Leader Development and Talent Management: The Army Competitive Advantage

By Odierno, Raymond T. | Military Review, July-August 2015 | Go to article overview

Leader Development and Talent Management: The Army Competitive Advantage


Odierno, Raymond T., Military Review


For 240 years, America's Army has been a premier institution for developing and providing leaders and soldiers of character who selflessly serve the Nation. We stood for freedom and liberty in 1775. We reaffirmed our commitment to that freedom in 1812, thereby demonstrating to the world that America would endure. We kept this Nation together during the U.S. Civil War. The ingenuity, heroism, and indomitable spirit of our soldiers were displayed in World War I and World War II. Whether in Vietnam, Korea, Panama, the Middle East, or anywhere else our soldiers have been deployed, quality Army leaders have uniquely influenced the world around them and have stood as our Nation's competitive advantage to meet the many security challenges we have encountered.

Today we find ourselves at a strategic inflection point in the history of the U.S. Army. Despite our depth of experience acquired from almost fourteen years of continuous conflict, we must ensure that our Nation and our Army are prepared for future security challenges. The velocity of instability in the world today is greater than ever, with an increasing number of failing states potentially risking vital U.S. interests. Technology and weapons, once the exclusive tools of states, now find their way into the hands of disaffected individuals and disruptive groups. The volume and speed of information exchange, the rise of megacities, urbanization and demographic trends, and the sheer number of connections between people and societies has led to sudden, unpredictable, and fluid social, political, and security upheavals.

History has shown that we cannot predict the future with any reasonable degree of accuracy, but we can assert with absolute certainty that the Army will be called upon time and time again. Working with our partners and allies, the U.S. Army will continue to do what it has always done--lead the way as the foundation of the U.S. military's joint force, while bringing together diverse groups to solve seemingly insoluble problems.

As we implement The Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World, our number-one priority must remain the development of our competitive advantage--our leaders. (1) The Army must develop leaders who are agile, adaptive, and innovative, who thrive in conditions of uncertainty and chaos, and who are capable of visualizing, describing, directing, leading, and assessing operations in complex environments and against adaptive enemies. This will not happen by accident. It requires deliberate, purposeful, and sustained leader development programs, soundly based on our core values and professional ethic. It also requires institutional processes that optimize the performance of Army professionals through rigorous education programs and a superior talent management process. We must then forge these leaders together into cohesive teams through the crucible of tough, realistic training that fully replicates the complexity of the future operating environment.

The Army Leadership Foundation

Many commentators have noted the stark differences between the art and science of leadership. Practitioners will tell you that leadership is an evolutionary process with desired skills evolving over time. But amidst changing demands, our core values remain constant. Our core values and qualities are central to our professional ethic. Over the last four years, I have consistently emphasized the importance of competent leaders of character who are committed to the defense of the Nation. Competence, commitment, and character are the bedrock principles that reinforce trust: trust between soldiers; trust between leaders and the led; trust among soldiers, leaders, and the institution; and, trust between the Army as an institution and the American public. (2)

At its core, the Army's professional ethic is rooted in the Constitution and the words duty, honor, and country. Our duty is to defend our country and to lead our most precious resource, our soldiers. …

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