outside influences cannot deter me from reaching them. As a leader, I try lead by example and operate with a quiet confidence like GEN Davis. I want my subordinates to take pride in their mission and realize they are part of something larger than themselves. GEN Davis led from the front and never asked his subordinates to do things he was not willing to do. I try to emulate that behavior. If I want my Soldiers to enter combat, I must be willing to lead the patrol. I try to ensure I always perform missions with my Soldiers, regardless of the circumstances.
My Legacy. GEN Davis left a great legacy. He was the first black American to graduate from West Point in the 20th century, he was one of the first black Americans to fly planes in overseas combat, he was partially responsible for the integration of the U. S. armed forces, and he was the first black American Four Star GEN in the U. S. Air Force. I do not believe I can leave a legacy as great as GEN Davis but I would like to influence the lives of a few people. I would like my family and friends to view me as someone who was always there for them in their time of need.
Despite being silenced at West Point, GEN Davis reestablished contact with many of his classmates, years later. He was always willing to lend a helping hand. I want people to remember me as someone they could confide in. Additionally, I would like my subordinates and superiors see me as someone who valued loyalty. Despite mistreatment, GEN Davis was always loyal to the U. S. and to the U. S. armed services. He showed unwavering loyalty to his subordinates. I wish to leave the same legacy. Lastly, like GEN Davis, I would like my peers to see me as a patriot who was honest about the flaws of this country, but loved it nevertheless.
GEN Davis was never shy about calling attention to the racism and bigotry demonstrated by many U. S. citizens. Despite this, he served his country proudly, because he believed in the nations stated principles. Conclusion. GEN Davis’ life had a huge impact on many people, including myself. He was without a doubt a legacy leader. His attributes and competencies helped him reshape society. He was directly responsible for changing the perceptions of millions of people regarding black Americans. GEN Davis’ story has had a direct impact on my life and has influenced my values as a leader. I hope his story can motivate others as it has motivated me.