# 37 Duty


"Something that one is required to do by either moral or legal obligation." - Dictionary.com

"An action or a task required by a person's position or occupation" - Dictionary.com

"Duty is never simple, never easy and rarely obvious" - Jean Dutourd

"The first duty of a Soldier or good citizen is to attend to the safety and interest of his country." - Thomas J. 'Stonewall' Jackson

The Army speaks of duty in almost hallowed terms. There is a reverential sense that 'doing your duty' brings with it a comforting warmth knowing that one has performed their required tasks and done so in support of a larger cause.

However, Duty happens in both large and small ways. And, most certainly, is not the sole purview of those of us in the military. In all walks of life, from the single parent who continuously strives to provide a better life for their children, to the hospice worker who eases the suffering of the aged, ill or infirmed, to the teachers who dedicate themselves to educating future generations, everyday people fulfill their duty. We all do. We are spouses, children, parents, community members. We have obligations to fulfill in those various roles. Most are not really contractual either. Most stem from the personal associations we have and our expectations of ourselves and others.

In many ways though the military has co-opted the word and made it their own. When people speak of servicemembers you often here how "So and so always did his/her duty." We seem to have given it a new depth of meaning that applies only to a profession where someone is, or could be, placed in mortal danger on a routine basis. You hear it applied to policemen and firefighters this way as well.

My point is that Duty happens everywhere, everyday and in every manner. It's the little things that matter. It's what happens when someone moves beyond their legal contractual binds and does something 'because it is right'.

I found Dutourd's quote above to be very interesting. "Duty is never simple, never easy, and rarely obvious." Doing your duty is never simple. It requires the constant balancing of priorities, people, and roles. I am a husband and a father. There are times when I have failed in my duties as both of those in order to attend to the requirements of my profession. Times I have failed my profession in order to attend to my duties as a member of a family. And now we find ourselves in a place where many leaders seem unable to balance these various requirements and are struggling to find a middle ground. The 'duty' to prepare for the next deployment vs the 'duty' to dedicate as much time as possible to my family. Both require 100% of my energy, my devotion, and my abilities. But, I am always forced to choose. One more hour spent in training may be the difference in whether one of my Soldiers lives or dies. One more hour checking and rechecking a unit's preparedness may have a great impact on the outcome of my little portion of the war. But, at what cost? Am I expected to sacrifice my family? To lose those thing that ultimately provide me my greatest joy and comfort? How can I balance both? How can I do my duty?

I remember a time about 3 years or so after I was married when I was coming into my reenlistment window. My wife said she 'hated the Army' and that she wanted me to get out. I remember telling her that she would go before the Army. That the Army was my home and that I was good at it and that I enjoyed it and that it provided me those things that I needed to have a sense of purpose and belonging. Now, 12 years later I see that argument as wholly unfair. I have duties and obligations to my family as well as the Army. And each must constantly be balanced out. Thankfully, she is still with me, still loves me, and still 'hates the Army.' It's one of the things that keeps the balance. It's what makes fulfilling your duty "never easy."

Duty has another component to it that is what I think sets it apart from other virtuous behavior. Morality. The moral obligation to do what must be done, to correct universal wrongs, to espouse the 'better angels of our nature.' When required behavior moves beyond mere legal requirements.

This is the one that gets hard. The moral courage of a student standing in front of a tank in Tiennenman Square, the reporting of the crimes committed by my Soldiers by another member of their platoon. The requirement to question the purpose of an order that makes no sense. These are the harder parts of doing one's duty. These are the incidents and experiences that we need to look at and study.

I have mentioned in the past the 'loyal opposition'. It is probably in thinking about the word duty that the idea of the loyal opposition becomes most clear to me. I love the Army. It is no longer my simple duty to go to work and perform a task working for the Army. The Army, and all that it requires have become a part of the marrow of my being. However, I count myself among that group called the 'loyal opposition'. Due to experience, observation, and thought, I can no longer blindly follow anyone. I have a duty to pass along my views and interpretations of issues, concerns, needs etc to my subordinates, peers, and superiors. None of them may agree with me, and ultimately they may choose not to accept my viewpoint, but that does not mean that I do not have an obligation to stand up and express myself. In fact, my love for the institution is such that it demands that I do. I view it as my duty to the organization.

FM 7-22.7, "The Non-Commissioned Officers Guide" says the following about Duty:

"Take responsibility and do what's right, no matter how tough it is, even when no one is watching. "

We are in a period of change in the Army and with many confusing and differing viewpoints as to the correct balance and direction we need to move, it may be more critical now than ever in our recent history that we support the idea of the loyal opposition and foster the ideas of both personal responsibility and the toughness required to live up to it. In my opinion that is something we do not do very well, and probably haven't for the last 30 years or so. This has created the blind obedience view of duty. As General Patton once said, "If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn't thinking."

Duty requires thought, contemplation, and dedication. Regardless of profession, taking a hard critical look at yourself, your organization, and it's purpose - and being able to take the hard steps required to admit when you've gotten it wrong and then take corrective action, may be the absolute achievement of the highest sense of both the legal and moral requirements of doing your duty.

In light of this, consider the following. The Army has recently finished the first part of a critical review of our actions in Afghanistan. You can find a draft of it here :


It is 412 pages long and was commissioned by the Army itself. The understanding that taking a hard look at what you have done, why it was done and the results those actions generated is absolutely critical to the health of the organization. Although many will disagree with parts of the findings, the Army leaders who commissioned it must be given credit for fulfilling their duty to the Army and the nation.

#36 The Values Series: Loyalty

Note: This post was started before I found the article highlighted by the link below. I am not implying that it represents all of the facts of the situation, nor that the actions taken by the Soldiers or their leadership represent the 'right' answer. My purpose for including it here is to stimulate thought and comment regarding the values we espouse, their meaning, and the various interpretations they can have. I also find it interesting that the quotations below come from the Army's Leadership manual because they imply that blind faith and allegience to the system is not what the Army intends for those who wish to understand or become successful leaders.

Throughout my postings you find many references to the second O in the OODA cycle, Orientation. Orientation is the most complex and multilayered portion of OODA because it requires simultaneous understanding of yourself, your opposition and the environment.

Leadership is defined by the Army as "The process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization."

So, a leader has to (1) Influence people, (2) Provide purpose, (3) Direct, (4) Motivate, (5) Accomplish the mission, and (6) Improve the organization. That's a lot of things to do all at the same time and we don't often pull them apart and look at the individual pieces. We promote a Soldier to sergeant or lieutenant, call them a leader and send them on their way. Most professional schooling we go through during our careers is directed toward mission accomplishment and the various ways that can be achieved. We rarely look at the people who have to accomplish the missions we assign them.

In light of this, over the weeks ahead, I'm going to take each of the stated Army Values - Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage and look at them individually. The idea is to try to discover how the professional Soldier and leader is formed in our current operating environment. In effect, I want to turn the Orientation arrow back on us.

"Loyalty - (1) Faithful adherence to a sovereign, government, leader, cause etc. (2) faithfulness to commitments or obligations." Dictionary.com

"Loyalty is the big thing, the greatest battle asset of all. But, no man ever wins the loyalty of troops by preaching loyalty. It is given by them as he proves his possesion of the other virtues. The doctrine of a blind loyalty to leadership is selfish and futile military dogma, except in so far as it is ennobled by a higher loyalty in all ranks to truth and decency." - BG S.L.A. Marchall, "Men Against Fire" 1947 (Taken from Quotations from the Military Tradition)

"There is a great deal of talk about loyalty from the bottom to the top. Loyalty from the top down is even more necessary and much less prevalent." - Gen George S. Patton, Jr, "War As I Knew It" 1947 (As quoted in FM 6-22)

"Loyalty - Bear truth faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your Unit and other Soldiers." - FM 6-22 "Army Leadership"

When a citizen becomes a Soldier, they bring with them the formative experiences and history of their families and environments. Those important lessons that were passed to them by those who - for better or for worse - raised them. That is who the Army receives on day 1. We then have a responsibility to take those already formed values and meld them into the Army's value system. Take what the citizen already has, add to, subtract from, and mix together with the Army's values until we produce an individual who displays the professional behavior of a Soldier. Over time, this adding, subtracting and mixing will become such a part of the individual, that it will be difficult to see where the citizen stops and the Soldier begins. While some people think this is forces the Soldier to let go of his/her formative value code and adopt a new one, that's not really the case. What leaders are really challenged to do is expand the value system the individual already has and adapt it so that over time the individual gains an understanding and appreciation for the Army's values - and the role they place in the Soldier's individual life.

