Leadership, History, and Mistakes

Mistakes are one of the most powerful engines of history. Think about it–the act of making a mistake is behind many of the influential moments of history. Tomorrow, December 7, is the anniversary of a great mistake, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Three mistakes lay behind this event. First, Japanese leaders believed the attack would cripple American military capability and undermine the timetable of the inevitable U.S. military response. Didn’t really happen. Second, Japan’s allies, Adolph Hitler for example, believed the attack would crush what he regarded as the cowardly American spirit. Wrong again. Third, on the American side, most American military and political leaders regarded an attack on Pearl Harbor as unimaginable for either logistic or political reasons. Off the mark. Leaders with facts and figures were involved in each of these three mistakes. A major part of history is the lashing and lurching from one mistake to the next.