Archive for U.S. Army

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , on June 14, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance:

I had planned a post to commemorate the 237th birthday of the United States Army. But, this post celebrates and honors the occasion much better than I could. As a Nation, we are grateful for the Army’s service and sacrifice.
**Additional resource celebrating the U.S. Army’s 237th birthday can be found at the following link:
237th Army Birthday ~ America’s Army: The Strength of the Nation – June 14, 2012:

http://www.army.mil/birthday/237/

HOOAH!!! (It’s an Army thing)

Originally posted on Bring the heat, Bring the Stupid:

On June 14th, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized a force of 10 companies of riflemen.  From those humble beginnings has risen a force that for 237 years has, almost uniquely among armies of the world, stood for the protection of the rights of the population it serves, rather protecting the government that established it.

It has been among the largest armies in the world, and among the smallest. It has at times enjoyed great public support, and times of disdain and apathy. It has been home to the most humble citizens, and some of the greatest men our nation has ever produced.

It has served, fought, built, in virtually every corner of the world. Millions of Americans have served with gallantry and distinction, from the American Revolution to this very day.

It is fitting that this day, this birthday of the Army, is shared with today’s other celebration, Flag…

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Reading the Professional Soldier

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance:

Highly recommended reading.

Originally posted on Carrying the Gun:

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks reading about the professional soldier and some of the issues faced by the US Army in managing the professional force. The number of articles on the topic suggests there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

These are three good articles to read for junior leaders in the force. They raise hard questions.

Afghanistan: A Gathering Menace (The American Scholar) – a journalist’s take on traveling with US soldiers. Is this just bravado or a toxic culture?

Lost in Translation: How the Army has Garbled the Message about the Nature of Its Profession (Military Review) – Are we soldiers or warriors? Does it matter?

Honor, not law (Armed Forces Journal) – especially relevant in light of the Afghanistan massacre. The author argues that it is honor and values that shape battlefield behavior, not law.

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The United States Military Academy at West Point ~ Established March 16, 1802

Posted in Miscellaneous, Video of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

United States Military Academy Wall TapestryThe History of West Point is integral to the history of the United States of America. From the day of its founding on March 16, 1802, a favorite expression at West Point is that “much of the history we teach was made by people we taught.” Great leaders such as Grant and Lee, Pershing and MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton, Schwarzkopf and Petraeus are among the more than 50,000 graduates. Countless others, following military service, have had distinguished careers in business, medicine, law, sports, politics, and science.

The mission of The United States Military Academy at West Point is to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army.

highland falls west point cadetsRenowned as the world’s premier leader development institution, West Point accomplishes its mission by developing cadets intellectually, physically, militarily, ethically, spiritually, and socially. The student body, or Corps of Cadets, numbers 4,400 and each year approximately 1000 cadets join the Long Gray Line as they graduate and are commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Today, The United States Military Academy at West Point celebrates its 210th birthday.
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The Hellcats at the Old Guard Tattoo

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For Freedom We Fight

Tribute to the West Point experience and the Class of 2011

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On Brave Old Army Team

Poor Leadership in the Military and in Corporate America

Posted in Leadership, Toxic Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

An article written last year in Fast Company discussed the effects of poor leadership in the military causing more members to hang up their uniform and leave the military.  The article refers to results of a survey conducted among Army NCO’s and officers about their desire to remain in uniform after completing their service obligations.  The survey revealed that some members of the military are citing ‘poor leadership’ as a reason they are leaving the military.

More than the hardship and strain caused by repeated deployments to combat zones, poor leadership is the main factor in driving active-duty enlisted soldiers from the Army, according to [an] Army Times article, citing research results.  Poor leadership is the third-most popular reason for leaving the service among the active-duty officers surveyed, the article states.  Among noncommissioned officers, leadership concerns were a greater motivation to quit than the relentless pace of deployments.[i]  Although the survey is nearly a year old, I am sure the results would be quite similar, or maybe even higher, as a result of the stress and strains of military life over the past few years.

As we’ve discussed here at Command Performance Leadership, toxic leadership is a very real problem in our military.  Although I believe it is isolated and infrequent, it does still pose a harmful threat to the morale and effectiveness of our fighting men and women in uniform.  And, of course, this isn’t exclusive to the military ranks.  Corporate America is also fighting the battle of poor leadership.

Here is the article, with some follow-up opinions to follow:

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Poor Leadership In Companies Goes Straight To The Bottom Line

By Roberta Chinsky Matuson – July 27, 2011

It’s no wonder that the movie Horrible Bosses is playing to full theaters all across America. Everyone has either had a terrible boss at some point in his or her career or they know someone who has been in this situation. Poor leadership is an epidemic that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

The problem of poor leadership isn’t just reserved for the private sector. In a recent survey by the Army Research Institute, 26 % of sergeants and staff sergeants and 23 % of lieutenants and captains surveyed planned to leave the Army after completing their current service obligations. Of those, 35 % of enlisted and 26 % of officers cited the quality of leadership at their duty stations as a reason for leaving. Among noncommissioned officers, leadership concerns were a greater motivation to quit than the relentless pace of deployments.

Here is how this is playing out in organizations around the world.

Employees are being placed in positions of authority based on seniority, rather than results. Sgt. Kevin Doyle, a two-tour veteran of Afghanistan recently wrote the following on the Army Times website. “Instead of promoting those who create results, we keep in dinosaurs that meet an easy standard and continue to slide under the radar.” The same thing happens in Corporate America, where seniority and internal politics often trumps employee performance and results.

People are promoted into management positions before they are ready. In an effort to save money, organizations are turning towards internal promotions or relying on inexperienced leaders to train new managers. The results can be disastrous if the promotion doesn’t come with training or coaching from a more senior person.

I recently learned of a situation where my 19-year-old nephew is training the boss’s son to take on a newly created management role. Now don’t get me wrong. I love my nephew dearly, but at age 19, how much can he really know about management? My heart goes out to the son of the owner, who will be expected to fly high the moment he is set free in the organization. And then we wonder why most family businesses don’t make it to the third generation.

Lack of role models. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have a good boss then you are usually one of the lucky ones. Getting two or more of these is equivalent to winning the lottery.

We model our behavior on what we observe. If most of what we see is poor leadership then it’s unlikely we will be much better without an intervention.

It’s no secret that people leave their bosses. We also know that employee turnover has a direct impact on the bottom line of organizations. Many people believe that leadership is a trait we all possess. That may be true for some, but for others leadership is something that can be taught. Isn’t it time that we put our knowledge to good use to resolve this problem?