So, where does loyalty fit into the definition of leadership? For me, I would order it in the following manner:

1. Influence people

2. Improve the organization

3. Motivate

4. Purpose

5. Accomplish the mission

6. Direct

I think the first purpose of loyalty must be to influence people. By demonstrating to subordinates that I am loyal to them and their families, I, in turn, receive their trust and that trust - when lived up to over numerous trials and hardships, becomes the loyalty they return to me. I am also absolutely convinced that loyalty starts from the top down, not the bottom up. A leader cannot demand loyalty from a subordinate. It is earned and then reflected back to the leader. Loyalty also begins to influence behavior. A leader is a role model for a subordinate whether they know it or are aware of it or not. Therefore, my demonstrating my loyalty to the Soldier, his/her family, and the organization acts as a roadmap for that Soldier to see a way for them to act. That is why I placed influence first in my prioritization. While the Army's definition includes faithfulness to the Constitution etc, the fact is that loyalty is first demonstrated on the person-to-person level. The manner in which I deal with my immediate subordinates and superiors. As a role model, my behaviors and dealings reveal my feelings about the people and organization that I am part of.

The second most important function of loyalty is to improve the organization. Those groups who are successful - be it in business, sports, or the military - all have certain characteristics and one of them is espirit de corps. Loyalty breeds espirit because the individuals feel valued and wanted and are willing to put aside some individual wants and needs for the betterment of the whole. Once the individual willfully chooses to set aside their personal betterment or comfort for the collective needs of the organization, the true tide of personal 'value acceptance' has begun to turn.

Loyalty is also a great motivator. As a form of 'peer pressure', when used correctly, it can help an individual overcome fear and deprivation and accomplish tasks that they might otherwise have found too terrifying to do. For example, nobody willfully assaults a fortified defensive position unless they believe (1) that they are expected to do their part as part of the overall mission - that their buddies and the unit are counting on them, and (2) that the assault is an important part of the overall 'grand scheme' of the battle. Now, the opposite of that can also be true. People can feel pressured by their loyalties to do things which they know they should not do. This is the kind of misguided loyalty that delayed the reporting of the atrocities committed by my Soldiers in Iraq in 2006. Their personal loyalty to their peers valued over those of morality, the unit, the Army and the American society created a much worse situation in the long run than might have been the case if just one of them had felt a higher sense of loyalty to the moral behavior code expected of all Soldiers.

Loyalty also provides a larger thematic purpose for pursuing something. Great leaders, regardless of their career field are able to provide the sense of importance - both individually and collectively - that drives any organization. In earlier posts, I have mentioned the CEO of General Motors, Ed Whitacre and the changes he is instilling there to overcome the corporate mentality and help the organization recover again from bankruptcy. I think the same can be said for many other successful leaders. By painting a picture of where the organization needs to go, why they need to go there and a generalized picture of how they will get there, the successful leader is giving meaning to the collective effort of their subordinates. I'm not sure it matters whether or not it is industry, science, a non-profit, or the military, without a purpose for an action, the action itself is open to too much individual interpretation.

Obviously, the outcome of having a loyalty based system that functions well and engenders the will and spirit of the workforce is mission accomplishment. That is the reason that an army or any other organization exists. To accomplish it's stated aim: Win a war, make a product, cure a disease, help a community etc. If the entire organization feels connected and motivated to work toward the common purpose, then sooner or later the mission will be accomplished. From a military perspective, that is why we exist. To accomplish the missions assigned to us by our civilian leadership to meet the nation's goals and objectives.

Finally, I think that once leaders have created the 'common cause' mindset outlined above, providing continual reflection and direction to the organization is the final piece of the puzzle. To be able to reflect on where the organization was, where it is, and where it stands in relation to accomplishing it's mission is important, because it provides the necessary course corrections that keep the loyalty of the subordinates focused when circumstances change. This ability for reorientation cannot be overstated. The leader must always be able to adjust and adapt to changing circumstances. And to then explain those adjustments and adaptations to their subordinates in a manner that the subordinate can understand and apply.

In light of these thoughts, please check out the following article in "Army Times".

I found it the other night and thought that it was an interesting read. Depending on your orientation this can be seen from multiple viewpoints. Are these Soldiers being insubordinate? Are they being loyal to their peers and comrades? Does this behavior border on being mutinous? Are they actually trying to follow Gen McChrystal's guidance? Was their Company commander railroaded for not toeing the party line? Are they using a 21st century method of the 'open door' policy to make their concerns known to the higher chain of command?

Articles such as this one bring up the rather sticky points that happen in the grey area between the lofty ambition of the Army Value System, and the reality of combat. This is exactly why Boyd taught that the orientation portion of the OODA cycle is so very critically important. With the proliferation of information technology, the bottom can read -without reinterpretation by the middle - what direction the top wants to go in. In this case, a move by General McChrystal away from kinetic ' kill or capture' operations against the Taliban, and toward a population focused counterinsurgency plan aimed at securing the people and providing the opportunity for prosperity to change/adapt the allegiance of the populace.

But, what happens when the different parts (bottom, middle, top) disagree on how to accomplish the mission? Are the Soldiers being disloyal? Or, are they demonstrating 'loyal opposition'? Are they feeling beaten down by sustained combat and high losses, or are they highlighting a much larger issue concerning the training methods and requirements for different theaters? Are they expressing their loyalty to their company commander, or are they actually expressing their disloyalty to their battalion and brigade commander? Could they be doing all of the above at the same time?

One thing is for certain: By participating in this article, they are certainly flattening the organization. The hierarchical structure of the chain of command has been leveled considerably, when young officers and NCOs are openly being quoted expressing their displeasure with their higher level commanders. Is this an example of the structure falling apart, or is it a more correct orientation that reflects battlefield reality and a need to relook words like loyalty in light of the Soldiers and leaders who comprise our Army today? If you go back and look at the quote by BG S.L.A Marshall at the beginning of this, maybe these Soldiers are holding on to the higher ideals of "truth and decency"? Or maybe they are simply trying to find an explanation for the losses they have suffered.

#35 A Mixed Bag

This may be a little bit of a mixed bag. Throughout the week, I have found source material from many different places and for one reason or another they have all resonated with me. I'm not sure I can tie them all together in a coherent manner, but I will try. Thematically they all tie into OODA, but also seem to clarify the ideas of individual involvement and institutional change.

First, an article from Imprimis. Imprimis is a product of Hillsdale College and was recommended by one of the moderators at the Battle Command Knowledge Center(BCKS). The article is entitled "The Future of Western War", written by Victor Davis Hanson. You can find it here:
www.hillsdale.edu/news/impris.asp In the article, Dr. Hanson outlines a historical 'western' perspective on war. It is an interesting read. His concept of 'western' war has 4 basic parts. First, "Constitutional government was conducive to civilian input when it came to war." Second, "Western culture gave birth to a new definition of courage." Third, "...the association of Western war with advanced technology", and by extension it's connection to capitalism. And finally, that "Western armies are impatient. They tend to want to seek out and destroy the enemy quickly and then go home."

The key paragraph for me was the following that very accurately describes the current state of the wars in both Iraq and most certainly in Afghanistan:

"To put this in contemporary terms, what we are asking today is for a young man with a $250,000 education from West Point to climb into an Apache helicopter - after emailing his wife and kids about what went on at a PTA meeting back in Bethesda, Maryland - and fly over Anbar province or up into the Hindu Kush and risk being shot down by a young man from a family of 15, none of whom will ever live nearly as well as the poorest citizens of the United States, using a weapon whose design he doesn't even understand. In a moral sense, the lives of these two men are of equal value. But, in reality, our society values the lives of our young men much more than Afghan societies value the lives of theirs."

This is a classic OODA example of proper Orientation. Seeing the operating environment through a correct prism - not one colored by our own cultural experiences. These key understandings of the enemy's value on human life, our reliance on technology, and our built-in desire for instant results provides our enemies with a very simple and yet effective strategy to prosecute the war and achieve their aims - namely (1)to kill or injure as many of us a possible to test our resolve about the value of human life, (2) to exploit the gaps in our technology (as evidenced by news reports that they can hack our UAV feeds using commercial products), and (3) to extend the length of the conflict to turn us back on ourselves and ramp up the discord raised by not being able to meet the demand for instant results.

