Academic journal article Military Review

The Role of Character in Effective Leadership

Academic journal article Military Review

The Role of Character in Effective Leadership

Article excerpt

Character, comprised of a person's moral and ethical qualities, helps determine what is right and gives a leader motivation to do what is appropriate, regardless of the circumstances or consequences.

--Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 6-22, Army Leadership (2012)

Great Army leaders are humble soldiers who attribute their success to the men and women who work for them. They step aside while their officers and soldiers receive the awards and accolades they deserve. Their character enhances their leadership.

One of the Army's great leaders of character was Glenn K. Otis. Among his many command assignments during war and peace, he commanded the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army/Central Army Group. Gen. Otis spent the last four years of his life in Carlisle, Pennsylvania--maintaining a low profile as a quiet, unassuming retired officer. If you met him casually, you would never know of his impressive career, much less his heroic actions during the Vietnam War.

A Retired Officer

I first met retired Gen. Otis at a military social function shortly after he moved to Carlisle. I attended alone and saw him standing by himself in a large, noisy room full of talkative guests. I thought I recognized him, but I was not sure. I introduced myself as Bob Gerard, and he replied casually that he was Glenn Otis. Although I had not been able to recognize the face, I recognized the name immediately. Had I not recognized his name, I doubt he would have tried to tell me about his former rank or his achievements. We talked for a good while, and I told him about a local breakfast club to which I belonged--a small group of Army retirees who met each Saturday morning to solve the world's problems. Soon, he was a regular member.

At our first breakfast meeting, he made a point of saying he preferred to be called "Glenn" rather than "General Otis" However, we would never be able to refrain from calling him "Sir" Otis did not talk about his accomplishments in the service although they were many. Instead, he would talk with pride about the great troopers he commanded over the years.

A Combat Commander

Otis enlisted in the Army in 1945 and spent three years as an enlisted man before attending West Point. I am certain his experience as an enlisted man instilled in him an excellent sense of basic soldiering--along with all its hardships. The facts are easy enough to find about his progression in the Army--schools, promotions and awards, and the positions of great responsibility he held as he moved up in rank from private to four-star general. Beyond all that, there was something very special and down-to-earth about Glenn Otis; hence, my quest to find out more about this great soldier whose character seemed so exceptional.

I found proof of Otis' character in his service as a combat commander in 1967 and 1968 in Vietnam. In my view, nothing exemplifies the personal attributes of Glenn Otis more than his combat experiences in Vietnam, where he commanded the 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, and where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry in action during the Tet Offensive in 1968.

25th Division Cavalry Squadron. Otis took command of the squadron in December 1967. The 25th Division's cavalry squadron was a mobile force consisting mostly of tanks and armored personnel carriers. Each M48 tank had a powerful 90mm gun, a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on top of the turret, and an M60 machine gun mounted near the main gun. The M113 armored personnel carriers carried troops, and each carrier included a mounted .50-caliber machine gun and one M60 machine gun mounted on each side of the vehicle. In addition to three cavalry troops (A, B, and C Troops), there was an aviation unit (D Troop), consisting of light observation helicopters, troop carriers, gunships, and an aero-rifle platoon. …

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