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Archive: Military Leadership

Managing anger and fear

Somehow it's become accepted to publicly manifest one's anxiety, especially through anger. This is not to say that we won't face significant challenges in the years that lie ahead, but giving way to fear is the first self-indulgent step toward giving up...

By West Point Cadets | January 12, 2011; 06:43 PM ET | Comments (4)

Correcting the course

Now the elected officers are pursuing their respective visions, which in several cases result in attempts to reverse some decisions by previous leaders. That is the nature and the beauty of our constitutional system...

By Col. Charles D. Allen | January 5, 2011; 11:09 AM ET | Comments (12)

The brave: Salvatore Giunta

Staff Sergeant Salvatore A. Giunta represents the potential in all of us to take actions than transcend our self-interest when the moment requires the best from us...

By Michael Useem | December 22, 2010; 05:38 PM ET | Comments (2)

The sacrificers: First responders, American troops and Bill Husfelt

It has become fashionable in some circles to deride a lack of leadership. But that is to overlook the service of all the men and women who put themselves in harm's way for the benefit of...

By John Baldoni | December 20, 2010; 04:17 PM ET | Comments (3)

The reformer: Adm. Mike Mullen

Testifying to Congress about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", the Admiral persuasively summed up the issue: "For me it comes down to integrity"...

By Amy Fraher | December 20, 2010; 04:13 PM ET | Comments (4)

The protectors: Salvatore Giunta and George W. Bush

The reasons both men held the national spotlight could not have been more different, but the two figures are inextricably linked...

By Col. Charles D. Allen | December 20, 2010; 02:45 PM ET | Comments (5)

The danger of complacency

In the army, leadership is continuously cycled. Lieutenants tend to only be a platoon leader for 15 months and then become an executive officer or take another staff position. Captains command companies for no longer than 24 months. Further, any military family can relate to the saying, "Home is where the Army sends you." This consistent leadership change keeps unit atmosphere continuously fresh, preventing complacency issues like GM had...

By West Point Cadets | November 16, 2010; 10:31 AM ET | Comments (3)

Then and now: Reflections on diversity this Veteran's Day

Although 185,000 African Americans served in the Union Army during the conflict, only white troops made up the 200,000-man procession through the capital of our restored nation.

By Col. Charles D. Allen | November 11, 2010; 10:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

Acceptable vs unacceptable failures

If your personal values are aligned with those of your organization, you will know how much and what type of failure is too much. If you hold true to your values and have the courage to accept responsibility for your actions, you'll know when you need to step aside. At the end of the day, we must act...

By West Point Cadets | November 9, 2010; 02:41 PM ET | Comments (1)

How to take feedback

It has been said that success has many fathers but failure is an orphan. A benefit of living in a democratic society is that the people have a voice. Whether or not this week's public feedback changes the makeup of our elected leadership, every leader should first take an honest look at their future plans and at the successes or failures of past performance. Behind every contentious issue is an opportunity to do...

By West Point Cadets | November 3, 2010; 01:51 PM ET | Comments (1)

Start with "what" and "why"

When plans and strategies appear to falter, the simplest questions are often the ones that are the most overlooked. "What were we trying to accomplish and why?" At the strategic level, these answers should be tied to our professed national values and the protection our U.S. security interests. The result should be a clear statement of purpose and the development of well-defined...

By Col. Charles D. Allen | November 3, 2010; 01:40 PM ET | Comments (1)

When the going gets tough, the tough get...

In the case of strategic advice to a president, his senior military advisers must give him their best advice as they see it, no matter how painful. When faced with a desire to define an end state--and it is not clear that was the entire question at issue with the president in regard to Afghanistan--his military advisers...

By Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.) | September 28, 2010; 03:32 PM ET | Comments (0)

The right way to engage military leaders

The fact that a debate on the strategic direction occurred, allowing for conflicting and dissenting points of view within the Bush administration, is characteristic of healthy civil-military relations. Senior military officers--the theater and operational commanders as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff--were engaged in discourse...

By Col. Charles D. Allen | September 28, 2010; 03:19 PM ET | Comments (1)

Respect your advisers

President Obama has the difficult task of serving as a commander-in-chief without a military background, while working with career military people. He's not the first president in this position, of course. It just means he has to be extremely well prepared on military matters. He doesn't need to know nitty-gritty details...

By Yash Gupta | September 28, 2010; 02:26 PM ET | Comments (2)

The leader as chief strategist

The challenge with senior advisers and other content experts is that they are often just that --experts with deep, specialized knowledge in a narrow domain. They are not attuned to the language, framing and packaging required to sell a difficult decision to...