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Louis Johnsick, one of the members of my LinkedIn group, Command Performance: Military and Corporate Leadership, posted a comment soon after I posted this article last year in the group’s discussion board.  He said:

“There is poor leadership everywhere for sure. For the most part, the corporations and military are shooting themselves in the foot by placing the wrong people in charge and for all the wrong reasons.

I think this happens for a few different reasons. The top two that I can think of would be: 1) “It’s how we’ve always done it.” 2) “Their a good person and they deserve a chance.” If these folks aren’t ready for a leadership role, then they aren’t ready for a leadership role. I have known some great people, but their leadership ability and management style were sub-standard, but they were still put in charge or recommended for promotion. It would be much better for the individual and the organization to continue grooming them and get them to a higher level, rather than see them flounder and fail; just because we like them or we don’t want to hurt their feelings. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

As a military retiree and working in the civilian sector, I have seen these scenarios play out in the military and corporate worlds. In order to ensure organizational success, performance has to be a prerequisite for promotion; not just seniority. That was always one of the great things about the military, if you worked for a bad boss, just wait 18 months or officer rotation or 3 years for senior NCO’s to rotate. No such thing is the corporate world.

So what’s the bottom line? Agree with the article, in that, we need to get real and take a hard look at how things are being done and do some serious internal analyses and find a new starting point and develop some measurable metrics for success. Ensure we identify the key performers and train and coach them for future leadership roles. Maybe adopt the mantra, “It’s nothing personal, just business.”

Louis’ comment is echoed by General Martin Dempsey (at the time, Army Chief of Staff) in the May 2011 Army Times article.  In the article, Dempsey blasted the pace of promotions, suggesting that it puts people in leadership positions before they are ready.  “We’re promoting 95 to 98 percent of captains to major, 93 or 95 percent of majors to lieutenant colonel. We shouldn’t be satisfied … because 98 percent of captains don’t deserve to be promoted to major. Statistically, that’s an infeasible percentage. And we’ve got to do the same thing on the noncommissioned officer side.”  Too many soldiers are promoted based on seniority instead of merit.

So, is toxic leadership the new fog of war for our senior military leaders?  Do most not see that this is a poison among our military ranks?  What will the Pentagon do to eradicate toxic leaders from the military?  Is it a matter of eradication, or is it a need to have remedial counseling and training among leaders who possess traits of a toxic leader; to train them to be more empathetic towards their subordinates?

My personal opinion, as stated in other posts, is that fundamental leadership training, and the awareness of what toxic leadership is, and how to avoid being a toxic leader, should start early and often in a person’s career in the military.  Because the military is unique, in that it requires people at all levels to take on certain forms and levels of leadership, I think that what we are seeing in the results of the survey is a lack of training and, dare I say, prevention, early in one’s career.  As important as the training on sexual harassment, I think toxic leadership awareness should be an integral developmental focus of our future leaders, both in the military and in corporate America.  And, I think the results of this survey, and the subsequent departure of some very fine soldiers (and sailors, airmen and Marines), is ultimately the result of our senior leaders either ignoring the facts about toxic leadership, or not knowing how to recognize the signs that toxic leadership is affecting their ranks.  So, the training should be both how to avoid being a toxic leader, and how to recognize one.

I know what you are thinking…more training about things unrelated to killing our enemy.  But, topics like sexual harassment, hazing and toxic leadership, among other things, do have a tangible and lethal effect on the esprit de corps of our teams, and ultimately has an effect on our fitness to fight our Country’s wars.  It all ties together.

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Related Articles -

Survey: Bad Leadership Drives Soldiers to Leave (armytimes.com)

Bad Leaders are Destroying our Military (militarygear.com)

Antecedents and Consequences of Toxic Leadership in the U.S. Army: A Two Year Review and Recommended Solutions (usacac.army.mil)

Leadership Effects (A Guest Blog Post from the Front Lines) (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

(Hard) Lessons Learned About Leadership (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

Authoritarian Leadership vs. Democratic Leadership ~ The Officer Corps Explained (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

Toxic Leadership (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

Schofield’s Definition of Discipline (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

What Inspirational Leaders Do – Conclusion (cedricj.wordpress.com)

Footnote -

[i] “Survey: Bad Leadership Drives Soldiers to Leave” – Published: May 21, 2011 – http://www.stripes.com/news/army/survey-bad-leadership-drives-soldiers-to-leave-1.144230 – Accessed 8 March 2012 – Stars and Stipes – http://www.stripes.com/

Schofield’s Definition of Discipline

Posted in Leadership, Toxic Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

“The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and to give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or the other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.”

Major General John M. Schofield
Address to the Corps of Cadets, U.S. Military Academy
August 11, 1879

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Major General John M. Schofield’s quote is required knowledge, and to be memorized and recited verbatim, among Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) students, Officer Candidate School (OCS) candidates, Cadets at West Point and at the United States Air Force Academy, and other military leadership institutions.  I thought I would bring to you some background about General Schofield, and a little history about his quote on discipline.  Ultimately, the purpose of this post is to use the quote as a backdrop to the topic of toxic leadership that we’ve been discussing here at Command Performance Leadership.

First, I will provide a biography of Major General John M. Schofield.  For those of you who only know of his quote will be fascinated at his military experience and success.  Then, I will put into context General Schofield’s definition of discipline.

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John M. Schofield, US Army

John McAllister Schofield (September 29, 1831 – March 4, 1906) graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1853, ranking seventh in his class of 52 graduates, and was commissioned a brevet[i] second lieutenant in the artillery.  Schofield served for two years in the artillery, was assistant professor of natural and experimental philosophy at West Point from 1855 to 1860, and while on leave (1860–1861) was professor of physics at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.[ii]

When the Civil War broke out, Schofield became a major in the 1st Missouri Infantry, and served as chief-of-staff under Major General Nathaniel Lyon.  During the Battle of Wilson’s Creek (Missouri), Schofield acted with “conspicuous gallantry” during the battle, and received the Medal of Honor for that action in 1892.[iii-a][iv-a][v]

On November 21, 1861, Schofield was promoted to Brigadier General, and placed in charge of all the Union militia in Missouri.  He was again promoted to Major General on November 29, 1862, though the Senate did not confirm the appointment until May 12, 1863.  From 1861 to 1863, he held various commands in the Trans-Mississippi Theater, most of the time in command of the Army of the Frontier.[iii-b][iv-b]

On April 17, 1863, he took command of the 3rd Division in the XIV Corps of the Army of the Cumberland in Tennessee, but returned to Missouri in May of 1863 to command the Department of the Missouri.  In January of 1864, Schofield led the Army of the Ohio during the Atlanta Campaign under Major General William T. Sherman.[iii-c][iv-c]

