Leading Blog






05.24.21

5 Leadership Lessons: The Bomber Mafia

The Bomber Mafia

THE IDEA of conducting an air war was born from the traumatic and tragic lessons learned from World War 1. The goal was to help make the deadly, wasteful, pointless conflict on the ground obsolete with precision bombing. The precision part was the problem until Carl Norden came along and invented a bombsight for more accuracy. It would begin to change how we fought wars. Strategic bombing from high altitude, in daylight, with precision bombing to make war less lethal.

The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, A Temptation, and The Longest Night of the Second World War by Malcolm Gladwell is a story about “the messiness of our intentions.” The Bomber Mafia was born from new technology—airpower. It was their belief that “We don’t have to slaughter the innocent, burn them beyond recognition, in pursuit of our military goals. We can do better.” Their belief did not die but was put on hold in the early morning hours of March 10, 1945, on what became the longest night of World War 2. On that night, 279 B-29’s dropped incendiary bombs on Tokyo, Japan.

Gladwell asks, “How is it that, sometimes, for any number of unexpected and random reasons, technology slips away from its intended path?” The Bomber Mafia held to their belief. “They persisted, even in the face of technology’s inevitable misdirection, even when abandoning their dream offered a quicker path to victory, even when Satan offered them all the world if only they would renounce their faith. Without persistence, principles are meaningless. Because one day your dream may come true. And if you cannot keep that dream alive in the interim, then who are you?”

Operation Meetinghouse

1  “I like the idea that someone could push away all the concerns and details that make up everyday life and just zero in on one thing—the thing that fits the contours of his or her imagination. Obsessives lead us astray sometimes. Can’t see the bigger picture. Serve not just the world’s but also their own narrow issues. But I don’t think we get progress or innovation or joy or beauty without obsessives.”

2  Professor Stephen McFarland, when asked if Carl Norden, the inventor of the bombsight, was a genius, said, “He would tell you that only God invents; humans discover. So for him, is was not genius. He would say he’s just one who discovers the greatness of God, the creations of God; that God reveals truth through people who are willing to work hard and to use their minds to discover God’s truths.”

3  “Revolutions are invariably group activities. Rarely does someone start a revolution alone. Revolutions are birthed in conversation, argument, validation, proximity, and the look in your listener’s eye that tells you you’re on to something. Conversation starts to seed a revolution. The group starts to wander off in directions in which no one individual could ever have conceived of going all by himself or herself.”

4  Frederick Lindemann (Lord Cherwell) was Winston Churchill’s best friend. He excelled where Churchill didn’t. Churchill stored anything to do with the quantitative world in Lindemann’s head. “Transactive Memory, which is the observation that we don’t just store information in our minds or in specific places. We also store memories and understanding in the minds of the people we love. You don’t need to remember your child’s emotional relationship to her teacher because you know your wife will; you don’t have to remember how to work the remote because your daughter will. That’s transactive memory. Little bits of ourselves reside in other people’s minds.”

5  What happens to true believers when their convictions are confronted by reality? “The more you invest in a set of beliefs—the greater the sacrifice you make in service of that conviction—the more resistant you will be to evidence that suggests that you are mistaken. You don’t give up. You double down.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:25 AM
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