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Col. Charles D. Allen
Military scholar

Col. Charles D. Allen

Colonel Charles D. Allen (U.S. Army, Ret.) is the Professor of Cultural Science in the Department of Command, Leadership, and Management at the U.S. Army War College.

How the Army Does It

To the question, "Do leaders too often ignore experienced but under-performing talent in
their organizations?" The easy answer is "Yes," a better question is "Why?" The U.S. Army leadership system is up-or-out (either get promoted or leave the service
at set timelines,) with a cap on its manpower-end strength established by Congress. There is no lateral entry for the officers and non-commissioned officers to become our General Officers and Command Sergeants Major so we grow our own.

For those Soldiers (officer and enlisted) who have stuck with the profession beyond the twenty years required to be eligible for retirement, we know that they have a wealth of experience, been highly successful in demanding assignments, and demonstrated great talent in order to make that cut. Are they underperforming or has a focus on picking the next batch of generals left behind those who still have much to offer? As one of my mentors offered, "It is easy to overlook talent. It's hard to discriminate between the really top leaders and others who may brief well and deliver spectacular immediate results."

Both types of senior people are needed.

For our 2,500+ colonels with over 22 years of service, in any given year less than 50 will be selected to the rank of brigadier general. For those colonels who realize that brass ring is out of reach, how can the Army retain their experience, wisdom, and managerial skills developed over a career of service? This question of talent management and retention also faces business organizations.

Unlike the Army, a business can entice/raid talent from other businesses. Our Army makes appeals to officers with the ideals of selfless service and commitment to its institutional values. It has to demonstrate a loyalty to these leaders through programs of professional development and opportunities to do meaningful work. It has to recognize and communicate to these leaders that their contributions are valued and necessary for the success of the mission. In short, the Army leadership has to apply the principles of leadership to the entirety of the force. Older, experienced members may be intrinsically motivated, but they still can be motivated to continue performing and serving by

By Col. Charles D. Allen

 |  January 27, 2009; 12:41 PM ET
Category:  Sports Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Wouldn't it be nice if those who responded to COL Allen's commetary had a clear understanding of the laws and policies enacted by Congress that govern the Army? For those who really want to learn about the Armed Forces and the Army, I suggest reading Title 10 U.S. code (active force and reserves) as well as the regulations and policies that are availabe on line through government web-sites. For more information Title 32 U.S. Code pertains to the National Guard.

Posted by: HRleader | January 30, 2009 9:43 AM
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All these opinions are good for what value you may place in them. Has anyone noticed the authors backgrounds who are offering their angle?? Something is conspiciously missing --- How about actual LEADERS!! Most of the opinions offered are from academics and writers. The US Army? Last time I checked they still have not nabbed OBL.

Would rather have seen opinions offered from successful leaders themselves, not from those who are ineffective or relegated to sitting on the sidelines.

Posted by: ptewell | January 28, 2009 12:57 PM
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The Army has the distinction of being a bureaucracy resistant to innovation with a promotion system devised around the time of the founding of our country (ha). For the most part it is dull (I should say Dull with a capital D). As we used to say--same old olive-drab uniforms, trucks, flag pole, etc. You can usually go through the day using yesterday's program. Read "Catch 22" to get the atmospherics. It is somewhat better than the Federal GS system (but not much).

Posted by: crewsin | January 28, 2009 12:03 PM
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The armed forces are lead by civilians. The commander in chief is an elected official. The Secretary Of Defense is a civilian, the Secretary Of the Navy is a civilian confirmed by the congress, I believe. They are leaders of the armed forces.
If we are talking about the leader of a platoon, experience should be quite valuable. The leadership there is quite ... efficient: "I am here in front of 11 man team, take me down if you can, kill me first if you can. I only have one mission: carry out that order, no questions asked or are necessary."
Isn't it correct, Col.?

Posted by: kham1234 | January 28, 2009 9:27 AM
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Colonel Allen, I respect you for your service to the nation but please explain why the US Army expected it could fight and win a conventional war against irregular forces... you know, like Vietnam all over again. I'm anxious for your response.

Posted by: biffgriff | January 28, 2009 7:09 AM
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Always weird to see the Army held up as an example of an efficient organization. After all, some of the most egregious mismanagemetn is always found in the Armed Forces, especially during wartime.

Ever read 'Catch-22'? I'm guessing that's what's going on right now in Iraq. You won't believe the scandals that will emerge when the troops have left and the audits are performed. Oh wait, that won't happen -- can't undermine our boys in uniform.

Let's just say the Army is only slightly less well-managed than NASA.

So a 'leader' in teh context of military service doesn't resemble all that closely a leader in the corporate world. At least what we used to think of as a leader in the corporate world, before we began to realize so many of those guys were crooks.

Posted by: Samson151 | January 28, 2009 2:45 AM
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