Academic journal article Military Review

Developing Army Enterprise Leaders

Academic journal article Military Review

Developing Army Enterprise Leaders

Article excerpt

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Our organizations will be judged by the performance of leaders serving in areas where critical thinking skills are essential. We must ensure our leaders possess the ability to understand the security environment and the contributions of all elements of national power; lead effectively when faced with surprise and uncertainty; anticipate and recognize change and lead transitions; and operate on intent through trust, empowerment, and understanding.

--Army Leader Development Strategy 2013

The U.S. Army finds itself once again in the familiar circumstances of uncertainty and ambiguity that seem to occur every decade or so. The recurring pattern begins with engagements in extended military operations, then restructuring of the force based on lessons learned, and then projections regarding future threats and the capabilities needed to deal with them. However, the projections have often proven to be wrong. Several senior military leaders have acknowledged the U.S. military's poor record of predicting future conflicts, as our Army has repeatedly found itself engaged in military operations in ways that it had not envisioned. (1)

Comparatively recent examples of such challenging periods include the transition out of the Vietnam War in the 1970s, the resurgent Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union in the 1980s, combat and peace operations in Iraq and the Balkans in the 1990s, and the Global War on Terror in the first decade of the twenty-first century. In each of these decades, the U.S. military was called upon by our nation to commit American service members across a range of military operations to secure U.S. interests.

During these periods, successive service chiefs of staff across the Department of Defense have lamented the lack of senior leaders who understand how to sustain the force of the day while preparing to meet the demands of the future. Experience has shown that senior military officers must be as adept at advising their political masters on national policy, developing long-range military strategy to support policy, and managing the defense enterprise as they are at leading service members in actual military operations.

Such senior leader competencies, apart from military skills, are even more important now in the face of inevitable fiscal reductions and ambiguous mission requirements. As a professional force, this means the military needs to assess whether it is properly developing its officers to be successful at its most senior levels.

Accordingly, as the military service most commonly assigned to lead joint and combined operations, the U.S. Army must more effectively develop officers to successfully lead and manage the Army of the future--both operating and generating forces. The Army has made advances in how it fights, from using technology to developing innovative operational concepts and fighting formations, but the critical enabler remains effective leader development.

The Army has achieved hard-won successes over the past decade by providing Army officers with tremendous tactical and operational experience in joint and coalition operations. However, as executive coach Marshall Goldsmith's book title asserts, What Got You Here Won't Get You There, meaning that Army leaders cannot rely on old habits for future success, especially as they gain higher-level responsibilities. (2)

Moving forward to Army 2025--the future of land power within the joint force--it is essential that we select, develop, and retain leaders within the officer corps with a great potential for high levels of responsibility. A well-known statement attributed to champion hockey player Wayne Gretzky serves as a metaphor for future-oriented leader development. According to Roy MacGregor, Gretzky "liked to say he didn't skate to where the puck was, but to where it was going to be." (3) Like a hockey player who anticipates the movement of a puck and adapts quickly, the Army leader development effort must anticipate the need for vital senior leadership in the Army of 2025. …

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