After the fall of Atlanta, took the majority of his forces on his infamous “March to the Sea” through Georgia.  Schofield’s Army of the Ohio was detached to join Major General George H. Thomas to stop the invasion of Tennessee led by Confederate General John B. Hood.  On November 30, 1864, Hood managed to attack Schofield’s Army of the Ohio in the Battle of Franklin.  Schofield successfully repulsed Hood, effectively crippled Hood’s army, and joined his forces with Thomas.  Two weeks later, on December 15 and 16, during the Battle of Nashville, General Thomas used Schofield and his XXIII Corps to effectively destroy what was left of Hood’s army.  For his service at Franklin, Schofield received a promotion to Brigadier General in the regular army on November 30, 1864.[iii-d][iv-d]

Schofield was ordered to operate under Sherman in North Carolina, and moved his corps by rail and sea to Fort Fisher, North Carolina.  He captured Wilmington on February 22, 1865, and fought at the Battle of Kinston on March 10, before meeting up with Sherman on March 23 in Goldsboro.  Working together with Sherman, Schofield led the Department of North Carolina until the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston at Durham Station.  For his service, he was brevetted to Major General in the regular army.[iii-e][iv-e]

After the war, Schofield went on to become the Secretary of War under President Andrew Johnson; June 1868 to March 1869.  In 1873, he was tasked by Secretary of War William Belknap to investigate the strategic potential of a United States presence in the Hawaiian Islands.  Schofield’s report recommended that the United States establish a naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.[iii-f][iv-f]

From 1876 to 1881, Schofield was superintendent of the United States Military Academy.  From 1888 until his retirement in 1895, Schofield was commanding general of the United States Army. He had become a major general on March 4, 1869, and on February 5, 1895, he was commissioned a lieutenant general. Schofield retired on September 29, 1895, upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 64.[iii-g]

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Schofield’s Definition of Discipline

The foundations of leadership are taught in every military institution, from ROTC students, to OCS candidates and those who attend each of the service academies.  The demonstration of moral and ethical attributes are essential for effective leadership as a commission officer in the United States military.  Leaders of character are defined as one who “seeks to discover the truth, decides what is right, and demonstrates the courage to act accordingly – always.”  Officers in the military are to epitomize humility, self-effacement, and selfless service.  So, at the basic and academic level, before the bars are pinned onto a newly commissioned officer, candidates are taught the importance of equality, dignity and respect.[vi]  Therefore, General Schofield’s quote encapsulates the philosophy to develop relationships that promote mutual respect and trust.  So, there is good reason for an officer candidate to learn Schofield’s Definition of Discipline to the letter.

Schofield’s quote comes from a much longer address on the venerable vice of hazing, and the treatment of new cadets by their seniors in the Corps, that existed at West Point while he was Superintendent there between 1876 to 1881.  Schofield said, “The practice of hazing is both injurious and humiliating to its victims and degrading to those who engage in it.  Your constant associates after you leave the Academy must be the members of higher and lower classes.  The memory of ill-treatment will remain with its victim as long as he lives.  You can never be a ‘brother officer’ to him whom you once degraded.  The stern discipline of a commanding officer will soon be forgotten when it can be remembered that he always treated his subordinates with justice and due respect.  But wanton injustice and contumely can never be forgotten, except by a spirit too mean to feel its sting…The very foundation of civil society is mutual respect for individual rights.  And nowhere is such mutual respect more strictly enjoined and rigidly enforced than in military organizations.  Without it, tyranny on the one hand and disaffection and mutiny on the other must destroy the efficiency of an army…A veteran soldier sees but little difference between the different grades, from his own down to that of a junior cadet, and treats them all with nearly equal respect.  It would be well for young soldiers to profit by such examples.  The road to military honor will be guarded all the way by the hearts of those who may be your subordinates.  You cannot travel that road unless you can command those hearts.”[vii]

The Army defines respect as treating people as they should be treated.  It is the “Golden Rule” principle — do unto others as you would have them do to you.  Attitudes about the worth of people, concepts, and personal belief systems are expressions of their values.  Respect means recognizing and appreciating the inherent dignity and worth of all people.  This concept goes well beyond issues of discrimination and harassment; respect includes the broader issue of civility, the way people treat each other.  Respect involves being sensitive to diversity and the impact of one’s own behaviors on others — behaviors that others may perceive as being insensitive, offensive, or abusive.  Ultimately, the Army fosters a commitment to ethical excellence essential to leaders of character for our military and our Nation.[viii]

Too often in the Army, leaders want unqualified loyalty.  Schofield knew that such loyalty had to be earned. He knew that harsh treatment– the kind too frequently mistaken for authoritative expertise– comes at the expense of performance.  He knew that hard-earned respect– the kind that comes from compassion, empathy, and a commander’s genuine interest in his subordinates– makes men reliable in battle.[ix]  General [Schofield] was trying to tell us that we’d succeed in gaining the discipline necessary for any future overwhelming fight, if we treated our people with respect and in a manner and tone of voice appropriate for American warfighters.[x]

The foundation of discipline is not accountability or punishment, but respect.  A leader must establish trust and credibility, communicate effectively, employ empathy, intimately know their people’s capabilities, and move their people into positions to be most successful.  Nobody should be the ‘bad guy’ when leading people.  No leader should be a bad guy intentionally, or go out of their way to be one.  If a leader is working to perfect his ‘bad guy’ image, he is dishonoring his responsibility as a leader, and is creating a hostile environment for his followers.  If a leader has successfully become a ‘bad guy,’ shame on them.  Their subordinates deserve better than that; and, so does the service they represent and the Command (organization) they are responsible for.[xi]  Ultimately, a good leader will lead through respect instead of leading through fear.  When you treat people right, word gets around.

The poisoning results of harsh and tyrannical treatment can be detrimental to people, teams and organizations.  A leader’s job, along with guiding individuals and groups towards victory and success, is to be a mentor.  All eyes are on the leader; everyone looks up to them.  However, the wrong tone of voice or form of ridicule, no matter how isolated or common, can have a negative impact on individuals and teams.  The results of such toxic leadership can have destabilizing effects on command and control, as well as destroy esprit de corps.

Good leaders seek to develop and nurture relationships that lead to growth and fulfillment.  They:

  • Understand their needs and goals for relationships
  • Are able to take the perspective of another in relationships
  • Are able to transcend or step-out of their own self-interests to serve the good of the relationship
  • Work to establish cooperative relationships so all benefit
  • Seek relationships where they are respected and valued
  • Respect and value others in relationships
  • Seek healthy relationships that provide autonomy and support for growth
  • Meet their responsibilities in relationships
  • Treat others in relationships fairly and honestly
  • Effectively communicate with others in relationships
  • Build relationships based on trust
  • Understand the impact of military service on relationships[xii]

General Schofield’s quote is not very long, but it certainly says a lot.  For the Army, and any organization for that matter, to work properly there must be a bond between the leader and those being led; a bond that rests not on authority alone – but on professionalism, good will, and above all MUTUAL RESPECT.  As I said earlier in this post, there is good reason for an officer candidate to learn Schofield’s Definition of Discipline to the letter.  The knowledge and execution of its very meaning will serve officers well when they are in a position to lead people in the military and in life.