The second source document is an Army publication entitled "A Leader Development Strategy for a 21st Century Army" The second paragraph states:

"Our enemies - regular and irregular - will be well armed, well trained, well equipped and often ideologically inspired. We must overmatch their training with our training and with the development of our leaders. We must counter their ideologies with our history and with a sustained commitment to our values. They will be patient, and they will adapt. We must learn faster, understand better and adapt more rapidly. Our enemies will decentralize, partner, and network to form syndicates of threats against us. We must form our network by partnering with our Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental, Multinational teammates to defeat their networks. We are developing our leaders in a competitive learning environment, and it is in this environment above all others that we must prevail."

This quote implies that we must adapt and change the way we see ourselves. Another critical element of the OODA cycle. If we simply accept the bureaucratic, corporate, 'go-along-to-get-along' mentality that is very prevalent today, while our enemy continues to change, morph, and evolve, we will inevitably lose due to maintaining a static understanding of ourselves and our environment.

The key piece of the above quote for me though was the use of the word 'ideologically' when applied to the enemy, and the word 'history' when applied to ourselves. I wonder, seen from the enemies perspective, are we the ones with the ideology, and are they the ones with history? After all, a country that is only a little over 200 years old, doesn't have much to compare with a country who's history reaches back to the earliest centuries. While we may have to learn to think, act, and perceive change more quickly than in the past, it will have to be done with a keen eye toward a people who think in centuries, not decades.

Another interesting news piece also comes from a BCKS moderator. Apparently, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently conducted an experiment to see the impact of social media by conducting an experiment where they hid balloons throughout the the entire country and challenged teams to find them only using social media sites to do it. The winning team was able to find all of the balloons in 9 hours. The interesting part of this experiment for me was the very real acknowledgement by the researchers that social media is having a profound influence on the way communication occurs in the infancy of the 21st century. This is yet another example of generational shifts that will have to be recognized and accepted to achieve impactful leader development in order to look at ourselves and our adversaries correctly.

Finally, in line with above, is a speech given to cadets at West Point by the CEO of General Electric, Jeff Immelt. His speech was given on December 9th. You can find it here:
http://views.washingtonpost.com/leadership/guestinsights/2009: During the speech Mr. Immelt made a few points that I think are important and speak to some of the ideas I have forwarded throughout this blog.

"We must build a new generation of leaders to create a different future. We have been spending some time at GE trying to understand what attributes of leadership will make an impact with the challenges of the 21st century. "

"To that end we are launching a new corporate leadership staff. These will be the best and brightest of our 22 - 30 year olds. We will give them accelerated experiences and training. The goal is to have them ready to run a big business by age 30. We know this works. We have taken some of our best talent and given them an intense and accelerated experience. It is the way you train in the military and we know that intensive training and complex real experiences are the best tools for creating future leaders."

These quotes and passages form the context for today's thoughts. In the Imprimis article, the author made a pretty clear historical argument for why we are the way we are. Those societal, political, and technological changes that have formed the framework for the 'western' approach. The passage from "Leader Development" is yet another call for the Army to see itself clearly and to develop those human capabilities necessary for Soldiers to prevail in ambiguous situations. I found the DARPA research project interesting only because it is an incredibly simple - and yet incredibly profound - example of the impact that technological change can have on society. And finally, Mr. Immelts comments last week. I found the idea that a corporation such as GE can develop and implement a method of empowering those at the very bottom of the organization - and in the process overcoming corporate bureaucracy and entrenched behaviors - amazing. Even more amazing is that he was asked to give that speech to the next generation of Army leaders. I wonder though, was it given as a piece of advice that they should hold on to, or did they walk out thinking that that would be the type of organization they would walk into? From my vantage point, I sincerely hope that they remember his words and continually push to create those environments when they are in a positions to do so. I worry though that they will think that because West Point invited him to speak that this creativity and risk-taking with young people is the way we do business on a regular basis. Sadly, it is not.

Since my posts where I have used a more personal approach to my own development path and issues seems to gather the most feedback, and feedback and the exchange of ideas are the reason for blogging in the first place, I will try to do that here. Most Soldiers - including me - don't spend all that much time thinking about the grand ideas that form the patterns of their lives. The Imprimis article did that for me. It pointed out things I'd never really considered before. Instant gratification, the huge impact of technology on my interactions, the 'football' game approach to warfare where at the end of regulation there is a clear-cut winner and loser. All of these things I take for granted. And yet, seen from the other side, it becomes all too clear that in this war, at this time, and against this enemy, they could very well be our Achilles heel. That is not to say that they are wrong, or that I am siding with some other ideological viewpoint, but rather that every ideology, theology, or value system has an opposite, and it is not a good idea to ignore that. I would add here the concept of time as a critical consideration. Americans generally view time as a commodity, and so the more you can do in the least amount of time, the better the ratio. An efficiency model. But since the societal/behavioral attachments to that concept are the real impactors of how we fight wars, this could be a real detriment. Having a grand strategy that takes place over time - say 30 to 50 years, may be a better model to use because it keeps the focus on the eventual endstate and gets less wrapped up in day-to-day minutia.

I also find it more and more interesting that corporate America seems to be placing a premium on dealing with change. Major organizations seem to be actively (that is key) realizing that through people-centric structures, focused on achieving a strategic aim, they are in a better position to recognize, adapt to, and accelerate through periods of ambiguity and uncertainty. I keep finding articles, speeches, and position papers where the Army is talking the right talk, but I'm not sure that we have broken the mold enough to actually walk the walk.

I'm not sure that I was able to adequately tie these thoughts together today as I had hoped to, but I tried. To me, starting with a clear understanding of the poeple who comprise the Army and the Army's place in society, and coupling it with an understanding of the environment (both at home and deployed) in terms of history, behaviors and norms, and then actively seeking the input, ideas and energy of those who will come after us is the key to any successful leadership discussion. So, if none of this made sense to you, feel free to comment and maybe we can help each other see the issue more clearly.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

# 34 Just One

"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I should do, and with the grace of God, I will do."

Everett Hale

"Do all the good you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can."

John Wesley

Sometimes I wonder what my purpose in the Army has been. The institution is so large and cumbersome and filled with differing viewpoints and priorities that it can be easy to get lost inside it's vastness and forget the critical importance of just one person. But, as arrogant as it may sound, I do believe that I am important to the Army. That I give it as much as it gives me. Professional happiness occurs when that relationship continues to stay in balance. That both sides feel as if the other is holding up their end of the bargain.

And I think that my belief is crucial to becoming a good leader. The belief that at a certain place, at a certain time, under certain circumstances that I am the one best suited for the task ahead. That belief provides me the 'food' that sustains my professional being. It drives me each day to learn, share, adapt and grow. In many ways, I must believe in my own sense of calling - even sometimes when the institution doesn't seem to agree.

True wisdom, however, may come from the million missteps and mistakes that it takes to figure out what that calling really is. Some people are destined for very public greatness and some will toil a lifetime in obscurity for one anonymous moment, but both must believe in their singular importance and contribution to their organization. Someday, a scientist in a laboratory will find the cure for cancer. I wonder, will we herald their name as we do for the greats of other pursuits? The countless hours spent in a lab learning and pushing and staying after all the others have gone home because they believe that they are the critical component to beating the disease.

In my case, the relationships I have formed over the past 3 years, my ability to see some deficiencies more clearly, and the freedom to try to address them has been a large part of my personal/professional recovery. A recovery that I see as an honest exchange between the organization and me. I needed some time, some space and a project to regain my energy and passion. The Army provided me with that, and in return I developed and assist the Army with the products I've created. Very mutually beneficial. At least I hope so. It certainly is from my perspective. The catch is making sure it stays that way from theirs.

I received an email last week from my boss's boss and in part it read "MSG Fenlason is passionate about getting it right." Funny, but I seem to hear the word 'passionate' a lot. In Army speak it seems to mean someone who doesn't know when to 'shut-up and color with the rest of the kids'. It can be the back-handed compliment that really isn't a compliment at all. This one came about because of the body armor work I've done. My bosses don't really understand the problem, because they have never taken the time to critically look at it. All they know is that little thank you notes show up in their in-boxes every now and again and they get a little unnerved because someone outside the organization is giving me credit for something they had no awareness of or interest in. And now someone else is telling them that it might be important.

