Military Leadership into the 21st Century: Another "Bridge Too Far?"


© 1998 Walter F. Ulmer, Jr.

From Parameters, Spring 1998, pp. 4-25.

On 15 September 1997, after a 19-hour flight from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, 620 members of the 82d Airborne Division parachuted into Shymkent, Kazakhstan. Genghis Khan would have been impressed. En route to the drop zone the C-17s might have passed over American soldiers on the ground in Senegal or Uganda or Bosnia or Macedonia. While this military exercise involving armies of the former Soviet Union received some notice in the press, there was little expressed amazement. The American people took it for granted that our armed forces were up to the task.

Fighting forest fires in Colorado, operating medical clinics in Latin America, retrieving Soviet nuclear weapons, policing Haiti or Bosnia, keeping the North Koreans at bay--all seem equally unremarkable. Effectiveness with Hurricane Andrew recovery, with flood relief in Bangladesh, and with the Saudi National Guard was not unexpected. Even in the midst of headlines in 1997 describing appalling behavior on the part of cadre at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, opinion polls continued to show strong support for the American military. Perhaps most remarkably, heroic actions of soldiers from Panama to the Gulf to Mogadishu confirmed that the tradition of courage under fire has not been lost.

Adventures in peacekeeping, warfighting training, drug interdiction, Olympic Games protection, and technological adaptation took place amid a force reduction of monumental proportions. In a drawdown of more than one-third strength in five years, with massive personnel turbulence, a notoriously high pace of activities, and an austere operating budget, admirable pride prevailed. In 1996, Army operational deployments averaged 35,000 soldiers per day among 70 countries. Many soldiers stationed in the United States spent more than 130 days away from home station that year. Much of the warrior spirit has somehow survived the influx from a supposedly self-centered generation. West Point cadets still compete for assignments in the combat arms.[1] "Exciting but demanding times," some soldiers have said. Our most robust corporations might--just might--have withstood the trauma to which the Army has responded so well in the 1990s. Performance of assigned, tangible missions in the last decade represents one of the finest examples of institutional stamina, commitment, and versatility in military history.

The Army also has been working diligently, in conjunction with the other military services, to anticipate and prepare for the future. The new series of war games at the Army War College, for example, seeks the insights needed to identify force structure and materiel changes that might take place in the second decade of the 21st century. Much is written and discussed about changing technology, especially in communications and automation. Through it all, we continue to profess that the Army is first and foremost the people who serve in it. Still, there appears to be a growing unease among informed observers regarding the capacity of the US armed forces to sustain operational excellence in the decades ahead.

Erosion Amid Success

In an August 1997 press conference, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged that there were "cracks" in unit readiness. Strong anecdotal evidence to the same point has been emerging for several years. Some service members indicate they no longer recommend that their children enter the armed forces. Talented young officers appear to be leaving in disproportionately high numbers, although documentation for this is absent. The exodus of Army helicopter pilots has been described as a "hemorrhage."[2] Consider:

. A 1997 survey of several thousand soldiers conducted as part of the investigation of abuse of authority at Aberdeen Proving Ground and elsewhere reported that less than half the respondents replied positively to questions of confidence in their leaders.

. A survey sponsored by the Army Command and General Staff College in 1995 found some concerns about leadership and the command climate strikingly similar to those reported in the 1970 Army War College Study on Military Professionalism.[3]

. Articles in military journals increasingly include comments to the effect that innovation is being crowded out by fear of failure ("Fear of Mistakes Throttles Initiative in the Ranks," says one headline.) Thoughtful pieces in Army magazine argue that both personality and systemic factors undercut aspects of professionalism in the officer corps.[4]

. A House National Security Committee notes its concern that senior officials may not be admitting degradations in combat readiness.

. Many senior service college students in recent classes seem to display more than typical student skepticism about the quality of senior leaders they have observed.[5] Anecdotes about poor leadership, particularly at the field grade and general officer levels, are too persistent to ignore.

It is noteworthy that much of the data revealing troublesome trends have come not from a tabloid reporter's notes, but from Army surveys and analyses that have been made available for public scrutiny. It is also noteworthy that the same phenomenon revealed in the 1970 Army War College Study on Military Professionalism and the 1971 Army War College study on Leadership for the 1970's is present today: dramatically different climates exist simultaneously within the Army. While a generalized high level of stress is clearly present today, enthusiasm and trust reside in one unit, frustration and anxiety in another. Good leadership may not be able to compensate for incoherence in the web of strategic policies. But clear differences in morale and esprit among units of the same type provide another validation of the crucial role of organizational leadership.

