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As part of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, these 12 Southern California fellows are engaged in a full-time, nine-month, graduate-level leadership training program that prepares individuals for public-affairs leadership.

Wall Street's Semper Fi?

When the loudest voice, biggest pocketbook, or most manipulative individual rules in business, government and the media, it is no wonder that Americans value the focus, loyalty, sacrifice, and team-mentality embodied in the military.

Individuals in the military are as human as Wall Street executives or politicians, but soldiers enlist to serve others instead of their pocketbooks or political aspirations. Each branch of the military strives to uphold the values explicit in their motto. The Air Force promotes "integrity first, service before self, excellence in all we do," while the Navy champions "honor, courage, commitment." Notorious disregard for these values in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay shamed our military, but with a commitment to American values, General Petraeus supported President Obama's commitment to close Gitmo and end harsh interrogation tactics.

What if executives at AIG, Bank of America, and General Motors (alongside countless others), saluted the flag and vowed to uphold our most basic American values?

No matter the conflict, the military's goal is to protect American interests at home and abroad. Less clear to the public are the motivations--whether political, social, economic, or personal--that play into the president's and Congress' decisions to deploy our troops on foreign soil.

Business tycoons and political savvies must learn that profit and personal gain are consequential byproducts of leadership, rather than proof of it. When they learn to value others, reward merit, innovate, take action and evaluate outcomes, the American public will renew their confidence in our political and business leaders. -- Emily Sage Sipchen

Own It!

In today's world, questioning the military brass would be treacherous. Many Americans see these leaders as the rare people who serve the public unmotivated by self-interest and take ownership of their behavior. Following another year of high profile political and business scandals involving bribery, prostitution, and graft, it seems natural that Americans would flock to support those that offer honest and steady leadership in the face of an unpopular and difficult situation.

Perhaps leaders in other sectors could adopt the military's approach toward accountability. Following the highly embarrassing Abu Ghraib scandal, the military held hearings and punished those involved. As Iraq spiraled into complete chaos, the military responded by executing a response that significantly reduced violence. As the situation in Afghanistan worsens, the military is asking for support and explaining the war's direness, rather than covering it up.

Meanwhile, in the world of American business and politics, governors sell senate seats, senators sleep with staff members, and business executives lobby for bailouts. It's no wonder that in this world of "it's not my fault," the military's sense of ownership and accountability has earned high marks from a fed-up society. -- Sean Holiday

Not Another Vietnam

When my dad came home from Vietnam in 1968, he was warned to change out of his uniform as soon as he could get his hands on civilian clothes. The wildly happy crowds that greeted soldiers returning from World War II had been replaced by angry protesters who asked him how many babies he had killed. Dad couldn't even get a civilian job until he took his military service off of his resume. An entire generation of Vietnam vets received the same treatment; the military and its leaders haven't always enjoyed such high confidence ratings.

Today, we understand that the military doesn't choose to go to war--politicians do--and we as a people generally support our military whether or not we agree with the decisions that come out of Washington. I believe that sentiment carries over to our military leaders, especially since they usually stay out of the mainstream media and concentrate on doing their jobs. They appear to be above the partisan squabbles that characterize Washington politics and the unfettered greed people associate with Wall Street.

I believe military leaders are popular because soldiers are popular, which is a good lesson for leaders in other sectors. The National Leadership Index 2009 cites military leaders as having the highest confidence rating of any sector, beating out leaders in medicine, government, business, and education. I wonder if the people who took that poll could name our top military leaders and point to specific examples that led them to have so much confidence in those men and women. The confidence we have in leaders can stem from our perception of the people who work under them.

Think about it this way: would you rather buy a drink for a junior executive at Goldman Sachs or a private in the Army? In any case, the military enjoys a distinct advantage over other sectors: our disrespectful treatment of Vietnam vets and our desire to make sure that never happens again. -- Liz Willis

Truthiness

It's strange that an institution as rigid and clandestine as the military can inspire more trust than any other sector in society. Maybe we're just out of touch with reality. After all, the situation in Afghanistan, marred by the resurgence of the Taliban and a dubious presidential election, appears to be deteriorating. Meanwhile, Iraq, still teetering on the verge of stability, can't seem to control violence that has killed hundreds of civilians over the past month. Yet, our confidence in military leadership is up?