That's OK though. In many ways, I really don't care anymore. My calling is to serve the Army, not a person. I sometimes think a lot of people have forgotten that. Although there is a chain of command, and a structure, I serve those Soldiers who receive my marksmanship training; I serve those units looking for a different way to train; I serve the women who will someday get proper-fitting equipment because of our efforts, and my passion. Those are my Soldiers. And they are the reason I serve, and I believe that I am well-suited to serve this way. I do not serve the guy at the end of the hall who happens to be in charge today. The time he will be here is too fleeting. The Army endures.

I guess I'm writing this today because I was reading FM 6-22, "Leadership", and came across the following quote, "Competent leaders know the best way to create a solid organization is to empower subordinates." It seems to me that one of the major roles of a leader is empowerment of subordinates. Although not tacitly recognized in our doctrine (previous quote aside) - and paid very little attention in practice - development is what ensures the sense of inclusion and purpose in a subordinate and that is what creates both the climate and the culture of the Army. It's why I write this. For the blog to work, it reaches up and down and sideways. I get mentored and developed, and I try to offer that to others.

This type of development has happened at 4 distinct periods in my career: When I first joined and was chosen to be the radio operator for my platoon, when I came to Ft. Campbell the first time and was set on a professional development path that came to signify the middle portion of my career, when BS 'adopted' me and kept feeding me opportunities to grow and when RW gave me a place to go as I attempted to get back on my feet after Iraq. The constant theme of these four periods has been that someone senior to me created an opportunity and pushed me through a door. Sometimes I went looking for that door, and they simply provided passage, but sometimes they had to show me where it was and then say, "Go on. You'll be OK. Walk through."

I am only one. But I am an important one. Not irreplaceable, but important. I serve the organization in a way that only I can. A specific manner and method unique to Fenlason. And I think it's important for people to consider that. What is it about you that is unique and critical to wherever you serve? Why are you better suited to the issue than someone else? Do you know? Have you considered it? While many years ago, before life intervened, I may have had dreams of professional grandeur, today they are slowly becoming more focused. It may not ever be my lot to lead troops in combat again, but that experience (for better or worse) is what led me to where I am now. A place where my talents for observation, analysis, team building, and Soldier empowerment seem to work very well.

It is also a leaders responsibility to develop those traits in their Soldiers. To find the unique contribution that one individual can make, develop it, and let them make it. To assist them in finding what it is that they do best and providing them the opportunity to do it. Funny, but FM 6-22 does mention that. I have been blessed throughout my career to have this gift given to me. It is now my obligation and my calling to try my best to do it for others. This may be the greatest gift of leadership. It's greatest challenge and the truest measure of the strength of any organization's ability to endure over time.

#33 Risking Change

Yesterday, while waiting for an appointment, I started reading an article in a back-issue of Conde Nast Traveler magazine. The article was about the future of the airline industry and the development of new airplanes that would significantly reduce pollution in the years ahead. The article caught my eye because it relates the research going on at Boeing to develop the X-4B, a blended wing aircraft that has no fuselage and holds the promise of being 40% more fuel efficient than current designs. At one point in the article, the author travels to a remote set of offices well away from the corporate HQ's and meets with people charged to look critically at each and every part of the design and find ways to improve it. From experimental carpet, to sound system design, to carbon fiber composite material. The person interviewed made the following statement:

"We're working on things that may not work and may not happen. We try to reassure our people that it's OK to fail. If we're not failing a large part of the time, then we're not reaching far enough into what we're trying to do. Manufacturing and designing aircraft doesn't foster this kind of skill naturally."

Then last night, surfing around and reading the headlines, I came across an article about changes at General Motors. The new CEO, Ed Whitacre, held a meeting with top executives to announce the changes being made. His remarks were broadcast throughout the company. At one point he stated:

"We want you to step up. We don't want any bureaucracy. We're not going to make it if you won't take a risk." You can find the story here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34272650/ns/business-autos/

Another story on MSNBC's web page entitled "Three Cups of Tea Advice for Obama" related that the books author, Greg Mortenson, has been advising top military and civilian leaders regarding the way ahead for the US in Afghanistan. He is quoted in the story as saying:

"I now think the military gets it" In an interview, Mortenson, a former U.S. Army medic and mountain climber from Bozeman, Mont., retracted earlier remarks that the U.S. Army were all “laptop warriors … who don’t have a clue what was going on locally, on the ground.” Now, he says, “despite a steep learning curve on the part of the U.S. military, I now think the military gets it.”

The story also relates that "Mortenson is someone the military's top brass listens to — and has often consulted with. "Three Cups of Tea" has become required reading for U.S. commanders and troops deploying to Afghanistan, making Mortenson a valued but unofficial adviser to the Pentagon." The story goes on to say, "Since April, Mortenson has facilitated more than 35 meetings in Afghanistan between local shura, or tribal leaders, and U.S. military commanders, including Gens. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command." You can find it here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34238313/ns/us_news-giving/

And finally, this week there was a Commanders Conference on post where all the battalion commanders met with the Commanding General and spent a day sharing "best practices" and information. As part of that there was a demonstration by one Battalion Commander of the marksmanship program that he has developed and implemented in his unit. He uses an Outcomes based approach and has applied critical thought to each part of the program to ensure that those parts have a reason for being included and that those reasons support his overall intent. While many of the other commanders in the room were very impressed with his design, there were many others who I thought would simply try to imitate it without truly understanding what he was trying to accomplish. And there was another group who simply golf-clapped at the end and walked away knowing that they would never take the risk of such a dramatic change in their units. They couldn't figure out how to get from where they are to where they want to be.

And that is my point today. I think that these 4 examples point out that no matter the industry, no matter the issue, there has to be a willingness by those in charge to accept risk and underwrite change in order for the organization to continue to grow. I find it interesting that a corporate monolith like Boeing has intentionally moved a group of 'future thinkers' away from the corporate mentality and let them dream, wonder, think, and potentially fail. I think that GM's CEO - who does not come from the auto industry - began a new road ahead for the company by accepting risk, visibly supporting idea generation, and tying the entire company's fortunes together, from the assembly line worker, to the kid in the mail room to the engineers who design the engines etc. The idea that Generals Petraus and McChrystal are consulting with an author who takes a markedly different approach to how the US can succeed in Afghanistan, and even using him as a facilitator of meetings is incredible. I wonder how many Battalion, Brigade or Division Commanders would consider that? The Commanding General supporting a new method of instilling confidence, competence, and capability in our Soldiers ability to use their weapon while developing critical decision making skills and having fun should be a clarion call to every other commander and leader to open up their box of ideas, see the ones that have potential, and use them to increase their Soldiers skill-sets.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have brought about a much needed revolution in military thought and practice. In this sense, war is a good thing. The changing circumstances require people to re-examine existing ideas and protocols, see the organization holistically, and search for those ideas that - while maybe not the perfect solution - are a stepping stone to finding it. While the cost of war is extremely high in both human and material expenditure, it also promotes innovation and re-evaluation both of which are necessary for growth.

So how do you bring about such culture changes? How do you know what to keep and what to change? Is every idea good if it works and bad if it fails? What level of failure and risk is acceptable? These questions are what the Army is struggling with right now. Interestingly, they are also the same questions that industry faces as well. GM's CEO has is betting the farm that by removing bureaucracy and accepting risk the human talent pool of the company can produce a product that will help the company become profitable again. Boeing is doing the same. In the airline industry, whoever can make the next significant leap ahead will gain a huge advantage over the competition. In Afghanistan, the very idea that an author who runs a non-profit organization can facilitate the changes necessary to possibly 'win' the war...These all represent more than just short term goals. They are huge cultural paradigm shifts and an acknowledgement by those at the very top of their respective organizations that questioning norms and the status quo is a critical step.

The first step in culture change is to recognize the pit falls of not doing it. There are huge institutional behavior patterns at work in GM, Boeing and the Army. But the cultures they have produced imply a static world. The first step therefore has to be a recognition that the environment we work in is dynamic and ever-changing. Without that, there can be no recognition of the need for our own evolution. There are also the human factors of change. Change can be, indeed is, threatening for most people. Especially if it is dramatic change. Slow evolutions over time often go unrecognized but dramatic events such as war and bankruptcy cause uncertainty and nervousness which causes people to fall back on what they are familiar with. The only way to undo that is to reassure those personal concerns and take long-term views for success. Creating cultures of constant evolution must become the new norm. I think this is exactly what LTG Caldwell recognized when he visited Google. Computer technology and Internet proliferation has changed at a pace much faster than normal corporate America, and his visit represents an understanding of the Army's need to create an environment of constant evolution rather than the current model of periods of change followed by periods of stasis.

