#75 The Eight Folks in Your Office

Last night I went to Wikipedia to see what the site had on COL John Boyd, the military theorist credited with the development of the OODA loop. For those interested in Boyd, the OODA Loop and his contribution to America, you can find the link here:


While there I came across a link to the Command and Control Research Program, a Department of Defense sponsored think-tank which describes itself like this:

"The Command and Control Research Program (CCRP) within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (NII) focuses upon (1) improving both the state of the art and the state of the practice of command and control and (2) enhancing DoD's understanding of the national security implications of the Information Age. It provides "Out of the Box" thinking and explores ways to help DoD take full advantage of Information Age opportunities. The CCRP bridges the operational and technical communities and enhances the body of knowledge and research infrastructure needed for future progress."

The link to CCRP is below:


In that search, I also came across a paper written by Dr. John H. Clippinger entitled "Leadership". Regrettably, I cannot find the exact link again to embed it into this post. Dr. Clippinger's paper however, begins to look at the structural differences between Industrial Age organizations and Network Centric organization with regard to the types of people who comprise them, specifically focusing on the military. The introduction to the paper below makes the case for why we have the military hierarchical structure that we are all familiar with, as well as look at the requirements necessary for leadership in the network-centric era:

"It is very true that I have said that I considered Napoleon’s presence in the field
equal to forty thousand men in the balance. —Duke of Wellington

One bad general does better than two good ones. —Napoleon


During the early nineteenth century, Wellington’s and Napoleon’s observations made
sense. With the onset of battle, communications became muddled, artillery was immobilized, and a commander’s ability to control his forces was limited. Consequently,the leadership of a single general could prove decisive in battle by maintaining clarity of command and control.

We are now at a totally different stage of warfare. This not to say that the fog of war has completely lifted, but visibility and synchronized actions, and the speed, precision, and lethality of response is beyond comparison to anything that has preceded it. The battlefield success of the doctrine and technology of Network Centric Warfare was not based upon a single brilliant plan, or a single individual or group, but rather was a property of the network, both technologically and organizationally. As Operation Iraqi Freedom so vividly illustrated,2 battle plans can now be changed very rapidly, affecting all aspects of operations—strategy, tactics, logistics and PSYOPs, operations, kinetics, and all types of forces. The competencies that make NCW a success are network properties; they are no longer solely the province of charismatic leaders or chance, but the result of diverse competencies and a new understanding of the role and growth of network leadership, and how it is learned and rewarded."

Further on in the article, Dr. Clippinger outlines the 8 types of people who exist in a network centered organization and the critical roles they perform. Since most of my posts try to remain 'people' focused, this section inevitably caught my eye. The 8 types and a shortened description of each is listed below.

1. The Exemplar- "These are the role models that others imitate. Sometimes their role can be simply symbolic, even ceremonial, but they are nonetheless important in setting the tone and culture of the organization. Successful and charismatic founders of new organizations, from Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Sam Walton to Osama Bin Laden and Aum Shinrikyo, all embody values and personalities that become the values of their organization. These leaders also exemplify the assessment criteria and set the standards for becoming a member of a network. In the military, each Service has its own types of exemplars: pilots and Seals for the Navy; Green Berets, and Rangers for the Army; and fighter pilots for the Air Force. These exemplars embody what is considered the most difficult and admired professional qualities that set that Service apart."

2. The Gatekeeper - "For every network there are membership rules—criteria for being included, retained, elevated, and excluded. The gatekeeper decides who is in and who is out...Like the doorman to exclusive clubs, the gatekeeper role is a combination of truth-teller, applying the standard for admittance, and enforcer, denying admittance to those parties that fail the test."

3. The Visionary - "Visionaries play a vital and sometimes contentious role within the military. They are often the first to see weaknesses in prevalent military doctrine, to espouse new technologies and doctrines, and therefore, to challenge current leadership and entrenched interests."

4. The Truth Teller - "In every network organization, someone has to keep the network honest....Like the accounting function in a corporation or the judicial function in the legal system, truth-tellers can lose their independence, and hence effectiveness. Since these are often the first roles to go in times of stress, successful leadership is exemplified here by independence, transparency, accuracy, and candor in the face of enormous pressure....The challenges are especially acute and consequential within military organizations. If credibility breaks down, trust soon becomes the next casualty, and then the overall effectiveness of the chain of command....The truth telling goal is to provide authenticated and accurate reporting of the outcomes of missions. It can take enormous courage to resist the inevitable pressures of peers and superiors to report what they want to be known, rather then the truth of the matter. Being a truth-teller can be highly unpopular and a long road to advancement."

5. The Fixer - " This is an individual who knows how to get things done and measures
him or herself not just by how many people they might know, but rather how they can get things done that others cannot. Such individuals are results oriented."

6. The Connector - "These network leaders participate in multiple social networks,
connecting not only with a large number of members, but a highly diverse number of members as well. They are known for having numerous friends, connections, and contacts—for being consummate networkers. Like the visionary leaders, they can introduce variety and options into a network through the diversity of people with whom they interact. They are critical for identifying and accessing new resources and helping to get a message out."

7. The Enforcer - "In smaller networks, this role is often combined with that of the
gatekeeper and even the truth-teller. However, in larger networks it is an independent role. Enforcement can mean physical coercion, but more often entails psychological or peer pressure. Like the truth-teller function, independence and transparency are critical for overall network effectiveness. Clearly, force and military means are the enforcement methods of last resort, but are necessary in order to buttress other forms of enforcement, which can vary from guilt and shame to legal redress. Most networks have their own forms of redress and enforcement that entail exclusion."