Copyright © Dale R. Wilson

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Related Articles -

Schofield’s Definition of Discipline – West Point Association of Graduates – Gray Matter (westpointaog.org)

Bugle Notes: Learn This! (west-point.org)

Why You Should Treat Your People Like it’s 1879 (thoughtleadersllc.com)

Leadership and the Golden Rule (courageouslearning.wordpress.com)

Leadership as Influence (weareallleadersnow.wordpress.com)

Toxic Leadership (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

Authoritarian Leadership vs. Democratic Leadership ~ The Officer Corps Explained (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

(Hard) Lessons Learned About Leadership (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

Respect for Others: A Bedrock of Leadership (digital-library.usma.edu)

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Footnotes -

[i] The Articles of War adopted by the United States Army in 1776 and slightly revised in 1806 established the use and significance of brevet ranks or awards in the U.S. Army. When first used, a brevet commission in the U.S. Army entitled the officer to be identified by a higher rank but the award had limited effect on the right to higher command or pay. A brevet rank had no effect within the officer’s current unit, but when assigned duty at the brevet rank by the U.S. President such an officer would command with the brevet rank and be paid at the higher rank. This higher command and pay would last only for the duration of that assignment. The brevet promotion would not affect the officer’s seniority and actual permanent rank in the army (“Brevet Brigadier Generals in Blue” by Roger D. Hunt and Jack R. Brown. Gaithersburg, MD: Olde Soldier Books, 1997. “Introduction”, p.v.).  Beginning on April 16, 1818, brevet commissions also required confirmation by the United States Senate, just as all other varieties of officer commissions did (“Civil War High Commands” by John H. Eicher and David J. Eicher. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. p. 34.).  Brevet promotions were quite common because the army had many frontier forts to garrison and other missions to perform but could not always appoint appropriately ranked officers to command these forts or missions. The U.S. Congress permitted only a limited number of each rank of officer. Thus, an officer of lower rank might receive a brevet commission to a rank more appropriate for his assignment. Also, newly commissioned officers often received brevet rank until authorized positions became available. For example an officer might graduate from West Point and be appointed a brevet second lieutenant until a permanent posting opened up (“Brevet [military]” – Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brevet_(military)– Accessed 19 February 2012)

[ii] “Civil War High Commands” by John H. Eicher and David J. Eicher. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. p. 472-73.

[iii-a,b,c,d,e,f,g] “John Schofield” – Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Schofield – Accessed 19 February 2012

[iv-a,b,c,d,e,f] “John M. Schofield” – Civil War Trust (Saving America’s Civil War Battlefields) – http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/biographies/john-schofield.html – Accessed 21 February 2012

[v] “Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas” by Benson Bobrick. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2009. p. 288, states “Much later, as secretary of war (1868-1869), he would award himself the Congressional Medal of Honor (actual award was in 1892) for Undocumented valor at Wilson’s Creek.”

[vi] “The Cadet Leader Development System (CLDS) – Moral Ethical Domain”- United States Military Academy Office of Policy, Planning, and Assessment – http://www.usma.edu/opa/clds/moral_ethical_domain.html – Accessed 22 February 2012 – United States Military Academy – http://www.usma.edu/

[vii] “Schofield’s Definition of Discipline” – West Point Association of Graduates – Gray Matter – Posted 4 November 2010 – http://www.westpointaog.org/page.aspx?pid=4329 – Accessed 19 February 2012 – http://www.westpointaog.org/

[viii] “Cadet Leader Development System” – USMA Circular: 1-101 (page 49) – 3 June 2002 – United States Military Academy – West Point, New York – http://www.dami.army.pentagon.mil/pub/dami-fl/Cr1-101.pdf – Accessed 21 February 2012 – Deputy Chief of Staff, G-2 (Army Intelligence) – http://www.dami.army.pentagon.mil/

[ix] “The Discipline Which Makes Men Reliable” – By Rich Stowell – Posted 29 March 2011 – http://my-public-affairs.blogspot.com/2011/03/discipline-which-makes-men-reliable.html – Accessed 21 February 2012 – My Public Affairs (A Teacher’s Education in the Army) – http://my-public-affairs.blogspot.com/

[x] “Year of Leadership: American-Made Discipline” – Commentary by Lt. Col. Mark Allen, 341st Operations Support Squadron – Posted 10/16/2008 ~ Updated 10/17/2008 – Malmstrom Air Force Base – News/Commentary – http://www.malmstrom.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123119911 – Accessed 21 February 2012 – Malmstrom Air Force Base – http://www.malmstrom.af.mil/

[xi] “(Hard) Lessons Learned About Leadership” – By Dale R. Wilson – Posted 01/24/2012 – http://commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/hard-lessons-learned-about-leadership/ – Accessed 23 February 2012 – Command Performance Leadership – http://commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com/

[xii] “The Cadet Leader Development System (CLDS) – Human Spirit Domain”- United States Military Academy Office of Policy, Planning, and Assessment – http://www.usma.edu/opa/clds/domain_of_the_human_spirit.html – Accessed 22 February 2012 – United States Military Academy – http://www.usma.edu/

BookLink: Army Leadership (Organization and Strategic Leadership) {Book 1, Wk. 3}

Posted in Army Leadership, BookLink with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Last week, I took a brief departure from BookLink and our weekly review of The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual.  Instead, I posted Leadership Effects (A Guest Blog Post from the Front Lines), which originated from a comment to this series about the Army’s leadership field manual.  From a weekly reader’s standpoint, it amounted to a virtual field trip to the front lines of military leadership.  If you haven’t taken the time to read that post, please set aside some time to do so.

Our previous assignment had been to read Chapter 10 thru Appendix A (pages 107 thru 155).  But, we are only going to summarize Chapters 10 thru 12, leaving Appendix A (pages 145 thru 155) for next week.  If you are new to the BookLink series, and you want to catch up on our reading of The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual, you can find links to the recent posts below.  Also, below, I have included links to the field manual found elsewhere on the internet for you to view and download.

BookLink ~ The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual – Posted 01/23/2012

BookLink: Army Leadership (BE ~ KNOW ~ DO) {Book 1, Wk. 1} – Posted 01/30/2012

BookLink: Army Leadership (Lead ~ Develop ~ Achieve) {Book 1, Wk. 2} – Posted 02/06/2012

http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/repository/materials/FM6_22.pdf

http://www.scribd.com/doc/6255277/FM-622-Leadership-US-Army

This coming week, our assignment is to finish reading the field manual; Appendix A thru the end of the book (pages 145 thru 216).  Then, on February 27, I will have a post for discussion on what we have read.

