Use Your Military Analogs Correctly
Peters, Tom, THE JOURNAL RECORD
These critics - and most business excutives - are confused about what makes for success in military units. The idea of toughness for toughness' sake, strict adherence to the chain of command and mindless obedience to orders could not be further from the nub of military effectiveness. Instead, victory on the battlefield depends on nine traits.
- An Inspiring Vision. In World War II, we were on an unmistakable mission, at least after Pearl Harbor silenced the isolationists. In Vietnam, troops, civilians, many politicians and even an occasional military leader disparaged the war. The lack of consensus around a coherent and trustworthy vision haunted us from the battlefield to the recruiting office.
- Leadership By Emotion. Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, George Patton and Winston Churchill led by inspiring the troops or the entire population. ``When the chips are down,'' Martin van Creveld concludes in his book ``Technology and War,'' ``there is no `rational' calculation in the world capable of causing the individual to lay down (ital) his (end ital) life. ... War is, therefore, primarily an affair of the heart.'' John Keegan, in ``The Mask of Command,'' likewise concludes ``the merest twitch of the leader's emotion stands between his exultation and his descent into ignominy.''
- Managing By Wandering Around. Effective leaders are inveterate wanderers, absorbing feedback firsthand, blunting information distortion and exhorting superhuman effort from their forces. Montgomery, for instance, manned an alternate command post near the front during battles. Patton, like Ulysses S. Grant before him, was always visible.
Most ineffective leaders have ``led'' from the rear. John Keegan observes that World War I ``leadership had, by a bogus scientism, so sanctified the importance of purely theoretical principles of war-making, and consequently so deprecated the importance of human emotion, that the common soldiers were not thought worth the expenditure of their commanders' breath.''
- Improvisation, Autonomy and Creativity. The do-as-I-say military image is the saga of losers. The most successful leaders, from the pinnacle of command to the squad-leading corporal, traditionally have been difficult-to-manage innovators in time of battle. Boot camp teaches soldiers to duck without thinking. But, it also teaches them to improvise, a requisite skill on the always ambiguous battlefield. …