#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.

1 comment:

  1. In case you're wondering, attached is a link to Gen McChrystal's assessment document in August. It will provide a little background to the Army Times story.