#24 People

As I look back on the first 25 posts it occurs to me that maybe I need to check and see if I'm still meeting the original intent. When I started this blog it's purpose was to stimulate a discussion around the general theme of leadership, its application, and my personal observations regarding it's current state in the Army. Now I've come to post number #25 and somehow this seems a good time to review where the discussion has taken us.

"Leadership in a democratic Army means firmness not harshness; understanding, not weakness; justice, not licence; humanness, not intolerance; generosity, not selfishness; pride, not egotism."
General Omar Bradley

And that may be the essence of both our current successes and our current failures. Those attributes cannot be dictated, they must be imbued. We often speak of 'men and women of character'. We speak of a 'values system' and a 'Warrior Ethos'. But words alone cannot assist us to achieve these things, they must be demonstrated on a daily basis. We must look for, develop and meld them from the values, character and judgements of the citizen-Soldiers who fill our ranks. When we can live with the finer parts General Bradley described - firmness, understanding, justice, humanness, generosity and pride - then we achieve the pinnacle of leading citizen-Soldiers. When we do not, and find ourselves living with harshness, weakness, licence, intolerance, selfishness and egotism, we undoubtedly fail both as leaders in the titular sense and as men and women of character. You will also find both these sets of attributes, good and bad, in the citizenry of every portion of this country, in every ethnic, social or gender group throughout the world. The hard part though is that each of us already sees ourselves as possessing all or most of the former, and very little of the latter. Which implies that we each think that we already posses all the necessary tools to consider ourselves successful leaders. Nothing could be further from the truth. Successful leadership depends upon a constant search for those people and ideas and innovations which allow us to reorient ourselves and to inspire and produce the next generation of men and women of character.

Interestingly, the quotation above was taken from a book entitled "Leadership: Quotations from the Military Tradition" The book is an anthology of quotations from military and other leaders broken into different sections such as Ability, Attributes, Caring, Discipline, Duty, Leadership etc. The section on Military Leadership begins with a series of quotes from Army leadership manuals over time. The part that struck me was that most of the early quotes (the earliest one here is 1948) deal with the human aspect of leading, that is the definition or quotation is centered around adjusting the behavior of people in order to accomplish some other objective. As a matter of fact, the 1948 version of DA Pam 22-1 "Leadership" states quite simply, "Leadership is the art of influencing human behavior". A very direct statement that places people - Soldiers - at the very heart of the leadership issue.

Consider today's definition of leadership. "Leadership is providing, purpose, direction and motivation to accomplish the mission while improving the organization." Interesting that mission accomplishment and organizational improvement have - over time - replaced the understanding of people and human behavior as the primary requirements of successful leadership. What about creating improved people? If we only focus on the mission, then we will eventually succeed, but that success will ultimately fail if the human price paid to achieve it becomes too much for the citizen-Soldier to bear. If we only focus on organizational improvement, then we will never truly inspire Soldiers to overcome fear and deprivation for the good of that organization. They will only respond in as much as they feel the organization is supporting them.

And now we are at war and young men and women are leading other young men and women into a very confusing and rapidly changing battle, and most of the struggles we are facing are not rooted in mission accomplishment, nor organizational success, but are most firmly rooted in the difficulties of sustaining people over a long period of time, under rigorous physical and emotional conditions. And we wonder why everyone complains about a lack of good 'Leaders' anymore. It's simple really. We stopped teaching about human behavior and the development of character and a sense of ethos and replaced it with a 'mission over men', 'institution over Soldier' model.

And that was part of my intent behind this. To talk about leading people. And I think in a generic, sort of round about way, we have done that. Using OODA, and marksmanship and a Soldier centered training model, a discussion has begun that looks at the culture of the Army, the motivations of it's Soldiers and a method of inspiring and developing the ethos and character that we all aspire to. At least I hope so. I think it's there somewhere, right behind the mechanical aspects involved in a particular post. Right behind understanding OODA is a way of enhancing a person. A way for us to stay centered and focused on what the purpose of leading people is all about. The 'Women in the Army' posts are certainly people centric and are perhaps the best illustration of the people vs the organization issue. Michelle's comments highlight what can happen when we fail to live up to the high qualities that General Bradley spoke of. A sense of understanding, humanness and generosity. I think at the tactical and strategic level, those same qualities are nicely demonstrated in last weeks post by MG Stone and his treatment of detainees.

I think this week will finish with another quote that is absolutely key to this discussion. "American troops in particular, resent any suggestion that they are ciphers and not people. They want to be known for themselves and will resist any attempt to mold them into an anonymous pattern." General Maxwell D. Taylor

Ahhh, I just knew my Millennials weren't really original after all. Seems that individuality and self-definition has been a part of the American Soldier's character and ethos for a long long time. And those people are who we lead.

As always, feel free to comment.

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