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Army Leadership FM 6-22 (FM 22-100) (Paperback) ~ US Army Cover Art

There are many influences and challenges that affect leadership.  Some of these are predictable, based on experiences.  Some are unpredictable, surfacing because of the situation.  As General Dennis J. Reimer, Chief of Staff of the Army (1995-1999) once said, “The role of leadership is to turn challenges into opportunities.”  Obviously, many of the challenges a soldier in the Army may face are a result of evolving threats, and their ability to adapt to those ever-changing challenges.

Stress –

In all walks of life, both military and civilian, stress is a human dimension we all have to deal with.  Leaders play a significant role in managing the stress levels of their subordinates.  The mental discipline and resilience to overcome the contributing factors of stress, and implementing countermeasures to confront it, becomes the responsibility of both the leader and follower.  Here are just a few of the ways to handle stress, as discussed in FM 6-22:

-          Admit that fear exists

-          Ensure communication lines are open between leaders and subordinates

-          Do not assume unnecessary risks

-          Provide good, caring leadership

-          Recognize the limits of a soldier’s endurance

Although the emphasis of FM 6-22 is on Army leadership, and applies to soldiers, there are obvious parallels to managing stress among people in the civilian community.  Stress is a result of varying levels of fear.  Dealing with fear and anxiety is vital to remaining focused and strong; easier said than done, I know.  But, good leadership will recognize the signs of stress among their people and teams, and will employ the necessary measures to manage those stress levels.  As General George S. Patton, Jr. said, “All men are frightened.  The more intelligent they are, the more they are frightened.  The courageous man is the man who forces himself, in spite of his fear, to carry on.”  (War As I Knew It, 1947).

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As a leader grows in knowledge and experience, they are preparing themselves for greater responsibilities, and will become organizational and strategic leaders.  These leaders lead by example, have a wide range of knowledge, and apply their competencies to build teams of teams with discipline, cohesion, trust and proficiency.  They focus their organizations down to the lowest level on the mission ahead by disseminating a clear intent, sound operational concepts, and a systematic approach to execution.  In some cases, these leaders may lead complex organizations, where they would have to apply elements of direct, organizational, and strategic leadership at the same time.  These leaders must be agile.

Now that they’re in charge of a larger organization, these leaders’ influences are more often indirect than direct down the chain of command.  They rely more heavily on developing subordinates and empowering them to execute their assigned responsibilities and missions.  They visualize the larger impact on the organization and mission when making decisions; they look at the big picture.  Lower level personnel and leaders look to their organizational leaders to set achievable standards, to provide clear intent, and to provide necessary resources.

A fitting quote to encompass the leader’s ability to drive the organization and lead by example is a quote by General Gordon R. Sullivan, author of Hope is Not a Method:

“If you are the leader, your people expect you to create their future.  They look into your eyes, and they expect to see strength and vision.  To be successful, you must inspire and motivate those who are following you.  When they look into your eyes, they must see that you are with them.”

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Organizational leaders play a critical part when it comes to maintaining focus.  They are at the forefront of adapting to changes and exploiting emerging opportunities by applying a combination of intuition, analytical problem solving, systems integration, and leadership by example.

Organizational leaders ensure clear and understandable communication.  They share as much information as possible with their subordinates, and allow for a two-way exchange of information to ensure a clear understanding of intent, priorities, and thought processes.  Within the organization, there should be a coordination of communication through multiple channels, creating a more complete picture.  With reliable information, staffs at different levels can productively assist in turning policies, concepts, plans, and programs into achievable results.

Middle level organizational levels also interact with the next-higher staff to gain a better understanding of the superior’s priorities and impending shifts.  This helps set the conditions for their own requirements and changes.  Constantly sensing, observing, talking, questioning, and actively listening helps to better identify and solve potential problems, or to avoid them.

Organizational leaders take a long-term approach to developing the entire organization.  They create a positive environment, they prepare themselves for the future, they develop others by building team skills and processes, they encourage initiative and acceptance of responsibility, and they choose talented staff leaders (middle managers).  Ultimately, they empower their organization to be prepared to take initiative and to make decisions, while holding them accountable for their actions.  They tell their people what needs to be accomplished and why, and leave the details to them.  Known as Pushing Smarts Down, soldiers today have better intellect and education and don’t need to be told how to do certain tasks, or be guided by step-by-step processes.  It is truly the elimination of micromanagement and the establishment of empowerment.

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Strategic leaders are high-level thinkers who sustain an organization’s culture and envision the future of the organization, and then convey that vision to the entire organization.  Strategic leaders apply knowledge, experience, techniques, and skills beyond those required by direct or organizational leaders.  They must think in multiple time periods and apply more adaptability and agility to managing change.  They operate in intricate networks of overlapping and sometimes competing constituencies.  They participate in and shape endeavors extending beyond their span of responsibility.  Strategic leaders must concentrate on the future.  They spend much of their time looking toward long-term goals and positioning for long-term success even as they often contend with mid-term and immediate issues and crises.

The constantly changing World challenges strategic leaders’ decision-making abilities.  Despite the challenges, strategic leaders personally tell the organization’s story, make long-range decisions, and shape the organization’s culture.  Like direct and organizational leaders, strategic leaders lead by example and exert indirect leadership by communicating, inspiring, and motivating.  Providing a clear vision is vital to the strategic leader, and they share this vision with a broad audience, gaining widespread support, and use it as a compass to guide the organization.  Strategic leaders identify trends and opportunities, and threats that could affect the organization’s future and move vigorously to mobilize the talent that will help create strategic vision.

Strategic leaders are skilled at reaching consensus and building coalitions.  They apply these skills to tasks, and routinely bring designated people together for missions.  Using peer leadership rather than strict positional authority, strategic leaders carefully monitor progress toward a visualized end state.  They focus on the health of the relationships necessary to achieve it.  Interpersonal contact sets the tone for professional relations: strategic leaders must be tactful.