Second, and probably even harder to figure out is what to keep from evolution to evolution and what to discard. For the Army, I think it must be 3 things. 1) That the Army is a servant of the nation and must remain faithful to the citizens it exists to serve. 2) That the value system we espouse is strong and valid. 3) That the development of people who can live up to the previous 2 is the key to future development. For me, everything after that is negotiable. The rest is basically material changes and technological advances. Value based people, who are servants of the nation, charged with keeping the country secure are the next 'leap ahead' that the Army must recognize. Or, in keeping with my earlier thoughts that not much has changed in 40 or 50 years, re-recognize.

Third, we must support idea generation and not see change as threatening. Change is a natural occurrence and should be accepted as such. We need to develop creative ideas and thoughts about how we do business in order to tie the individuals to the organization. I think it's interesting the CEOs of huge corporations in vastly different types of businesses can move easily between them - say from information technology to auto manufacturing. How and why can they do this? My guess is because of their ability to have large-scale thematic views. They support change, or they focus on profit, or they promote worker well-being. Things that are universal. For the Army, we now have a group of senior leaders who seem to promote change, instinctive trust, and a bottom-up focus. The ideas of a young person deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan has to have a mechanism for being considered. That is what ties the person to the greater complex organization. The universal theme that the 'corporation' is the sum total of the people who work in it.

And finally, the idea of risk. As I watched the demonstration the other day, I could clearly see that there were those in the audience who were excited that they now had tacit approval to change the status-quo. They were the ones who were also kicking themselves a little for not having had the courage to do it on their own. There were also those who simply resented change and would not consider changing regardless of who supported it. They were the ones who walked out immediately after it ended to get back to their offices and lord over their little fiefdoms. Those are the dinosaurs who are very hard to weed out of any static-to-dynamic organizational change. But the group that worried me the most, was those commanders who recognized the need, but were too afraid to fail. They worry me because without a rock-solid belief in what their purpose is, when critical events happen they will waiver. And that wavering will be coupled with doubt. And that doubt Will force them back to the staus-quo. And the risk of any change is that it might fail. It is inherently more dangerous to half-commit to something than it is to jump in and figure it out along the way.

On a more personal note, this was also a week of small victories for me. The idea of Outcome Based Training and Education (OBT&E) which I have mentioned before is gaining steam and has been reinforced both by the demonstration and by the Marksmanship Strategy. Hopefully, this will help lead commanders to want to learn more about what it is and how it works. A product I built 6 months ago, but couldn't get to an audience. I may now have an audience looking for a product. More importantly however, the demonstration focused on developing individuals. The battalion commander stated at the very beginning that it's purpose was to provide the individual Soldier the tools necessary to be an expert with their assigned weapon. A bottom-up approach. How refreshing.

But, change is slow. There was a news video this week of one of our units training to go to Afghanistan. In it Soldiers were conducting operations in urban terrain. Hmmm, I've been to Afghanistan and there's not a whole hell of a lot of urban terrain where they're going. Especially when all the buildings are made of mud!

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments.

#32 The Chicken or the Egg

"Competency and moral responsibility thus emerge as the defining characteristic of the professional Soldier, particularly in his role as combat commander"

Lieutenant Colonel Paul R. Viotti

I'm not sure how it has happened, but it seems as if each week when I'm thinking about what to write, I come across an article or blog posting or some other piece that reinforces - usually in a much more literate fashion - those points I have been trying to make throughout my writings. There has also been a larger generalized theme that the Army has a critical need to start thinking about the holistic development of the warrior rather than simply a concentration on the X's and O's of tactical warfare. I have read article after article that states that we need to start educating our leaders versus simply training them. We have to find a way to inculcate the Warrior Ethos and Army Values into the person. We need to create (or recreate) the warrior class and to see that as a noble calling. One that can be likened to a religious order in many ways - a servant of the country; an individual calling to willfully set aside personal gain; an acknowledgement of an elevated sense of responsibility to the greater national good.

This week I came across an article in the Nov/Dec issue of Military Review. It's title is "Competency vs Character? It must be both!", by Lieutenant Colonel Joe Doty and Major Walter Sowden. In it, the authors posit that the amount of time and the manner in which we train values and ethics to our Soldiers and junior leaders is having a direct result in the lack of character judgment and moral authority that is appearing on the battlefield. The article begins with the radical idea of no longer having any type of chain teaching program for such things as Equal Opportunity, Prevention of Sexual Harassment, the Law of Land Warfare etc, but to make those teachings the underpinning for all other training we conduct. The authors submit that there is a "Competence versus character" mismatch as evidenced by the amount of time in training dedicated to each In a study of various ROTC programs, they found that "90% of the curriculum focuses on developing competency while less than 10% concerns character education. Additionally, only 5% of Training and Doctrine Command instruction in both the Officer and Non-Commissioned Officer Education System focuses on ethics and leadership."

Later in the article, the authors relate comments from 12 former Battalion or Brigade commanders they interviewed who have led Soldiers in combat since 9/11. Asked about the Army's moral and ethical training, these commanders all expressed frustration at how little time is spent helping to imbue the essential behaviors necessary to uphold the Army's covenant with the country. [On a personal note, the article mentions an interview with a battalion commander - not by name - related to the Iraq incident in OIF 05-07, which has become such a large part of my personal journey. That battalion commander was involved in the 15-6 investigation regarding the rape of a 14 year old Iraqi girl and the murder of her and her family by US forces:]

"A battalion commander in Iraq, who was involved in an Article 15-6 investigation on the circumstances leading up to an instance of kidnapping and gruesome death, stated that it would take a “special commander” to have prevented this unfortunate incident (because of the derogatory climate that existed in the unit following the highly publicized rape and murder of a young Iraqi girl). When asked if the Army has such “special commanders,” he responded, “yes, but only very few"."

So, what comes first, tactical training in the art of modern warfare, or the need to inculcate Soldiers and leaders with the value systems and ethical decion making skills necessary to maintain moral authority? Or, as the authors suggest, can they both be accomplished at the same time?

Throughout this blog, I have continuously called for a return to Soldier centered development rather than through-ut based, "check the block", rote memorization training. I have indicated that the very manner we currently prepare Soldiers for combat is in many ways the essence of the problem. By not educating and provoking individual development we are simply reinforcing to them that all we value is cursory memorization and assembly line training solutions. This is true for basic skills training such as marksmanship or first aid, it is represented in the behavioral issues we are facing, and it is demonstrated by the sheer volume of 'cultural awareness' training that we require Soldiers to sit through. The way we train, coupled with the behavior patterns and expectations and moral proclivities of the citizens we take into the organization has created most of the problems we face. For example, if one of the Army's stated values is Respect, how is it that sexual assault among service members is on the rise? How can the institution claim Integrity when weekly we here of another investigation into potential war crimes committed by Soldiers? Because we hand out a Values card, and hold a one hour block in a classroom, we believe that each Soldier will then automatically understand,and internalize these attributes, and their attendant behaviors.

We recruit Soldiers from society. We recruit individuals. People with individual moral and ethical characteristics derived from the families and communities in which they were raised. In and of itself, this has no particular positive or negative value. We cannot say authoritatively that any one generation is 'better' or 'worse' from a morality standpoint than a previous one. They are simply different. A lot has been said about "The Greatest Generation", those who fought and won WWII and in the process liberated Europe and secured democratic freedoms for millions of people. That generation of Citizen-Soldiers has been set as the standard bearer for the country and those in the profession of arms. It should be remembered however, that this is the same generation who did not ensure those freedoms for our own minorities and oppressed. Conversely, the 60's are often characterized as a generation of pot smoking, draft dodging hippies who took drugs, enjoyed free love and cast aside the moral bearings of their parents and grandparents. It is this generation however, that did begin to pressure the country to face it's moral and ethical shortcomings in the treatment of it's own citizens. Can we say that one is any better than the other? Is defeating Hitler and Stalin and the tyranny they represented any better than ensuring equal rights for blacks and women?

In order to instill any sort of value system in any organization - a business, a religious society, an army - you have to first ensure that the members understand quite clearly the singular importance of the values and how they form the larger behavioral underpinnings of the organization. They must be given the opportunity to test their existing behaviors against the organizations norms and then given the chance to develop those traits that are in keeping with the ideals of the organization. For an army, those tests must occur in the preparation for, and execution of, the violence of combat. Without a well developed strength of character, and a universal understanding of the purpose and intent of the army, combat operations are nothing more than gang warfare writ large. The Bloods and the Crips can carry out a military style operation. The Mafia has a well developed sense of loyalty. The key difference is the purpose for which we will, or will not, engage in the bloody contest.

