EDDIE RICKENBACKER: A MODEL FOR LEADERSHIP THEN, AND TODAY
by American sociobiologist, Rebecca D. Costa
John F. Ross' latest book, Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed, tells the thrilling story of race car driver, World War I ace, and entrepreneur Eddie Rickenbacker. The book illustrates how courage defined American culture during the 20th century – exposing the important relationship between heroism and leadership.
Rickenbacker is best known for his military record. He was the most productive ace fighter during World War I with 26 aerial victories to his credit. Following the war, he invented the first vehicle to feature a four-wheel brake system and founded the Rickenbacker Motor Company. In 1927, Rickenbacker purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, successfully operating the racetrack through 1941. During this time, Rickenbacker assumed leadership of Eastern Air Lines as the company's first CEO. Under his stewardship, Eastern not only grew to be highly profitable, but also earned a reputation as an innovator throughout the airline industry.
Rickenbacker is one of the authors of "systematic risk management" – a method used to calculate the dangers associated with untested innovation. When race car driving was becoming a popular sport in America, Rickenbacker used this methodology to assess the risks and opportunities associated with racing – leading him to invent new safety precautions and equipment, driving techniques, etc., which could be adopted industry-wide. As his professional career moved from working with automobiles to commercial airplanes, Rickenbacker perfected his ability to evaluate "risk scenarios."
Ross' research reveals that Rickenbacker's ability to quantify risk was key to this American hero's uncompromising courage. "This was the kind of courage that really built this country," Ross said during a recent interview on The Costa Report. The "leadership, ethical makeup, [and] commitment," demonstrated by Rickenbacker and other icons of the 20th century is, according to Ross, sorely missing in contemporary American culture. Ross concluded his remarks with an astute reflection on the very nature of courage: "It is a whole way of living your life…really getting up and doing it, and not saying 'no' and yet being aware of things around you."
To hear the full interview with award-winning author and adventurer John F. Ross, visit www.thecostareport.com