And, strategic leaders lead and inspire institutional change.  They accept change in proactive, not in reactive fashion.  They anticipate change even as they shield their organizations from unimportant and bothersome influences.  Ultimately, good strategic leaders can effectively shape change to improve the institution while continuing to deal with routine operations and requirements.  They know that institutional change requires influence grounded in commitment rather than forced compliance.  Commitment must be reinforced consistently throughout the multiple levels of the organization.  While all levels of leaders lead change, strategic level leaders make the most-sweeping changes and ones that focus on the most distant horizon.  Strategic leaders guide their organizations through eight distinct steps if their initiatives for change are to make lasting progress.  The critical steps of the leading change process are:

  • Demonstrate a sense of urgency by showing both the benefits and necessity for change.
  • Form guiding coalitions to work the process of change from concept through implementation.
  • With the guiding coalitions and groups, develop a vision of the future and strategy for making it a reality.
  • Clearly communicate the future vision throughout the institution or organization; change is most effective when all members embrace it.
  • Empower subordinates at all levels to pursue widespread, parallel efforts.
  • Plan for short-term successes to validate key programs and keep the vision credible.
  • Consolidate the successful programs to produce further change.
  • Ensure that the change is culturally preserved.

The result is an institution that constantly prepares for and shapes the future environment.  The strategic leaders’ fundamental goal is to leave the organization better than they found it.  They create a positive environment to position the institution for the future.

When providing direction, giving guidance, and setting priorities, strategic leaders must judge realistically what the future may hold.  They incorporate new ideas, new technologies, and new capabilities.  From a mixture of ideas, facts, conjecture, and personal experience, they create an image of what their organizations need to be and where it must go to get desired results.

The strategic leader’s vision provides the ultimate sense of purpose, direction, and motivation for everyone in the organization.  It is the starting point for developing specific goals and plans, a yardstick for measuring organizational accomplishment, and a check on organizational values.  A shared vision throughout the organization is important for attaining commitment to change.  A strategic leader’s vision for the organization may have a time horizon of years, or even decades.

Leadership Effects (A Guest Blog Post from the Front Lines)

Posted in Army Leadership, BookLink, Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

A Comment in Response to BookLink ~ The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual

The Command Performance Leadership blog has enjoyed some early success in its less than three months of existence, with weekly readership growing and the number of followers gradually increasing. Of those who have frequently visited my blog, I have been quite fortunate to attract many members of militaries from around the World, at different levels of leadership; non-commissioned officers (NCO’s) and commissioned officers. Having a military readership and followership is important to me, as I want military members to provide their input, through blog post comments, to gain from their knowledge and experience, and to add value to this blog. Who better to provide insight on military leadership fundamentals and wisdom than those who are leading in our military. As you’ve seen, a few comments from military members have influenced the discussions here, and have inspired new content and articles. I hope that continues.

A few weeks ago, I introduced BookLink, a feature that provides this blog’s readers the opportunity to have direct and complete access to military-oriented leadership books, pamphlets, field manuals, and other resources of information. The first book I am featuring is the U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual, which we began reading on January 16. For the four weeks that follow, sections of the book are being read and discussed in weekly blog posts.

Last Thursday, I received a comment about this Army field manual from David Hickman, a U.S. Army NCO. In his comment post, he shared a comprehensive story about leadership in the Army, in his opinion. I replied to David, and started a dialogue with him about his comment. He informed me that his comment was actually an article he was attempting to get in front of a few military magazines to take interest in. Unfortunately, no military periodical has taken interest in his article. David explained that the article was written in response to his Company Commander asking him and his fellow NCO’s to define leadership and what it meant to them. He thought that leadership deserved more discussion than just a ‘definition,’ and that leadership is nothing unless we act upon it. David informs me that this article is the framework for a book he is interested in writing.

I told David that his article deserves to be read, and I offered the article to be posted here at Command Performance Leadership as a guest post. He accepted my offer. I have made slight modifications to the original article to correct any grammar, spelling and punctuation, but have not altered its content or changed any words. I have also added some approprate and related pictures.

I want to thank David for his cooperation in sharing this article, and the journalistic support he has provided to me. I am pleased to introduce you to Staff Sergeant David A. Hickman and his book excerpt, “Leadership Effects.

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Author’s Biography -US Army E-6 Staff Sergeant (SSG)

Staff Sergeant (SSG) David A. Hickman is currently assigned as an instructor with Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment (IBOLC), 199th Infantry Brigade, Fort Benning Georgia. From the start of his tenure in the Army to present, SSG Hickman has served with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), 25th Infantry Division, the 172nd SBCT Fort Wainwright, the US Army Recruiting Command, the 25 Infantry Division (L) Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and with the 7th Light Infantry Division (Cohort), Fort Ord, California prior to a break in military service. He deployed with the 1st SBCT, 25th Infantry Division to Baqubah, Iraq from 2008 to 2009, with the 172nd SBCT to Mosul, Iraq from 2005 to 2006 and Baghdad 2006, and the 25th Infantry Division (L) with the Multi-National Forces and Observers (MFO) to Sinai, Egypt in 2000. He has served as an Instructor, Platoon Sergeant, Weapons Squad Leader, and Team Leader.

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Preface to the Article -

I had some reservations about publishing this paper that I wrote last year for concern that others would think ill of me or that it was an attempt to curry favor. At some point in life you will be confronted with a choice: simply speak your mind regardless of what others may think of you [, or to say nothing at all]. A few military magazines looked it over. It’s my take on leadership from those who were with me state side and Iraq.

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LEADERSHIP EFFECTS ~ January 2011

Singular perspective in the mind of any leader will lead him to fail. If uncorrected, it will pass to the others around him and the organization will follow. 

Leadership has been defined in a number of ways, but the end result should always be to the benefit of one another, our Soldiers, our military, and our country. Leadership as defined by the Army, uses phrases such as “influencing others” and “providing purpose, direction and motivation.”[i]

This is still true, but the focus of a leader should be on the effects of his or her leadership. Further, if leaders do not grasp the “human aspect” of leading, how can the organization improve? A number of us may overlook the cause and effect of leadership or the lack thereof. Poor leadership or leadership “in part” will not result in just failure alone when the cost paid for the lack of leadership may be another human life.

Leaders at every level should agree that there are two elements that make up any mission-oriented organization, those who follow during mission execution and the select few who lead them. Both are required to achieve any task that places the organization in a tactical advantage over another or to restore security. Failure by either will leave the unit with an incomplete task and lack of sufficient support to accomplish it to the fullest benefit of the organization.

ArmyStrongFrom our perspective, the odds will not be in favor of those left to deal with the failure of any leader or subordinate. Most of the failures of subordinates can be traced to their leaders. However, after a leader has implemented every measure of instruction and attention that can be given, a subordinate may still make the wrong choice. He or she is, in fact, just as human as their leaders, and that Soldiers’ free will may not always sway to do what is right. Regardless of the origin of the fault, we as leaders accept responsibility for what our subordinates do right and wrong. This approach to leading helps leaders to focus even further on their subordinates. The Army is the one institution in which the leader accepts the fault for what their subordinates fail to do. There is no blame. With regard to ethical decisions, there may be an unseen flaw within the subordinate’s moral judgment and character. As leaders, we spend time guiding subordinates both during training and after hours with regard to their personal actions and choices. We remind them that poor choices can lead to adverse actions which will be detrimental to their privileges and rank. How often do we convey to our subordinates the “effects” that their actions can have on others in the organization? How can we as leaders become more efficient in identifying the start of potential issues if the leader is not involved in the personal lives of their subordinates?