I believe that we cannot separate tactical education from ethical education and that both must be continuously tested in order to develop leaders who become true servants to both those they lead and the Army as a whole.

As always, I look forward to your comments.

#31 A More Learned View

One of the problems with blogging is that the audience doesn't always know the credentials of the person writing the blog. That can lead to doubt about the authors ability or credibility when speaking authoritatively about something that they may or may not actually be an authority on. In my case, most of the people who read this are colleagues or other military professionals who know me, so there is an assumed level of knowledge regarding my experiences and professional development. In most cases, I have personally worked with them or their unit, and they have developed a certain level of trust in my abilities and reasoning. Even so, it is nice sometimes to have one of my ideas further developed in another forum because it not only helps to validate my opinion, but often lends specialized credibility to a theme or an idea. This week's post should be seen on that light.

I have been saying over and over that leaders need to start listening more to their subordinates. In many cases, I have been specific about at what level of leadership this needs to take place to effect the greatest amount of necessary change in the institution. I have also contended that learning how to think strategically is not only the purview of senior officers. That given the current operating environment and the proliferation of technology and the technological savy of both the enemy and young Soldiers, everyone has to be able to understand the strategic impact of every action taken as well as a very thorough understanding of how local actions can have a huge effect on a strategic plan.

The November/December issue of Military Review contains an article by two retired Army Colonels, Dr. Stephen Gerras and Charles Allen. The title of the article is "Developing Creative and Critical Thinkers". For those readers who have an Army Knowledge Online (AKO) acount, this can be found on Battle Command Knowledge Systems (BCKS). I highly recommend it.

The argument the authors are making begins with the following quotation:

"Many senior Army and DOD leaders have said we need to develop better strategic thinking skills for the 21st century security environment. The requirement stems from a realization that the complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity of the current environment mandates a move away from Cold War methodologies and assumptions. As recent history suggests, a large gap exists between the Army's desire to develop strategic thinking skills and what actually happens."

The article's focus is that there are 2 critical requirements that must be developed prior to learning or assimilating the ability to be a strategic thinker - the ability to think creatively and the ability to apply critical reasoning.

The authors define Strategic thinking as "the ability to make creative and holistic synthesis of key factors affecting an organization and it's environment in order to obtain a sustainable, competitive advantage and long term success."

The authors define creativity as "the ability to produce novel ideas that others value." They then put forth 3 methods of behavior that support the development of strategic thought.

1) Use a multi-disciplinary approach perspective to provide knowledge about thinking skills.
2) Pratice applying these skills in a context dependant setting under the purview of a knowledgable leader or facilitator.
3) Encourage and motivate the routine application of strategic thinking skills to important issues by creating a healthy environment in schools and units.

The critical part of the discussion looks at the Military Decision Making Process and why it can very easily get off track and lead to plans and outcomes that do not necessarily support the larger strategic plan. Two of these are hueristics (recalling the most vivid events) and egocentricity (thinking that one's beliefes are better than anyone else's).

"....Hueristics and egocentricity can lead the unit down the wrong road if the commander (insert the word leader and you include NCOs and civilian leaders as well) thinks his intuition is infallible and that the last way he dealt with a problem will work in the next case."

The authors go on to state the following: "The Army's biggest obstacle is it's hierarchal nature and cultural norms. Reflective skepticism as a technique to improve judgement and decision making is hard to embrace if the officers or NCOs are not comfortable disagreeing with the boss or even the boss's boss. This is especially difficult if senior leaders have egocentric tendencies toward extreme self-confidence because of numerous accolades and promotions. Unfortunately, leaders who have not taken careful steps to ensure the information they recieve from their subordinates is 'ground truth', even if it disagrees with their view seem to be more the rule than the exception."

The article then says, "An often overlooked requirement for successful creative and critical thinking is the concept of dialogue. The Army's hierarchal nature resists dialogue....if commanders and leaders are more interested in a discussion than real dialogue, they reduce opportunities to challenge personal assumptions."

In order to develop to enhance or encourage dialogue the article states that there is a critical first step that must be taken: participants must regard each other as professional collegues, not subordinates and superiors.

"To foster critical thinking Army teams must at times leave their rank at the door. 'Groupthink' is the antithesis of creative and critical thinking and exists in organizations where subordinates simply mimic the thinking of their superiors."

Over the course of this blog, I have outlined my opinion on a wide range of issues from training design to body armor to the emotional/behavioral problems that are occurring in my unit - and I suspect in many others. I have also tried at times to add my thoughts on leadership and leader training. I think that many of the thoughts outlined above help to reinforce those ideas and also provide a wider perspective for personal consideration.

For example, the definition of creativity, "the ability to produce novel ideas that others value" can be seen in the marksmanship program and the outcomes and behavioral changes that it develops. While there is cartainly an objective, numerical, immediate need portion of the training plan, the idea of taking the current training system, using the same amount of allocated resources but changing from a through-put focus to a Soldier focus could be considered a 'novel' approach. The method of doing this is also true with the Effective Training Design brief. By employing a 'healthy skepticism' and using the current doctrine in a slightly different manner, there is the potential to greatly effect unit and Soldier training and, by extension, their critical thinking skills. Soldiers may not need to be able to think on a strategic political level on par with senior military and civilian leaders, but their ability to analyze their shot-group, or to inteact with the local populace, or identify another Soldier in need is a critical thinking skill that can be - and must be - developed. This also important in that in encorporates another thought that I have outlined before: ....'others must be valued'. Any solution to any problem has to be accepted by those who will be affected by the actions taken to achieve the solution.

I have also discussed in previous postings the idea that the vertical, hierarchal structure of the Army is a roadblock to success at many levels. The article does a much better job of illuminating this issue than I have done. We live in a time when the prolifieration of technology and the ability for instant communication has 'flattened' the world considerably. Anyone with access to the internet is now privy to information that in the past was limited to very few in either academia or the top of business or government. This 'flattening', coupled with the generational norms, expectations, and abilities of Millenials has created an environment where the very bottom and the very top are now working off the much the same data. The problem is that the data is being interpreted differently at each level and since the top creates the plan, there is a loss of faith by the bottom when the plan doesn't appear to meet their understanding of the issue.

Hueristics and egocentricity are central to many of my themes. In my leadership philosophy a few weeks back, I included the phrase "Don't believe your own bullshit." Obviously, the authors were much more articulate than I was. Never the less, it doesn't make me wrong. Believing that the system that created, promoted and awarded you is proof enough of your own sense of 'rightness' is flawed because it forces you to live backwards. Egocentricity will directly lead to hueristic behavior - something I outlined in another post as "what worked as a squad leader will work as a platoon sergeant or 1st Sergeant."

With regard to seeing others as professional peers and collegues rather than simply superiors and subordinates, I would contend that the body armor work and the marksmanship program have both enjoyed levels of success because of my need/desire to work with this theme in mind. I am not a woman, so I cannot absolutely know the struggles and difficulties she faces in trying to apply proper marksmanship techniques in body armor. However, by engaging with her (regardless of rank - I have worked with Private to Sergeant Major and 2nd Lieutenant - Lieutenant Colonel) as an interested peer - not simply a Master Sergeant - I have been able to engage, recruit, and facilitate the discussion of training and equipping changes that we both believe are critical to her survival. And to do that I had to 1) gain her trust, 2) listen to her issue and 3) interact with her equally. I can ask most of the women in my study group rather personal questions about their bodies and the manner their bodies interact with their equipment because I have accepted them - and they have accepted me - as a peer. It takes a large degree of personal trust for a female Soldier to provide information like weight, bust size, body fat percentge etc if they do not believe that I am interested in using the information in any manner other than to improve her ability to survive in combat. The same is true in marksmanship. By understanding how and why many Soldiers and leaders do not know the basic fundamentals of proper shooting and then working with them as a peer facilitator to help them fix their knowledge gap, the program itself generates successes both in sheer numbers and behavior change. This directly relates to my idea of understanding an issue holistically and engaging others outside of my personal Army experience to better grasp the problem.

