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Any Point to West Point?

Tom Ricks, the Washington Post's special military correspondent, wrote a controversial article in Sunday's Post proposing that the three military academies -- West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy -- be closed. Ricks' suggestion raises the age-old question: Can leadership really be taught?

Posted by Ben Bradlee and Steve Pearlstein on April 20, 2009 10:49 AM
Prudence Bushnell

More Training, Not Less

Personal leadership skills, such as active listening, standing up for oneself and others, influencing behaviors, etc. can -- and should -- be taught from grade school on. We need to support initiatives for more public service, civilian leadership schools.

Posted by Prudence Bushnell, on April 24, 2009 11:42 AM
Kathy Kretman

Teach Leadership Early

There is a growing recognition in all sectors of society that we need to prepare a new generation for leadership in their communities, from local to global, by inspiring them to assume leadership. Leadership education can and should take root much earlier than young adulthood.

Posted by Kathy Kretman, on April 23, 2009 1:26 PM

Liberal Arts and Leadership

Aristotle said that the goal of the liberal arts is to educate people on how to make choices in a free society. He did not advocate leadership "training," which, if you think about it, is really an oxymoron.

Posted by Joanne B. Ciulla, on April 22, 2009 1:31 PM
Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.)

Leaders Who Learn

Great leaders drive themselves to learn how to improve their skills at leading, their most important decisions are determined by their values and character, and they are often the result of good mentoring from senior officers.

Posted by Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.), on April 22, 2009 9:43 AM
Kent J. Thiry

The Human Skill

While management is a business skill, leadership is a human skill. Becoming a better leader means being in an environment that leads to epiphanies of self-awareness.

Posted by Kent J. Thiry, on April 21, 2009 4:08 PM
Slade Gorton

ROTC at Public Colleges

And will Tom Ricks then require that all colleges and universities that accept federal funds also accept ROTC units, as requested, by each of the three services?

Posted by Slade Gorton, on April 21, 2009 4:04 PM

Support ROTC, Keep the Academies

There are plenty of other ways, besides closing the academies, to save big money in the Defense budget. At the same time, we should continue to support ROTC programs.

Posted by David Walker, on April 21, 2009 4:00 PM
Michael Maccoby

An Ancient Practice

Leadership has been taught and learned through the ages. An early leadership coach was Moses's father-in-law, Jethro, who told him Moses was wearing himself out trying to solve everyone's problems and that he should learn to delegate.

Posted by Michael Maccoby, on April 21, 2009 7:12 AM
Gail S. Williams

Whole-Person Learning

The greatest leadership learning I've witnessed is when people learn in a whole-person way -- intellectually, emotionally, and somatically. This happens best when they are immersed in a supportive, like-minded community.

Posted by Gail S. Williams, on April 21, 2009 7:06 AM

Best Taxpayer Value

Total immersion in the culture of the service academies produces men and women willing to put mission above self, country before comfort. Its graduates still lead from the front and are paying a high price in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Posted by Walter F. Ulmer, Jr., on April 21, 2009 7:01 AM

A Full Range of Options

Tom Ricks rightly calls for diversity of military officers. But one size does not fit all. While ROTC and Officer Candidate School may appeal to some, others will always want the complete challenge of a West Point-like experience.

Posted by Ed Ruggero, on April 21, 2009 6:50 AM

Intellectual Awakening

Academic programs may not consistently produce good leaders, but organizations that study, argue about, and struggle with leadership development are inherently better organizations than those that do not.

Posted by George Reed, on April 21, 2009 6:32 AM
Bob Schoultz

A Necessary Question

Even the best institutions must regularly be jolted out of the self-congratulatory complacency that can take hold when excellent organizations come to believe their own propaganda and mythology.

Posted by Bob Schoultz, on April 21, 2009 6:20 AM
Marty Linsky

Learning Not Teaching

There is no skill useful for leadership that you cannot learn if you really commit; even courage and charisma can be learned.

Posted by Marty Linsky, on April 21, 2009 6:14 AM
Abraham Zaleznik

A Leadership State of Mind

Leadership cannot be taught. But would-be leaders can develop a state of mind that enhances leadership capacities.

Posted by Abraham Zaleznik, on April 21, 2009 6:10 AM
Marshall Goldsmith

Judging the Results

Research shows clearly that leaders can become more effective through feedback and training - not as judged by themselves, but as judged by their direct reports and co-workers.

Posted by Marshall Goldsmith, on April 21, 2009 6:01 AM

Teaching "Altruistic Suicide"

The willingness to perform what Emile Durkheim called "altruistic suicide" -- giving your life for the group -- requires that individuals be immersed in a separate culture. The service academies may provide an essential venue for training leaders willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Posted by Elizabeth Sherman, on April 20, 2009 3:14 PM

Setting the Standard

As Gen. Colin Powell has said, West Point is "the place where the professional standards are set, the place that defines the military culture, the place that nurtures the values and virtues of Army service and passes them on from generation to generation." It should not be closed.

Posted by Col. Michael E. Haith (Ret.), on April 20, 2009 2:30 PM

Having Leadership vs. True Leader

Closing the academies is one option, but properly understanding leadership training is another option and maybe the better one.

Posted by Mickey Edwards, on April 20, 2009 2:07 PM
Bill Shore

Classroom That Inspires Leadership

The classroom can't insert leadership skills into students, but it can bring leadership qualities to life for them.

Posted by Bill Shore, on April 20, 2009 12:30 PM
Gen. John Batiste (Ret.)

The Military: A Leadership Laboratory

I'll let the service academies defend themselves, but I would be uncomfortable with an Army of officers not trained and educated from multiple sources.

Posted by Gen. John Batiste (Ret.), on April 20, 2009 12:16 PM
Col. Charles D. Allen

Lessons from WWII Leaders

What I have to offer are three renowned WWII military leaders' responses to the question of whether leaders are born or made.

Posted by Col. Charles D. Allen, on April 20, 2009 11:48 AM

Some Skills Cannot be Taught

So much of leadership is style, courage, clarity of goal and quality of the individual, and these critical elements cannot really be taught.

Posted by Ken Adelman, on April 20, 2009 11:42 AM

Best Learn by Observing

Unless one believes that some of us are born leaders, while others could never become leaders, the answer to the question is obvious: "Leadership can and should be taught."

Posted by Howard Gardner, on April 20, 2009 11:34 AM

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tartansailor: Rick's thesis is absurd in the extreme. He ignores the dictum: DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY. He must have been a wash out of Basic....

E75Ranger: I have taken the time to read Tom Ricks' thoughts on the services academies in his article as well as the comments offered by the panel memb...

BrianX9: . I was commissioned out of a state school into the Infantry, the most important part of the Army. In my biased opinion, the average ROTC ...

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