Rank has never been a requirement to lead. Rank never compels a Soldier to push himself beyond the limitations of his mind. Determined young Specialists can take charge and lead if they have been under sound leaders during the first part of their tenure in the military. Many of us have seen this. Rank is needed, but it is nothing more than a visual hierarchy that displays a level of authority that an individual leader has been entrusted with, not entitled to, for his or her position of duty. It is visible within the organization at every level. Our character must be balanced with regard to the rank that we hold and the rank that we advance to. At one end of the extreme, if we are not balanced in character, we run the risk of abusing our authority. Worse yet, at the other end, we fail to provide for our subordinates in training or human needs.

Human needs go beyond those that are required to survive in the physical body. All leaders should have learned this as they advanced up through their respective positions of authority, or so we think. Avoiding the mistake of promoting individuals with poor character or weak leadership ability is perhaps the one fact that causes leaders to have reservations about a Soldier being promoted to the rank of Sergeant based on time in service alone. Serious consideration needs to be taken when selecting subordinates for promotions. If we receive a leader who was promoted in this manner, all we can do is take what is there and make it better. In so doing, there are two points that leaders need to keep in mind when assessing incoming leaders who will either be our subordinates leaders, peers and Senior Leaders. First, the leader has no insight as to the methods of their training and mentorship. Poor leaders create more poor leaders, and bad habits carry from one to another. Every leader has faults and may fall short in some aspect of his duties, but it’s the leaders who choose to address these issues who become leaders of genuine character and look beyond “self” seeking to improve. Second, even if a leader has been instructed in the requirements of basic human needs, it is still not evidence that this leader is in practice of executing the correct actions of leadership. 

The leader development process for subordinate leaders and Soldiers is not to be taken with a “half-hearted” approach. One Army perspective states: “During this leader development process, the responsibility for a leader’s complete development is mutually shared by the leaders of the Army Education System, Commanders, and Leaders in the field, and the leaders themselves.”[ii]

Instructors in the Army Education System are in place to develop “line leaders” to better the organization. One unavoidable fact is that instructors are only with their respective student leaders for the duration of the developmental course. Course curriculum “highlights” the “job aspect” of their responsibilities and many leaders end up getting pushed through the course, keeping to the weekly schedule so long as all attendees receive passing scores on their exams. Instructors cannot fully evaluate leaders with regard to their ability to grasp and understand the “human considerations” in leading and developing their subordinate leaders and subordinates. Leaders on the line spend a good deal of their time involved daily with their Soldiers, but if the line leaders did not have the proper mentorship during their development, they will not be “in tune” with the human side of subordinate development. Many leaders in the Infantry often face the “taboo” designation as being a “Joe Lover” when other leaders witness the care for the well-being of subordinates. I agree that there needs to be a balance, but all leaders need to be attentive to the emotional and other human needs of their Soldiers. Neglect or failure to provide opportunity to resolve issues affecting emotional needs will allow doubt to enter the minds of subordinates causing instability in their emotional well-being. Issues left undone will foster an unfocused mind during the execution of missions. A subordinate who is not focused on the mission will prove to be detrimental to himself and those around him, which can result in the loss of life. The efforts of an unfocused Soldier provide nothing more than a void in security. He or she is of no use to the organization in their present state.

Leadership has focused mostly on compelling our subordinates to execute missions that affect those within the organization at every level as well as the host nation in which the organization operates. This is still both true and necessary for achieving the mission as set forth by the intent of any Commander. With regard to our history of leadership, mission accomplishment was a top priority regardless of the effects in human costs and subordinate needs. Today we recognize that care for the human side of our Soldiers is a fundamental requirement for the operation of a successful organization. It should never be to a point where subordinates become soft or fall short in standards, but there needs to be a balance between the two. Mission accomplishment is still top priority, but we cannot ignore the human side.

On today’s front, leadership often involves directing and continually encouraging subordinates to execute tasks that would normally be against any human will if given a choice because it places them in danger. For this reason, Soldiers and Leaders need to understand that being a Soldier is not just a “job” and should never be considered just a career. In truth, it is a profession that requires a great deal of personal conviction. We chose our profession and we also chose to lead well, in part or not at all. Whatever measure of effort we put into our leadership, it will be visible through our actions and the performance of our subordinates. Leading Soldiers will always have results and consequences. Choices in leadership will always have effects. Good or bad.

How do we accomplish the task of leading subordinates in the execution of missions that could result in the loss of life? Further, how can we grasp the reality of both our will and that of our Soldiers to strive for mission success during which it’s execution we’re acutely aware that it could be our lives that are lost? We as leaders must also be prepared to both witness and deal with the loss of those that we serve with as leaders and those with whom we lead. We’ll also deal with the emotional effects of our remaining subordinates that will be brought on by the death of a peer. I want to pose two questions for thought and a genuine inward reflection for all of us as leaders. This is the only time that “self” needs to come first; when assessing one’s character as a leader. What if that loss of life was due to the failure on our part to lead effectively? Do you really think Soldiers will be unaware of our part in this failure? This is reason for absolute personal conviction within every Soldier.  Most especially those in the ranks of the Infantry and Combat Arms, but all Soldiers facing adversity and genuine risk of death fit this category.

With regard to personal conviction, if Soldiers and Leaders do not have within themselves a sense of duty and belonging to each other, their unit and Nation, they do not possess genuine personal conviction. Conviction and belief in the preservation of the well-being of our subordinates and one another are the traits of selfless service. These traits are present within the character of only a few. Most new Soldiers use the military as a “test bed” for figuring out their lives and what they want. Leaders have the responsibility to instruct their Soldiers on the importance of selfless service. Further, while it’s ok for them to figure out their lives in the Army, leaders must help them grasp the reality that the effects of their choices have much more “gravity” when the organization as a whole must deal with the outcome. All Soldiers must understand that our purpose is greater than ourselves and we must implement sound judgment in every decision that we make both on and off duty. This personal conviction motivates these Soldiers and Leaders to give of themselves. When Soldiers see their peers wounded and regrettably at times their death, it will cause them to appeal in action on behalf of those around them that have fallen. The decision to step forward and take this action is the ultimate form of selfless service. This kind of selfless service happens often within our ranks. Our appreciation to one another for such actions is evident, but seen only by those who endured with us.