Groupthink is a problem for any large organization. I found it interesting in the article that the authors mentioned the collapse of the auto industry as an example of what can happen culturally and organizationally without a mechanism for dissenting opinions. I have used the same example in earlier posts. I find it impossible to believe that the economists and future planners for GM and Chrysler, as well as the UAW were unable to see the problems their organizations were facing. The only way this could have happened was that the organization itself had no method of presenting dissenting opinions and people felt threatend if they did not toe the party line. That same groupthink mentality is pervasive in the Army today. It was immediately apparent after the initial invasion in Iraq in 2003 that some of the expected outcomes with regard to post-invasion asumptions were not going to be met. However, the culture of 'agreeing with the boss' and being able to 'blame' the higher headquarters when the results weren't what was expected directly led to the rise of the insurgency. Because there was an expectation that we would be greeted as liberators, because there was a lack of consideration for how Iraqis would govern themselves, because we had not given due consideration to methods employed by General Petraus in Mosul (mostly due to personal and petty jealousies surrounding his media exposure), we were not prepared for the chaos that occurred during the post-invasion period that led to the insurgent problem that arose from 2004 - 2007. I am just as sure that there were plenty of very smart, very patriotic people who saw these potential problems coming, but did not have a mechanism to get their dissenting opinions forwarded to the decision makers. At my level, groupthink is having a direct impact on the behavioral and disciplinary problems my unit faces. Because the beauracracy has no mechanism for presenting dissent to the commander, and is more concerned about providing him what they think he wants to hear rather than what he needs to hear, we are failing to meet the baseline problems head on. Because we think that all he wants to know is how to stop suicide and domestic violence etc, we overlook the idea that these are merely outcomes of some other larger issues such as a lack of faith and trust in leadership across the board. Interestingly, I was looking at some data from a survey last week that 52% of the Soldier in a particular unit did not trust their chain of command. But since that data is packaged together with things like suicidal ideation, or incidents of violence, or alcohol consumption which people believe is the command's focus, they overlook the significance of that number.

I am not writing this today to say "Ha! I told you I was right." While it is always nice to have your beliefes validated by others, when faced with a crisis it doesn't serve any purpose beyond trying to chart the course ahead. The purpose of my witing this today is to point out that 1) If two retired Colonels are saying this, then maybe the pervasiveness of the problem is larger than we think. That the article was published in a military journal, should be evidence enough that there is a recognition that we need to relook how we lead in order to succeed in the contemporary environment. 2) The small to big, or big to small thought process that I outlined in an earlier post does have some merit. While the Army may break things down along the Operational, Tactical, and Strategic lines, the idea that they are independant of each other and that people at the different levels do not posess the ability to understand and appreciate the other levels is ludicrous. For example, if a strategic goal of an insurgency is to break down the social / political will of their adversary to continue to fight, then it just may be possible that the increased suicide and behavioral problems that are showing up in our squads, platoons, and companies represent a victorious battle in the strategic war they are waging.

As always, I encourage your thoughts and ideas.

#30 Servant Leadership

It's amazing what you can learn from the quotations and thoughts of others. Consider the following from Gen Melvin Zais who commanded the 101st in Vietnam:

"Lets talk a little more about caring....It's an interesting phenomenon and paradox here that we go to school after school and spend 80% of our time on tactics, weapons, logistics and planning and 20% of our time on people matters and then we go to our units and what do we do? We spend 80% of our time on people matters and 20% of it on tactics, weapons, logistics and planning. Just think about it."

That speech was given to students of the National Defense University to members of all 4 uniformed services who were battalion level commanders and higher.

Further on in the speech, Gen Zais goes on to say:

"Well, there are degrees of caring. And there's an attitude you have to develop in yourself. How do you know if you care? You're sitting out there wondering, do I care? Do I really care? How do I know if I care? Well for one thing, if you care, you listen to your junior officers and Soldiers. I don't mean that stilted baloney that so many officers engage in and stand up to an enlisted man and say "How are you son? Where are you from? How long have you been here? Thank you very much, next man. That's baloney. That's form. That's posed. Well, I'm not talking about that stuff. I'm talking about listening. Because a young Soldier won't come out and tell you that everything is all wrong. If you ask him if he's getting along all right and he just shrugs, he's getting along lousy. If he's not enthusiastic, there's something wrong and you'd better dig a little deeper." Somehow it's concerning to me that he would have to be saying this to people who were commanding organizations of 500 men or more. You would think by that point that they would have absorbed that lesson.....

And finally, from a column that he wrote in the post newspaper when he was the 101st Airborne Division, Commanding General:

"You cannot expect a Soldier to be a proud Soldier if you humiliate him. You cannot expect him to be brave if you abuse and cower him. You cannot expect him to be strong if you break him. You cannot ask him for respect and obedience and willingness to assault into hot landing zones, hump back breaking ridges, destroy dug in emplacements, if your Soldier has not been treated with the respect and dignity which fosters unit esprit and personal pride. The line between firmness and harshness - between strong leadership and bullying, between discipline and chicken is a fine line. It is difficult to define, but for those of us who are professionals and have also accepted a career as leaders of men, we must find that line. It is because judgment and concern for people and human relations are involved in leadership, that only men can lead and not computers."

Apparently 40 or more years ago we were still struggling with the human dimension of leading Soldiers. Interesting that we don't appear to be getting any better at it. I also find it interesting - and wonder why it is - that 3 and 4 star Generals seem to understand the criticality of the human being very well, but the vast middle of the military doesn't. I've got a suspicion that it stems from having reached a comfortable, secure place career-wise where they are not risking much by looking holistically at the organization and identifying where there may be short-comings or areas of improvement. In fact, much like the wise old sage who advises the young prince, that may be the role they play. To take a career's worth of experience and wisdom and keep the organization moving forward. General Caldwell's remarks from last weeks post seem to echo these thoughts regarding care, concern and the role of the leader as a servant of the led. One of the first trips Caldwell took after assuming command of the Center for Army Leadership was a tour of Google to see how the organization was able to identify, manage, and capitalize in a rapidly changing environment. Can you imagine a 50 year old 3 star Army General being briefed by a 20 something year old kid? Can you imagine how much institutionalization (on both sides of the fence) has to be set aside for that conversation to even occur? Wow! A general serving today talks of servant leadership. A general from 40 years or more ago talks of caring about a scared young man before a parachute jump....George Washington said quite clearly "When we assumed the Soldier, we did not set aside the citizen."

I say this because as the Division struggles to find ways to assist our Soldiers, I have pressed my case for the Generals and Colonels to start listening. They have to visibly and repeatedly demonstrate that the human beings they serve, who also happen to be Soldiers, are the most important part of the entire organization. By focusing that way, we might create a small cultural awareness that it really is the Soldier - down in a squad, pulling guard in a tower, smoking a cigarette after a firefight or exhausting patrol, who is the reason the rest of us come to work each day. Culture change happens most effectively when the top sets the direction, and the middle feels some pressure to change current practice, and finally, the institution accepts a new norm. Without the Generals telling the Colonels and the Colonels telling the Lieutenant Colonels that we need to refocus our efforts on the human beings that fill their ranks, then we will continue to press forward with a business management model that ultimately causes Soldiers to lose faith and that loss demonstrates itself in a variety of ways, most of which are not good for the Army and do not contribute to mission success. Without pressure to create an environment of servant leadership we will undoubtedly fail.

I was reading the November/December issue of Soldier magazine the other day, and it is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the United States Special Operations Command. In the article on Army Special Forces, is a small box that identifies the '5 Truths of Special Forces'. Interestingly, the first 2 are, "Humans are more important than their hardwear", and "Their quality is more important than their quantities."

In post #29 I started to look at those parts of my leadership 'philosophy' that matter the most to me ad asked readers to do the same. Ever since I have been in the Army, I have wondered why officers are required to have - and post for all to read - their command philosophy, but senior enlisted are not. I believe that while it is important for people to understand the things that matter most to the commissioned officer who is legally in charge of the organization, I also believe that it is even more critical that that process occur on the non-commissioned officer side. Where the Soldier and the leader meet in the day-to-day conduct of unit business. In the thousands of little decisions and interactions and displays of behavior and response that make up the fine line between "firmness and harshness, leadership and bullying" that Gen Zais spoke of above.

