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Posted on Feb 25, 2014

Values Quotes – Eddie Rickenbacker on Structure

Today’s quote is from Eddie Rickenbacker, the famous American WWI fighter ace, who also was the longtime head of Eastern Air Lines.

An insightful quote from Rickenbacker is:

“The four cornerstones of character on which the structure of this nation was built are: Initiative, Imagination, Individuality and Independence.”

Those are 4 great values that also define strong leadership. But I believe Rickenbacker was also highlighting the value of structure.

As a differentiating value, Structure means a cohesive whole built upon distinct parts.

Rickenbacker’s quote highlights the 4 distinct parts that make up the structure of America, as he saw it. He also lived these 4 parts personally. For instance:

  • He had the initiative to fight to gain permission to become a pilot in the U.S. Air Service when he lacked the necessary academic qualifications. Consider that he then went on to have the most aerial victories in WWI.
  • He had the imagination to try new things, from becoming a racecar driver to flying planes in aerial combat, to starting an automotive company, to building a hugely successful airline.
  • With his individuality, there was no one else like him. Yet his ability to lead others continually shone through, including various near-death disasters, such as the time he and his crew crashed into the ocean and were adrift at sea for 24 days – and survived!
  • He was also fiercely independent, openly opposing Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, even if that meant the media would stop allowing him to broadcast his opinions.

So if you’re trying to create some structure around you or in your organization, consider Eddie Rickenbacker’s statement. Define the distinct parts and then live them yourself.


Today’s value was selected from the “Harmony-Order” category, based on the e-book Developing Your Differentiating Values.