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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.

A Lesson From the Military

The U.S. military culture understands the commander is held accountable for all things that the unit does or fails to do. Whether that leader can be directly linked to good or bad events is up to debate. As we have seen in several studies of leadership, organizational performance depends on several factors and the most important may be the external environment, but we aspire to attribute a great deal to the individual leader -- the ability to react appropriately or influence the environment. As with any organization, success is determined by results as assessed and valued by someone else.

In the past two years, there have been calls to reemphasize the accountability of our senior military officers. As reported in the Washington Post, the challenges faced by our wounded service members at Walter Reed Army Medical Center drew national attention. The resulting firing and resignations were significant -- the Commander of Walter Reed, the Army's Surgeon General, and the civilian Secretary of the Army. While each of these highly accomplished senior leaders may have never visited Building 18 at Walter Reed before the publication of the article series, the message sent by the Secretary of Defense to the Army and to the nation was clear -- the care of our soldiers is paramount. That series of actions were dramatic and quickly led to revised institutional strategies aligned with core values embodied in "People First, Mission Always!"

By Col. Charles D. Allen

 |  April 6, 2009; 12:04 PM ET
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