By Sally Blount | September 27, 2010; 04:46 PM ET | Comments (2)

When political realities trump good advice

The president should always have the courage to overrule his advisers when he believes them wrong; Lincoln is the great example. In this case, however, the president overruled his generals not because he disagreed with their military advice but because of political reality...

By Slade Gorton | September 27, 2010; 03:07 PM ET | Comments (0)

Put yourself in another's spit-shined shoes

A key to effective leadership is for the leader to be able to put himself in the shoes of each of his lieutenants, and for the lieutenants, in turn, to be able to put themselves in the shoes of the leader. If senior military officers were unable to understand what President Obama was requesting...

By Howard Gardner | September 27, 2010; 02:57 PM ET | Comments (1)

Don't just defer to experts

It is the job of the "leader" to accumulate as many inputs as possible, decide how much weight to give to each view, consider what data points or perspectives are missing, and then come to a decision based on his or her own evaluation of the viable options to be considered. To simply defer to experts is to abdicate...

By Mickey Edwards | September 27, 2010; 02:47 PM ET | Comments (1)

Gettysburg lessons reverberate in a modern world

To paraphrase, "a day on the Gettysburg battlefield beats any day in the seminar room." Of course for our U.S. Army War College trip, the seminar room was the battlefield. Over the years, I have been privileged to observe several student groups of senior military officers vicariously experience the great national contest of wills that was our American Civil War. It is advantageous for our students that contest came to be realized in central Pennsylvania.

By Col. Charles D. Allen | August 24, 2010; 10:42 AM ET | Comments (14)

Medal of Honor: It's never too late to honor a fallen hero

Amid today's press about pop stars, corporate woes, and daily challenges in our lives, I offer a simple hand salute to an American soldier and hero--rest well!

By Col. Charles D. Allen | July 16, 2010; 12:07 PM ET | Comments (10)

Transcript: Chamberlain at Gettysburg

How Col. Joshua Chamberlain's creative command turned the tide of history at Little Round Top.

By On Leadership video transcripts | June 30, 2010; 01:10 PM ET | Comments (24)

Salvaging the mission

Fixing the mistake of a hopelessly incoherent strategy similar to but far more dangerous than Iraq, is impossible and Petraeus must know that.

By Warren Bennis | June 24, 2010; 11:28 AM ET | Comments (1)

Henry Flipper at West Point: From slave to Army officer

West Point's first African-American graduate, Henry Flipper, was born into slavery. Today, the institution that actively resisted enrollment of African American officers now has an award in his name.

By Col. Charles D. Allen | June 17, 2010; 10:40 AM ET | Comments (10)

Transcript: John Buford at Gettysburg

John Buford is the kind of leader that every organization dreams about having; he is a man that understands the big picture and is not afraid to make decisions.

By On Leadership video transcripts | April 19, 2010; 10:32 AM ET | Comments (9)

Transcript: Tammy Duckworth on leadership

"So let's get over this discussion of whether or not women should be in combat, we already are. We are already leading, we are already dying, we are already defending liberty, we are already fighting for freedom, and let's focus on what do we need to do to build the best leaders."

By On Leadership video transcripts | April 13, 2010; 02:34 PM ET | Comments (4)

Leadership, the West Point way

Saying that leadership can be taught is not the same as saying that everyone can become a leader.

By Ed Ruggero | March 16, 2010; 05:54 AM ET | Comments (7)

A failure of Navy leadership

Captain Holly Graf, a commanding officer of a Navy missile cruiser, was apparently an abusive leader long before she was relieved with cause. The Navy needs to investigate.

By Bob Schoultz | March 9, 2010; 06:46 AM ET | Comments (68)

Transcript: Gen. Petraeus on staying strong through 'horrific news'

"There was a point in time when somebody came to me and said, 'Sir, the only thing we have left is your credibility.' I took that pretty seriously."

By Andrea Useem | February 23, 2010; 03:44 PM ET | Comments (1)

Transcript: Gen. Petraeus on his leadership role models

"At the end of the day, this is also about life and death, so the premium on certain qualities in military leadership -- integrity in particular -- I think is very high."

By Andrea Useem | February 16, 2010; 04:15 PM ET | Comments (8)

High-risk status quo

"Staying the course" without revisiting issues when the facts or the context changes, is dangerous behavior.

By Katherine Tyler Scott | February 5, 2010; 10:40 AM ET | Comments (0)

Flip-flopping -- or not?

As John Kerry learned too late, leaders who change their mind need to offer strong explanations.

By Howard Gardner | February 4, 2010; 02:34 PM ET | Comments (0)

Changing for the wrong reasons

When evidence changes, leaders should change. Not because they face political opposition, like McCain, or can't abide being outside today's conventional wisdom, ala Powell, but because of a change in evidence.