The most optimistic reading of collective quantitative and anecdotal information on the current state of morale is discomforting. Measures of trust, commitment, and morale have shown localized problems over many years. The confluence of organizational and environmental pressures at this moment, however, presents institutional response challenges of a different order of magnitude. A healthy job market for officers who leave the service, the lack of a clear military threat to the United States, the higher expectations for a "decent family life," and less tolerance among capable young people for poor leadership climates create a potent mixture. The crux of the matter seems clear. It is a tale of dedication and commitment that has produced local miracles while in effect neglecting and hazarding the future of the institution. The Army's culture promotes vigorous response to policy initiatives without regard for the collective long-term consequences of such response. Inordinate focus on the immediate (non-tactical) mission along with institutional systems that cater to conspicuous short-term results represent major challenges to both current and future leadership.

Leadership in the 21st-Century Army

In any Army, in any time, the purpose of "leadership" is to get the job done. Competent military leaders develop trust, focus effort, clarify objectives, inspire confidence, build teams, set the example, keep hope alive, and rationalize sacrifice. For this century or the next, there is little mystery about requisite leader competencies or behaviors. Desirable qualities and skills may vary a bit, but the basic formula for leader success has changed little in 2000 years. However, the method for routinely inculcating, supporting, and sustaining the desired leader behaviors has yet to be determined. The link between concept and practice is the heart of the matter. Certainly, progress in human systems design has been outpaced by technological advance. Also, during the last 30 years, higher expectations about what constitutes appropriate leader behavior have evolved in all sectors of American society.

Studies have listed the essential competencies for 21st-century leaders in different societal sectors.[6] They have typically included an ability to deal with cognitive complexity, tolerance of ambiguity, intellectual flexibility, a meaningful level of self-awareness, and an enhanced understanding of the relationships among organizational sub-systems that collectively construct the prevailing "climate." These would supplement timeless leader qualities: integrity, high energy, courage, and commitment to institutional values.

A 1982 report from the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research noted that leaders must sustain "intellectual and cognitive effort" when future warfare will have a pace, intensity, and technological complexity of unprecedented dimensions. The report's author is particularly insightful in discussing the need for leaders to be able to "not only maximize the probability of successfully completing their current mission, but to conserve what [human] resources they can for the mission that will surely follow."[7] The basic cognitive and emotional demands of the future battlefield as we now describe it in Army After Next (AAN) documents have been recognized for decades. However, strong conclusions about required competencies and behaviors have rarely produced powerful and integrated new policies designed to support the development of the heralded attributes. A discussion of "best practice" in critical human resources development matters appears later in this article.

In an interview reported in the 30 June 1997 Army Times, the departing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff noted that future leadership demands would be marked by the "unprecedented stress," "isolated battles," and "dispersion" of the battlefield. At his confirmation hearing the incoming Chairman said, "People are more important than hardware. We cannot allow the quality of the force to suffer." A 1996 symposium on "Leadership Challenges of the 21st Century" included thoughtful descriptions of leader competencies relevant to those battlefield stresses and doctrines. A 1997 draft of a new Army manual on leadership included attention to the future requirement for leaders' continuous learning and introduced a major conceptual breakthrough. This was the distinction between a leader's need to "operate" or achieve well-defined short-term goals, and the need to "improve" the workings of the system and thereby sustain the institution over the long term. The fact that replacement of the earlier edition of FM 22-100 appears to be a slow and tortuous process may indicate that the Army comes to grips more easily with operational and structural change than with modification of leadership doctrine.

In a September 1993 issue of Army Focus magazine, then Army Chief of Staff General Gordon R. Sullivan noted thoughtfully and persuasively that "The times we live in are times of profound change . . . political, ideological, and technical. We must adapt to that change and we must grow." Such "growth" of course would have to entail new perspectives, new learning, and new behaviors on the part of many senior officers. Since they initiate and exemplify organizational change, their performance as part of any change strategy is crucial. Yet in this 42-page magazine describing future demands on the Army and its response to those demands, one-half page is devoted to leader development. Further, nothing is mentioned about the task of building and sustaining climates that undergird any "learning organization."[8]

The July 1997 Annual Report on The Army After Next Project to the Chief of Staff of the Army used less than one of its 60 pages to discuss human issues. The leadership issues that were addressed were unrefined, unexplained, and unexplored. Relatively cavalier coverage of human dynamics is typical of brochures describing the Army After Next and the Revolution in Military Affairs. Earl H. Tilford, Jr., in The Revolution In Military Affairs: Prospects and Cautions, a 23 July 1995 Strategic Studies Institute report, concludes that "Discussions of the . . . RMA . . . often develop along technological lines. . . . [W]hat is lost . . . is the nature of war, which remains a complex interaction of political objectives, human emotions, cultural and ethnic factors, and military skills." In the overview of Future Land Warfare in the Autumn 1997 issue of Parameters, Paul Van Riper and Robert H. Scales, Jr., note how technology will likely compound the stress on battle decisionmakers, and that "leadership far more than technology will determine who wins and who loses."[9] And the current Army Chief of Staff remarked after the Advanced Warfighting Experiment at the National Training Center in the Spring of 1997 that the experiment "is not necessarily about technology, although that's an important part of it. It's about changing an Army . . . [and] most of all changing the culture."[10]

Changing the culture of any organization is a leadership task, yet there appears to be no strategic design for how to change Army culture.[11] Immediate crises in Washington and the field, combined with a mixed appreciation of the need for "cultural change" among serving Army general officers, seem to have colluded to put non-technical macro issues on the back burner. The robust agility that characterizes a progressive and adaptable organization, one that can handle the Haitis, the Bosnias, and the Koreas across decades--does not derive from structure or weaponry alone. Development of technological applications and operational procedures continues to capture a disproportionate share of the Army's creative energy even though we acknowledge that soldiers--not machines or structures--ultimately determine the outcome of battle.