But, how do you do this? How do you inculcate these ideas in the next generation of Soldiers? A significant part of this problem is that we all believe that we are good leaders already. And why shouldn't we? Our promotions and positions have provided us every reason to believe that what we have done in the past and the positions we are in now are completely due to demonstrated ability and past leadership performance. That belief - reinforced by institutional promotion and evaluation systems that have a completely different set of pressures placed on them - creates 2 separate but related problems. The first is the belief at the leader level that one can simply replicate the same processes and ideas that were used at a lower level at the higher one. What worked as a squad leader will continue to work at platoon or even company level. Over the course of a career, that would mean that the same thing that worked 20 years ago should still work today. That implies a very static world. That is not the world we live in. The second is the creation of the us/them, leader group/led group mentality, as if being an officer, or non-commissioned officer is some kind of club that some people are let in and others are excluded from. If you change those breakdowns into an Us group with no Them part, and see the officer, non-commissioned officer, Soldier as all parts of one thing (the Army), instead of separate parts, then it changes the discussion. Issues like suicide, rising crime rates, domestic violence, apathy etc cannot be seen as abstracts when they are happening in our own home. They can however, be seen that way if you don't feel as if they are your problems, but rather the problems of some other group.

To lead people you must inherently value them. Otherwise it is simply management. Valuing them implies caring for them. It means acknowledging their importance in the organization and working at all times to serve them to the best of your ability. In order to do that, you have to be grounded in who you are, what you value, and why you do the things you do. You then have to share that with those you serve. They have to know who they are following. They have to trust that their leader has their best interest in mind. Not necessarily their safety, or their comfort, or their physical pain, but their ultimate importance to the organization. A Soldier who believes that their leadership has decided that attacking the enemy or defending a piece of ground is the best way to ultimately care for them, their families and what they value will fight - and in some cases - die believing in that leader. Those who do not feel that way will simply try to survive.

General Zais said it quite nicely, "You have to give a damn."

#29 My Thoughts

So far, most of these blog posts have been centered on what I believe is wrong with the leadership training system that is currently in place in the Army. I have focused my thoughts on the failure of the institutional approach to leader development and tried to find examples from different sources to 'prove' that there is a better way to do business, and that the very survival of the leadership corps demands that we re-look our current assumptions and methods and see if there is a better way to produce value-based Soldiers who posses the skills and analytical qualities required for the current operating environment.

Along the way I have often repeated the phrase that "the top needs to start listening to the bottom." I still believe this is generically true due to the vast number of 'disgruntled employees' out there, but after doing to some searching this week, I found that maybe the top is listening. Maybe they actually do understand the types of leaders we need to produce. Maybe the very very top of the Army has a very clear understanding of what skills and abilities our Soldiers need to posses in order to be successful in the current age. As proof, I offer the following thoughts.

LTG William Caldwell is, or was, the Commander of the Combined Arms Center at Ft. Leavenworth, KS. I have found a lot of interesting information there, including the blog post that he started regarding strategic communication that helped focus my thoughts and started a dialogue with CR that has been immensely helpful. Yesterday, I printed the text of some speeches that LTG Caldwell gave throughout his tenure and I think they are appropriate here.

First, a quote from a speech given at West Point to the class of 2011.

"Your service in our Army will likely be defined as a period of persistent conflict against decentralized 'flat' enemy organizations like Al Qada, Hamas, and Hezbollah. To fight and win in this environment demands agile, adaptable leaders who are creative, critical thinkers."

"Somewhere at this very moment there is a Soldier in training in places like Ft. Benning, who is preparing for war and expects a leader of character, who possesses the will to win, the personal courage and mental toughness to inspire, and lead them in the most trying of times."

"Many people you encounter while deployed will not understand English, but they will watch your actions and judge America by your integrity, your sincerity and the respect you show their women and children."

"Our military is beginning to accept the merits of this approach to warfighting. We are slowly changing a culture. Rest assured however that we are merely catching up to our adaptive enemy. For years, Hamas has built medical clinics and schools in Palestinian refugee camps and has the popular support of many."

I think these 4 quotes are important because they set the stage by properly seeing the environment as it is...not how we might wish it to be, allude to the human qualities that must be developed to lead Soldiers, understand that violence of action must be intimately coupled with empathy, compassion and respect, and accept that we, as an organization, are playing catch-up to an enemy who, by design and structure, is out-OODAing us at basic levels.

Even more impactful for me however, was a speech that LTG Caldwell gave to private sector industry leaders on November 13, 2008. He was the keynote speaker at the Giant Impact Servant Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. During that speech, he made some comments that I think are critically important to all leader development, not just the very bottom. They are a call to each of us to consider who we are, what we stand for, and how we go about impacting out world. Below are some excerpts:

"The most effective leaders do not seek power, wealth or fame - they seek to make a difference in the lives of others" As quoted from the book "The Case for Servant Leadership" by Kent Keith.

"Be humble - never take yourself too seriously"

"Be teachable - Have a willingness to learn from others. I've found that I often times learn the most from talking with our new Soldiers and officers. When I was the Multi-National Task Force - Iraq spokesman, a young 23 year old contractor came up to me and asked me if we'd ever thought about using You Tube to tell the story of the American Soldier? I said "You what?" I had never heard of You Tube, but after a quick tutorial we approved this young man to build and hang videos on the site. I was not the expert at new media, but I was willing to learn......Seek knowledge from all sources: Reading, writing, listening (Reflect, Rebalance, Refocus."

"Be Yourself - Leaders must seek out the unique skills of all those who work for them. Find their strengths and bring them out. Maximize your own strengths. Each of us in a unique individual - diversity builds the team strength."

"Along with Be, Say, Do, a Servant Leader must have a vision. A vision is a defining characteristic necessary for a strategic leader to change a culture. Without a vision the people will perish and the organization will flounder. It's important to note you need to know how to define success because it will drive many important decisions. It will impact every decision you make as a leader. How does a servant leader define success? A servant leader defines it as serving others."

If you look throughout this blog, you can find references by me or by others who post here that reflect most if not all of these themes. The themes and ideas seem to have an almost universal feel to them. That the 'best' of industry, academia, government etc share a sort of over-arching ethos. A sense of themselves, a desire to serve, a high value on their people, and a vision for a better world.

And so, I started to ask myself what I believe in. What are my rules for successful leadership?

1. I truly think that successful leaders must be themselves. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was "Go with what got you here. If you were a nice guy before, stay that way. If you were an asshole, don't try to change now." It's important to understand that "being yourself" will change over time and circumstance. Accept that and hold on to those things that become the marrow of your character. Let the rest slide by when it no longer serves you. It's called growing and it is the very essence of successful leadership. As I continue to grow I am slowly becoming more comfortable in my own skin. The highs and lows, victories and defeats, miracles and tragedies that have made up the 41 years of my life have created the person I am today - warts and all. While I will never stop trying to improve myself, I am slowly becoming more comfortable with who I am and how I operate. That is important when leading others because regardless of the type of person you are - good or bad, angel or asshole, there is a purity to that which makes your followers more comfortable and confident with you and the decisions you make. They feel secure in your personality. Without vanity, study yourself and learn about who you are and why you are the way you are. Other people's impressions of you are fleeting - they see you at one particular place in time - they will not define the whole of your life.

2. Be ever watchful for your own hypocrisy. Most good leaders have character traits that one might find distasteful. They may be arrogant, or boastful, or demanding. These can all be accepted however if they are not hypocritical. Be careful not to believe your own bullshit.

3. Treat them as people first and Soldiers second....you'll get a better Soldier. It's funny, but if you look at the previous post that talked about AR 600-20, you'll see the same thing. We work to provide the physical / material / mental and spiritual needs of the individual in order to build a more complete and more capable Soldier. Meet those individual needs and the Soldier you help to create will become the citizen who posses those qualities that are uniquely American

4. Another quote from a mentor: "Whenever your assumptions prove false, check your pretenses. In that, reflection is always a positive thing."

5. I do not profess to be very religious. Although raised Catholic, I have not come back to the place of organized religion yet. However, when I was a young man my father gave me a copy of a document called "The Desiderata". In place of anything else, it has provided me a valuable guide throughout the years. You can find it at: http://www.fleurdelis.com/desiderata.htm

These are the leadership guides that are important to me. They are generally hopeful, and very universal. I believe that having some sense of your value system and a recognition of who you are is the critical component to becoming a successful leader. I'd be interested to hear what yours are. They will demand objective self evaluation and a re-evaluation of whether you are a servant leader, or a leader who sees others as serving them in search of a larger goal. Mind you, I'm not judging either way, only recognizing that there is a difference and knowing which side of the fence you are on right now will play a large part in determining how you will lead in the future.