Academic journal article Military Review

An Exploration of Respect in Army Leadership

Academic journal article Military Review

An Exploration of Respect in Army Leadership

Article excerpt

RESPECT HAS BEEN a distinctive US Army value since 1778 when Frederick William Baron von Steuben noted that a US officer's first objective should be to treat his men "with every possible kindness and humanity."1 So it was not surprising when the US Army identified respect as one of its seven values. In 1998 respect language gave the Army a powerful way to organize ongoing discussions about discrimination and harassment.2 The previous year's headlines had been filled with alleations of appalling violations of respect. The inclusoon of respect as a value along with loyalty, duty, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage sent a strong message that respect for others should be an integral part of US Army leadership.

The US Army Training end Doctrine Command's (TRADOC s) initial definition of respect, "treat people as they should be treated," provided little guidance for defining the characteristics of this core component of Army leadership.

Respect in FM 22-100

As the capstone leadership manual for the Army, US Army Field Manual (FM) 22-100, Army Leadership, gives a concrete definition of respect in Army leadership.3 It emphasizes character, principles of Army leadership and Army values and provides a clear, understandable doctrine to guide soldiers as they strive to become and develop as "leaders of character and competence."

Despite its stated mission, FM 22-100 fails to explain how respect is unique to Army leadership and what it looks like in practice. In fact, these issues are never addressed. Its brief discussion of respect is framed in language borrowed from philosophy and management theory without considering whether that language is adequate for Army leaders. Applying respect to leaders' interpersonal skills and practical judgment-what leaders "know and do"-is never specifically explored.

Should we conclude that respect in the Army is no different from popular versions of respect? Most professional soldiers are acutely aware of a discontinuity between the Army's organizational culture and popular US culture. Official documents often refer to this disjunction as a reason for teaching Army Values, especially to new recruits.4

The fact that FM 22-100 leaves its readers wondering whether respect, in Army leadership is the same as popular respect highlights a potentially serious operational problem. Without a clear, solid definition of respect, Army leaders cannot be expected to understand the sort of respect they are meant to exemplify.

Some sound explanations are found in FM 22100, such as the notion that tough training does not demean subordinates. Building their capabilities and showing faith in them is "the essence of respect." Respect is "an essential component for the development of disciplined, cohesive and effective warfighting teams" that is based on trust and regard for fellow soldiers.5 The manual also notes that team identity and the bond between leaders and subordinates spring from mutual respect as well as discipline. Nevertheless, it is difficult to know how to interpret these passages because so much of the discussion of respect in FM 22-100 is hidden in popular language about tolerance, civility and individual autonomy. So while Army Values such as selfless service and personal courage come with fairly sophisticated explanations and examples, respect is left behind.

A New Model of Respect

In most philosophical accounts, respect is framed in terms of the duty not to infringe on personal autonomy and individual rights. In popular discourse, respect usually comes in one of two flavors. The first involves admiration or deference toward another person because of some distinctive quality, characteristic or role. This is the sort of respect people usually talk about earning or losing. The second turns on the idea that every person automatically has a certain status because everyone is equal in virtue of shared humanity. …

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