In reality, it's no coincidence that the increase in confidence coincides with leadership changes in Washington. The 2009 National Leadership Index survey showed that Americans value trustworthiness more than any other quality in a leader. The previous administration's military officials had a talent for deliberately shrouding failures, exaggerating successes, and feigning optimism. On the other hand, Obama's top general in Afghanistan has openly disagreed with other top officials on the US strategy for the country. After 8 years of misdirection from military officials, this seems like open, honest discourse from military leadership. Simply put, our confidence in our military leadership is up because we've perceived an increase in their honesty.

Unfortunately, it's not something we see everyday. Between the Madoffs, Sanfords, and Blagojeviches of our era, we've become resigned to dishonesty from our leadership. In fact, the way we've come to respond to dishonest leadership now seems predictable: they make a mistake, then lie, and we turn our collective indignation into one month of public outrage before moving onto the next villain. Our military brass, in spite of their issues, has this one right: a little truth goes a long way. -- Lanre Akinsiku

By Coro Fellows

 |  November 3, 2009; 12:43 AM ET
Category:  Military Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Ten lost cadets | Next: The messy avenue of persuasion

Comments

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Military forces should be used where they can clearly by themselves achieve a victory and defeat the enemy. Military forces should not be used in situations where they can not clearly achieve a victory or defeat the enemy.

The general who requested 85,000 American clearly stated that this will not defeat the Taliban.

Military may be trusted more by Americans but this is no reason to simply accept the call for more troops to Afghanistan when the military can not show that this will directly provide victory and the defeat of the enemy.

The current strategy is a strategy of military suicide with Americans dying until the Afghan army finally decides to fight.

President Reagan removed all American troops from Lebanon in 1983 when it was evident that American troop by themselves could not achieve victory and defeat the enemy.

No addition troops should be sent to Afghanistan, and the administration should consider removing all troops and simply leaving a small well protected force that would help in providing American air support if the Afghan ever decide to fight and defeat the Taliban.

The Taliban were defeated in 2001 by Afghans with limited US air support via the CIA and not by foreign troops.

Posted by: bsallamack | November 3, 2009 6:02 PM
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It seems that leadership and nobility run hand in hand and when they begin to seperate, leadership qualities are vastly changed.

Military leaders carry with them the understanding that many of their actions can lead to life or death scenarios which, in turn, tends to create a leader with the true qualities needed to search for the best possible outcome.

It's unfortunate that in today's world, many of our leaders have lost their moral footing since they aren't confronted with a life/death conflict. Our military leaders maintain their nobility by making the necessary choices- not the most profitable ones.

Each of these posts carries with them important and critical messages- it's lucky for the rest of us that they are well aware of what makes a great leader.

Posted by: jskrzat80 | November 3, 2009 1:33 PM
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Accountability is a leadership quality. If you don't have it, you're a poor leader. If you have it, you're a step closer to being a good leader. If the military holds itself accountable, then military officials are consequently better leaders, at least in that one aspect.
Accountability is not simply a boost to public opinion.

Posted by: posterX | November 3, 2009 1:00 PM
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The points Sean brings up are very valid. I do not necessarily think that military leadership is any better than leadership in other sectors. However, what is different is the accountability that leaders in the military have where if something bad happens, someone owns up to it. We do not see that happening enough in other sectors.

The polls show that every sector, aside from military, is on a steady decline in confidence level. The military is even failing them, but is this failure from the military or from the political agendas that at times drive the military?

It is easier to turn a blind eye to failure and hope the people forget. It is harder to own it. The American people are fed up with everything; therefore, anyone who can own it, will have higher favor than those who do not.

Posted by: claytonrosa | November 3, 2009 12:49 PM
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The public's lack of trust in their leadership can be traced directly to the rise of the K-Street Lobbying Industry. K-Street is the place that retiring Congressmen (and some assistants) expect to work after their Congressional term of office ends. Therefore, all bills and all wannabe laws must be first filtered through the organizations that fund K Street, prior to passage. Much of this is hidden or disguised to obscure the action.
The military chain of command is well-known, proud of its accomplishments and tells everyone its future plans on a need to know basis. Its honest.
One is honest, the other a slimy, bar-hopping group of thieves and adulterers.
See the difference?

Posted by: drzimmern1 | November 3, 2009 12:41 PM
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"I believe military leaders are popular because soldiers are popular, which is a good lesson for leaders in other sectors."

Don't know if I necessarily agree with that statement. I wouldn't call it a stretch to say my local doctor is less popular than a local business leader, and yet doctors are the ones that are more trusted.

On a side note, I'd buy that private a drink.

Posted by: psobhani | November 3, 2009 12:31 PM
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