In one previous unit, our Battalion Commander made it clear that there must be a complete “buy in” in the unit mission and the Commander’s intent for that unit to succeed. Perhaps this instruction came from higher. I agree if the cause is just and there is no violation of moral character or ethics during mission execution. This applies to both tasks within the organization or any act carried out among the populous of the host country. In the countries we operate, there will be those of a mindset that follow extremist beliefs that justify the deaths of their own people. This will make it difficult for Soldiers to execute a Commander’s intent without individuals of this mind-set feeling as if the Americans are violating their morals and ethics. Their beliefs are not only contrary to good civil order, but also the entitlement of every human being to dwell peacefully. Our efforts are generally an “effect” of good leadership during the execution of operations that preserve the human entitlement of peace. Peace that at times cannot exist without selfless service and sacrifice for those who are unaware what is given for them. It is a basic human need. When viewed from the perspective of humanity, freedom can no longer be restricted within the boundaries of our country.

Each and every one of us should reflect inward and ask ourselves, “Am I here just for a career or just to be a Soldier and Leader?” If the answer is “just a career” you have no purpose within the ranks of the Infantry or any branch of the Military service. If a Leader or Soldier is only interested in a career alone or the pay, their first thought will be for “self” rather than “others”. During training and actual missions, the benefit of others and the organization will not be first in their minds. If leaders think this way, what will be the outcome of their decisions? Soldiers and Leaders of this character will never be willing to give of themselves or only give enough if there is some personal gain to be attained. Such gains could be the possibility for advancement in rank or to produce a “false perception” of one’s character in an effort to look good in the presence of superiors and not living sound leadership daily.

True leadership serves a higher purpose and benefits those above and below us. Leaders focused on “self” do not see the results of the implementation of good leadership. The end-state is the efficient execution of any task. Tasks or missions executed more efficiently will result in less chance of fratricide and the unintentional killing or wounding of civilians. All of which will affect the organization at every level. Genuine leadership is often thankless and any leader not driven by a “career” must understand that the best leadership often goes unseen, even by those that they lead. Subordinates are usually unaware of the sacrifices that leaders make on their behalf. Sacrifice of time, sleep or food. The list can go on. I am comfortable with this, because the daily tasks that need to be carried out are done so efficiently. This creates an environment with less stress. The “machine” runs smoothly. An atmosphere with less stress on subordinates keeps their minds clear and focused when it comes time to execute missions that have a high level of stress and personal threat. The same holds true for tending to the needs of Soldiers with regard to spiritual and emotional needs. For this reason, it’s necessary for leaders to be involved in the lives of their subordinates. Even simply stopping by the barracks during the week-end for a brief check on their Soldiers is important. At the time the subordinate may feel as if their leader is intruding, but usually it is appreciated even if the subordinate never expresses it. Caring for the well-being of subordinates does not stop after the unit gets back from the field, refit is complete, and everyone is on their way after the safety brief. A subordinate’s problems become the problems of their leaders all the way up through the Chain of Command and NCO Support Channel. Don’t ignore it or expect that the Soldier knows how to best deal with the issue. When deployed, if a subordinate learns that they have lost their spouse either to death or even if it’s a fidelity issue, their mind will not be clear during missions. It would be wise to leave this Soldier off of a few patrols in conjunction with seeing the Chaplin and other elements within the military that are present to help service men and women deal with problems.

Leadership is never executed for the recognition of “self” by higher leaders. Leadership is any action on my part to train and move my subordinates, conveying to them that this action must be executed for a greater good that affects their lives as well as others. It is more important than ourselves, and requires our genuine attention if it is to be successful. If we fail those who follow us may fail, leaving the task undone. Every action we perform and every decision we make as leaders will have an effect on someone. This is why knowing the “definition” of leadership is not leadership. Our actions, decisions and our example are what “cause” the desired “effects” needed for a successful organization.

Our country was founded on an unwavering belief in God and self-sacrifice for the whole rather than “self”. Our history reflects that we have a great nation, so I am inclined to believe that their belief in God and selfless actions were just. Regardless of belief in faith, race or ethnicity, leadership is required to succeed. Human needs are the same for all. Self-sacrifice will be demanded of any nation that expects to prosper and preserve the freedoms of its populace or the freedom of other nations who cannot stand for themselves against an oppressor that deprives them of such basic human entitlements. Leaders should never forget that even though his or her selfless service goes unseen, there is always someone looking for our faults as leaders. It will either be someone who only has the intention to point out our faults simply to correct and develop us or it very well may be a leader who is focused on “self” and looks for fault only for the gratification of holding their authority over you. Regardless of which, if we maintain our character and hold ourselves responsible for our duties, they will find very little to point out. But, this requires genuine leadership, daily selfless actions and the ability to look inwardly at our own character. When there is fault, do not let pride prevent the correction of your actions and character. If we are not cautious, we as leaders can become more concerned about how we look with regard to our Officer Evaluation Reports (OER) and Non-Commissioned Officer Evaluation Reports (NCOER) rather than taking care of our subordinates and the greater good of the organization. If we do not conduct an occasional “self-check”, a leader can develop a “power trip” or an attitude of “self” rather than executing good leadership. Subordinate leaders and Soldiers will see through it as well. This is often seen in a few newly promoted leaders advancing to a higher level of responsibility. Leaders should always be humble enough to remind themselves that the Army is still a “human organization”.

That being said, we as leaders can make mistakes. We must never let anything prevent us from addressing our short comings. We all must understand that no matter how high in the Chain of Command or NCO Support Channel we advance to, we can still learn more, improve and develop ourselves. The truth is never tasteful when it is not in our favor. One simple example is choosing the “easy wrong” over the “hard right” or being guilty of choosing “self” over the benefit of those around us. It happens more than we may think. It is still a truth that will eventually be seen, revealing our intent. We need to correct whatever prevents the truth from being in our favor. The majority of Leaders are of genuine character, but being human it’s always good to check our own character, giving our “moral compass” a quick shake to be certain that we’re on the right path regarding our leadership and that “self” comes last. The Seven Army Values are a good corner-stone if we as Soldiers and Leaders practice the values rather than just committing them to memory. If all Soldiers and Leaders choose to serve others rather than “self”, the organization as a whole will be in good care. The choice of “self” will never need to be addressed because your peers and leaders will see to your well-being and you theirs.

SSG David Allen Hickman
C CO, 2nd BN, 11th IN RGT


[i] Army Leadership: Competent, Confident, and Agile.” Washington, DC: Headquarters, Department of the Army. 2006. Print. p. 1-2.

 [ii] “Leader Development for America’s Army – Pamphlet 350-58” – 13 October 1994 – Page 5 (and see Figure 3, page 6) – http://www.apd.army.mil/pdffiles/p350_58.pdf – Accessed 13 February 2012 – Army Publishing Directorate (APD) – http://www.apd.army.mil/

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