8. The Facilitator - "Within the military, this role is filled primarily as a staff function to a commander, and therefore may not appear to have the caché of the connector or visionary leadership roles. However, in networked organizational structures where decision making is be more distributed and less hierarchical, this leadership role is vital to coordinating and enabling other actors and decision makers."

I think one reason that this document caught my eye, was a snippet of the video I posted last week from General Dempsey. Somewhere in that video, I heard him mention "Enabling the edge" or words to that effect, and it struck me, because I think that phrase generates from the title of another CCRP product entitled, "Power to the Edge" which can be found here:


All of the above forms the basis for the following: What types of people are required to decentralize command and control? What types of people does it take to make the organization adaptable and responsive? What skills, attributes, and abilities do we need to inculcate in young and developing leaders? What types of awareness's do leaders have to posses in order to make the organization itself function as fluidly and accurately as possible? Many of these questions are being asked at the highest levels of the Army as indicated by the interview with General Dempsey in last week's post. And maybe more importantly, do the answers to these questions require wholesale changes to our current leadership models, or do they require more subtle azimuth adjustments in our organizational priorities? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I do believe that regardless of industry there must be the requirement for someone to continually be searching for them.

Who am I?

Using the labels provided by Dr. Clippinger above, I started to think about which of those labels suited my understanding of my leadership style the best. Quite honestly however, I think the more important question will be is my understanding of me the same as other people's understanding of me, and what is the impact of that on the overall effectiveness of the organization and the mission? Secondly, I think that because we are in the midst of an organizational shift throughout all of society from an industrial age, hierarchical organization to an information age, decentralized one, each of us may find that we serve multiple roles at the same time as we shift from one age to the other. For example, this blog serves as my understanding of the roles of "Visionary" and "Truth-Teller" as described above. However, because I am also a noncommissioned officer, part of a organizational structure that is hierarchical and historic, I also fulfill the role of "Gate Keeper". Due to past achievements and titles and awards, I could also be termed an "Exemplar" My point is that most of us will serve more than one role for awhile as the two organizational models move against each other.

At the smallest unit level though, I think that these descriptions are excellent ways for each of us to look at ourselves, our role in the organization, and those above, below and parallel to us. Ultimately, they help refine our personal Orientation.

Consider this: Go back to each of the labels above and write down the first person who comes to your mind as you read the description: For me, the "Exemplar" right now is General Petraus. For the entire Army (and maybe America) he seems to represent the highest ideals of the organization both by personal behavior and by technical ability. The "Gate Keeper" is the senior noncomissioned officer in my organization. I am the "Visionary", although I am very uncomfortable with that title because it seems too self aggrandizing and because I don't have some defined clear-cut view of the perfect future of the organization. I think the title does fit me however because my circumstance has forced me to question the institutional norms and try to identify what I believe the gaps in current methodologies are. The "Truth Teller" would be someone like Don Vandergriff who has the identified the flaws in the traditional leader development model and has found a way to gain acceptance of his 'truths' with those in positions to drive change in the Army. Don told the truth and kept saying it until the institution recognized it's validity. The "Fixer" is a person I've worked and I've known for years now who, while not necessarily possessing some grand vision, is immensely capable of handling the day-to-day requirements necessary to fulfill the vision of those around him. The "Connector" is another person in our Division who I have known for a long time who has the ability to bring disparate groups together to ensure the vision gets accomplished. The "Enforcer" is someone I struggle with. By the very title, I see this person as a negative part of the organization, resisting change and establishing roadblocks. However, this isn't the connotation that Dr. Clippinger envisioned. The problem of interpretation is mine, and I cannot form a mental picture of who this individual might be. The "Facilitator" for me is an amalgam of people who, while functioning right now to complete someone else's vision, are also thinking very hard about the impacts that differing 'visions' may have. Many people who have commented here come to mind. They are people who have been able to ask hard questions about the task and it's purpose and the impact of those things on the entire organization.

If you do the same thing I just did and search for those people you think fulfill the roles outlined by Dr. Clippinger, you begin to see those people in a new light. A light that enhances their value to the organization equally regardless of where they may sit hierarchically. It also helps inform your vision of you and the role you play. It helps refine your Orientation. These considerations are important to leader development. They force each of us to look at ourselves honestly, and then determine those labels that enhance our self understanding and those that detract from it. By doing this analysis we can then determine our place in the organization that will provide the best fit for our talents, optimize our contributions and recognize the roles that others perform to accomplish the mission.

There are 8 people in your office. What descriptor do you assign them? Do you think they see themselves that way too? Interesting questions. The true leader may be the person who sees him/herself in the very same way that their superiors, peers, and subordinates see them.

The other evening, I was talking to a friend on the phone and questioning whether or not I ever really desired to lead troops again as a First Sergeant or higher. Right now, I enjoy the new role I have have found both here and at work and enjoy the job I have. When I asked my friend what his thoughts were he said that maybe my best contribution to the Army right now is in helping to develop the new leadership requirements that current and future fights will require. Growing up in the Army, all I ever wanted to be was a command sergeant major. Now, without regret or remorse, I may have found a new dream.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. as usual, excellent post...immediately made me think of 2 important leader develepment requirements:
    1. "Get the right people on the bus" - leaders have to ensure they surround themselves with people who don't think like they do, are comfortable and vocal in that role, and others who fit the "8 folks" roles.....
    2. set and enforce a climate (command/leader climate) where diversity of thought (speaking truth to power) is desired and rewarded