By Ken Adelman | February 4, 2010; 02:28 PM ET | Comments (4)

All in the implementation

Strong leadership on implementing the policy change is what's needed now.

By Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr. | February 4, 2010; 02:03 PM ET | Comments (1)

MLK day: African Americans answering the call of military service

Martin Luther King's dream is a call to service, and African Americans from our country's very beginnings have responded to that call in the military.

By Col. Charles D. Allen | January 17, 2010; 06:12 AM ET | Comments (13)

Christmas soldiers of 1776

The Continental soldiers, shivering and soaked by the freezing rain, moved their mud-caked artillery into place. Riding at the head of his troops, Washington ordered, "Advance and charge."

By Ed Ruggero | December 21, 2009; 05:44 AM ET | Comments (3)

Saluting the dedicated

When we honor and respect our soldiers, we are honoring the best in humanity: selflessness and dedication to a greater good.

By Marie Wilson | November 9, 2009; 12:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

More than a recruiting slogan

Tragedies like the one at Fort Hood test the character and resilience of organizations and their leaders. What we see now shows the meaning of "Army Strong."

By George Reed | November 9, 2009; 06:58 AM ET | Comments (0)

The voracity of war

Military leaders face the challenge of deploying and bringing home fighters who are still decent human beings.

By Joanne B. Ciulla | November 6, 2009; 10:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

Crisis leadership from a commander

While he was himself visibly shaken by the shootings, the Fort Hood commandar, Lt. Gen. Bob Cone, sought to provide a calming influence to the community.

By Col. Charles D. Allen | November 6, 2009; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Ft. Hood reveals hidden wounds

The Army is a solid institution, composed of leaders who care about their people. But this shooting provides yet another example of an institution, and more specifically, a support system under stress.

By Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.) | November 6, 2009; 05:39 AM ET | Comments (10)

'Four dead in Ohio'

The trust the American people place in its military is as fragile as it is precious.

By Col. Charles D. Allen | November 5, 2009; 01:43 PM ET | Comments (4)

Standing and delivering

In an age when problems can rapidly deteriorate into crises, military leaders know how to assess a problem, lay out a strategy and tactics and deliver.

By Deborah Ancona | November 4, 2009; 02:45 PM ET | Comments (0)

Succes doesn't always translate

Too much admiration for military leaders leads to the misperception that because they perform nobly on the battlefield, they must be good at overall strategy.

By Ken Adelman | November 4, 2009; 09:07 AM ET | Comments (9)

When generals are wrong

Sometimes the judgment of military leaders has proved better than that of their civilian bosses -- but not always.

By Michael Maccoby | November 3, 2009; 02:26 PM ET | Comments (6)

A priority, not an expense

In the military, leadership development is not viewed merely as an expense to be justified and contained, or reserved for a few "high potentials."

By George Reed | November 3, 2009; 11:31 AM ET | Comments (0)

Pundits and politicians

We know that the Wall Street barons and the polarizing politicians and the shouting cable pundits do not represent the best of this nation.

By Yash Gupta | November 3, 2009; 10:12 AM ET | Comments (1)

Ken Lay's after-action review

Military leaders are much more willing than business leaders to publicly admit when things have gone wrong.

By Jeffrey Pfeffer | November 3, 2009; 10:04 AM ET | Comments (0)

The West Point effect

My four months in Officer Candidate School in 1944 was superior to all the corporate management training programs I've observed and consulted for over the last 25 years.

By Warren Bennis | November 3, 2009; 09:55 AM ET | Comments (3)

Shameful memories

Many baby boomers remember, hopefully with a certain degree of shame, our inability to separate our distaste for the Vietnam conflict with our distrust in military personnel and their leaders.

By Gail S. Williams | November 3, 2009; 09:36 AM ET | Comments (77)

'Greater love hath no man'

Beneath all that body armor and chest-thumping machismo that defines our culture's Rambo image of the modern warrior lies the essence of what makes a soldier fight in combat: Love.

By Scott Snook | November 3, 2009; 09:19 AM ET | Comments (8)

Simple but not easy

Leaders in other sectors who REALLY CARE about winning and retaining the confidence, trust, and loyalty of the American public know how to earn it.

By Bob Schoultz | November 3, 2009; 06:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

The messy avenue of persuasion

The public sees a decisive and effective institution that more often than not attains its goals.

By Slade Gorton | November 3, 2009; 06:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

Wall Street's Semper Fi?

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

By Coro Fellows | November 3, 2009; 12:43 AM ET | Comments (6)

Ten lost cadets

Leadership is about leaving it all on the field rather than taking it off the table. That may explain why Americans trust military leaders over Wall Street leaders.

By Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.) | November 2, 2009; 04:12 PM ET | Comments (23)

Gary-Cooper style

The best military leaders are physically and morally strong, calm and competent under pressure, willing to do the hard but necessary jobs most of us are happy to duck -- all while being nice to children and old ladies and dogs.

By Ed Ruggero | November 2, 2009; 03:34 PM ET | Comments (2)

The leader next door

We trust military leadership because we know military people in our family, neighborhoods and offices. I don't know any Wall Street billionaires, and that is fine with me.

By Ed O'Malley | November 2, 2009; 03:29 PM ET | Comments (1)

Want trust? Try duty

Leaders must always do their duty, subordinating personal interest to complete the mission, which may require the sacrifice of their lives and the lives of those entrusted to them.

By Col. Michael E. Haith (Ret.) | November 2, 2009; 03:14 PM ET | Comments (4)

Bright Shining Shinseki

General Eric Shinseki, in publicly contradicting Donald Rumsfeld, represented a new relationship between the military and the American people in the post-Vietnam era.

By Ronald Heifetz | November 2, 2009; 02:43 PM ET | Comments (1)

Petraeus, not Westmoreland

Today, a nation divided about both Iraq and Afghanistan wars can nonetheless honor and respect the warriors, in part because public perception of the military is so different from the Vietnam era.

By Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr. | November 2, 2009; 02:05 PM ET | Comments (4)

Suckers for a uniform

With the exception of Dwight Eisenhower, it's hard to think of a recent military leader whose military service has translated into political (or even business) leadership.

By Alan M. Webber | November 2, 2009; 02:00 PM ET | Comments (14)

Tall order for media and business

Public confidence in media and business leaders will not rise unless they individually and collectively do a lot of self-examination and then self-improvement.

By Howard Gardner | November 2, 2009; 01:50 PM ET | Comments (0)

Troops Without Uniforms

Nation building is not our military's strength. Now is the time for our people -- and corporations -- to contribute to Afghanistan's rebuilding.

By Robert Goodwin | August 28, 2009; 12:10 PM ET | Comments (24)

Flawed Leadership in Washington

It is too late to repair the harm done to the Army by the mishandled removal of General David McKiernan, but the resulting debate may be a useful part of developing an effective strategy in Afghanistan.

By Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.) | August 26, 2009; 11:51 AM ET | Comments (15)

New Strategy, New Leader

It is possible Gn. McKiernan was the best-available leader under the old, NATO-focused strategy in Afghanistan, but the game has changed.

By Col. Charles D. Allen | August 25, 2009; 01:19 PM ET | Comments (30)

'Nation-Building' Dreams

With our focus on "good governance" and economic development, the fundamental question remains: How critical are the governance and development goals to our anti-Taliban efforts in Afghanistan---and how realistic?

By Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr. | August 25, 2009; 11:09 AM ET | Comments (1)

Time for Plain Talk

We can't have a repeat of the mistakes made in Vietnam and Iraq, when our leaders were unable or unwilling to fully explain why we got in and how we would get out.

By Yash Gupta | August 25, 2009; 11:06 AM ET | Comments (0)

No Victory on the Cheap

We learned in Iraq that we cannot fight a successful war at half speed; only with the surge did we see our way to at least a quasi-victory. And that is the only way out in Afghanistan.

By Slade Gorton | August 25, 2009; 11:02 AM ET | Comments (10)

A Necessary Question

It will take a courageous leader to decide against escalating the war in Afghanistan.

By Kurt Schmoke | August 25, 2009; 10:56 AM ET | Comments (1)

Mission Creep

The war has shifted from destroying al-Qaeda to fighting the Taliban, and we are becoming bogged down in what is essentially a complex of tribal wars.

By Michael Maccoby | August 25, 2009; 10:46 AM ET | Comments (3)

'What's the Point?'

Until and unless the leaders in the Obama Administration answer the question, 'What's the point?' the American people will not understand why sacrifices are being made on the ground and military leaders will be unable to mount an effective military campaign.

By Alan M. Webber | August 24, 2009; 12:40 PM ET | Comments (53)

Breaking Every Rule

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, dating back to their very beginnings, are case studies on how not to wage war.

By Gen. John Batiste (Ret.) | August 24, 2009; 12:34 PM ET | Comments (14)

History's Against Us

The issue for the U.S. has less to do with military strategy and military leadership than with the problematic nature of waging a war half way around the world on terrain we may never be able to really secure.

By Bill Shore | August 24, 2009; 12:22 PM ET | Comments (0)

Reduce Our Commitment

President Obama made a huge mistake in taking on Afghanistan as "his" war.

By Howard Gardner | August 24, 2009; 12:13 PM ET | Comments (0)

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