One of the most interesting things I found when reading about COL Boyd, was the way he studied so many various different things. He drew inspiration and learning points from history, science, philosophy etc. Although he had effectively redesigned the F16 and incidentally stumbled upon the idea of the OODA Loop, he never stopped following his varied interests and discovering new opportunities to learn from them. Often, one small passage from a biography or scientific text would provide him a new insight into an idea or theory he was kicking around himself, but had not fully come to grasp. In that light, I searched around on my bookshelves this morning and pulled out 3 different books. The first is called "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...And It's All Small Stuff", by Richard Carlson. The 2nd is "Leadership is an Art", by Max DePree. The 3rd is "Common Sense Training", by LTG Arthur Collins, jr. Finally, I found the attached link at BNET.com http://blogs.bnet.com/ceo/?p=2829&tag=nl.e713. I want to highlight certain passages of each to illustrate (hopefully) the larger thematic idea behind my writing and training philosophy.
From "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" comes the following passage: "Almost everyone feels that their own opinions are good, otherwise they wouldn't be sharing them with you. One of the destructive things that many of us do, however, in compare someone else's opinion to our own. And when it doesn't fall in line with our belief we either dismiss it, or find fault with it. ....Almost every opinion has some merit, especially if we are looking for merit, rather than looking for errors."
From "Leadership is an Art" comes this: We need a system of Response - leaders must make involvement genuine. A great error is to invite people to be involved and contribute their ideas and then to exclude them from the evaluation, the decision-making process and the implementation."
From "Common Sense Training": "In addressing a new generation of leaders, I cannot emphasize to strongly that the fundamentals of training do not change. Weapons change, technology advances and tactics adjust to what is new. The fundamentals of training however - to prepare an army to fight in some national crisis with whatever means are at hand-change but little. The major changes in training come from the social changes that affect the human condition. The enlightened trainer takes advantage of these changes to forge a better fighting force."
Finally, from the link above: "Change for its own sake also causes cynicism and resistance on the part of the rank and file. Since employees know that management approaches come and go as leaders transition in and out, they don’t take the new initiatives very seriously."
Interestingly, "Don't Sweat.." is a self-help type book designed to find your inner peace, written in 1997. "Leadership" is considered a business management classic written in 1989, and "Common Sense Training" was written by LTG Collins in 1978!
I think the first passage underscores my belief that you cannot totally by into your own bullshit and that it must be tested against new challenges and points of view to see how it stacks up under the pressure of changing conditions and understandings. It is what drives my fascination with Millennials. By looking for their input, challenging my preconceptions, and constantly searching for those individuals who are skeptical of the status quo, I continually have the opportunity to look at my reality in a fresh manner. Sometimes I fight for my preconceptions very hard, and sometimes I quickly give ground when the light bulb finally comes on. That is why I feel very comfortable challenging the 7 Principles of Army Training. I know that the way the Principles are currently constructed will not lead to effective leader development. I know this because my blind faith and experiences in "Big Army" don't stack up against the reality of talking with a bunch of young officers or NCOs'. I also see the challenges of comparing new ideas against a senior leader's opinion at the top, especially in such a hierarchical organization like the Army where conspicuous rank is often considered to equal intelligence and wisdom. Sometimes it truly does. Sometimes however, the lack of willingness to consider alternate opinions, and refusal to find the merit in them, only demonstrates the 'believing your own bullshit' that causes junior leaders and middle management to become bitter and disenfranchised.
The second quote is an almost automatic outcome of a failure to understand the first one. If you are only paying lip-service to subordinate ideas and opinions and not truly willing to allow them to be tested to find whether they really do have merit; or to co-opt them and not allow the subordinate to execute and take ownership of them, you stand to quickly lose the support, and faith of those who had them. Again, in the Army there is a real danger of this because of the top-down structure. The idea that a young sergeant or lieutenant could actually have a smart, well thought out, common sense answer to an immediate tactical need has become so strange sounding that it is taking a revolution of ideas to remind our institution that young leadership is the cornerstone of the Army and without it, we will not prevail in the current or future conflicts.
The 3rd quote struck me because it is 30 years old, and yet never more relevant than right now. Train the best you can, for the fight you face, with what you have. Everything else will change, but acknowledging the social change, accepting it's impact positively and negatively and developing training that forges a better Army and meets that need is immutable.
Finally, from the blog link. If you fail at all of the above, and start to 'believe your own bullshit' or that rank, status, and position demand personalized change with your stamp on it, you will almost inevitably lose the faith and support of the rank and file.