Searching for Contemporary "Best Practice"

Large, complex organizations of every type are more alike than different regarding the challenges of attracting, developing, and retaining talented people. The greatest similarities in requisite leadership competencies are at the upper organizational levels. Of course there are fundamental differences between the civilian and military sectors that directly affect leader selection and development. First, there is only one American Army. One cannot transfer out of that army without also leaving the institution. The executive who is unhappy at GM might find employment of a similar nature at Ford. But the Army officer who becomes frustrated in his job must either bear up or exit the profession. Second, an employment contract with Sears or GE does not carry with it the implicit duty to risk one's life to meet corporate goals. There are no unlimited liability contracts in commercial organizations. Third, the military leader-follower relationship is supported by law and tradition as well as by local policies. Fourth, all senior military leaders have been promoted from within the ranks of the organization.

To these basic differences we add the warrior ethos essential to an effective fighting force. Philosophical orientation and common endurance of hardship in the military form interpersonal bonds rarely seen in the commercial world. There are, however, two sides to tight bonding within a strong culture. One side produces wonderful team efforts toward the mission; the other maintains a conservative approach to institutional change. While few institutions revitalize themselves without enormous external pressures, strong authoritarian cultures have the potential for dramatic directional change if the collective leadership is so inclined. Integration of minority members into the US Army is one example of such change.[12]

The quest for insight into leader development brings us to the concept of "best practice." In some professions, "best practice" is routinely updated and clarified if not codified. Optimal designs for nuclear power plants or current techniques for removing plaque with balloon angioplasty are relatively specific. What is "best" in human systems design remains a more open question. Still, from the human resources criteria in the Baldridge Award to the broad discourses in relevant academic journals, we can discern evolving patterns of organizational practice that have gained reasonably high agreement among both scholars and practitioners as worthy of serious consideration. Given the differences between civilian and military organizations, but also aware of the similar aspects of all large, complex human organizations, it seems worthwhile to make some comparisons.

Three assumptions are relevant to the following comparisons of "best practice" in the Army and in US corporate structures. One is that a supportive, rational organizational climate is essential to attract, motivate, and develop high-quality people. Another is that such organizational climates are greatly influenced--for better or worse--by the values, insights, skills, and behaviors of the senior leadership of the organization.[13] Last is the reality that competition for high-quality people in business and industry as well as in the armed services is becoming increasingly stiff. Meanwhile, social mores (the acceptability of short-term employment relationships) and organizational change (the attending anxiety of instability and downsizing) conspire to undermine long-term commitment to any organization.

. Early opportunities for varied responsibilities can support leader development. Here the Army is ahead of everybody. No institution does it better. Most lieutenants have opportunities to lead groups of significant size in performing challenging tasks. They are exposed to command and staff relationships and resource management early on. Young people in the corporate world often wait five to ten years for opportunities to head a project team or be responsible for an office of 20-40 people.

It is true, of course, that early opportunities for platoon and company leadership may not present a "level playing field" for the late bloomers, or for those who through no fault of their own miss the opportunity for command at company level. It is quite possible that spectacular early success or failure may create expectations or reputations that follow the individual too closely.

. Produce and articulate precepts for leader behavior. This comparison is mixed, although the Army's doctrinal materials, the traditional warrior ethic, and pre-commissioning and professional education reinforce leadership concepts in ways unequaled in any sector of our society. Codes, principles, proscriptions, and good examples are plentiful in the Army. Companies increasingly are formulating explicit standards for leader behavior, segmented for different echelons in the organization. Generally, in both commercial and military organizations, the higher the echelon, the less clear leadership precepts become. The Army does not enforce guidelines about leadership style except at the extreme edge of the acceptable behavior envelope. Our monitoring system reacts promptly to selected misbehaviors such as driving under the influence or misusing a government sedan. But our sensors and mechanisms for responding to arrogant, abusive leaders who have not created a public spectacle are less well developed. Perhaps reluctance to inhibit subordinate initiative has prevented the required surveillance of leadership techniques. No doubt the lack of reliable information about the prevailing relationships between senior and subordinate one or two levels down the chain of command has precluded timely interventions by senior officers whose keen interest in good leadership is unquestioned. Whatever the cause, the dearth of practical guidelines and, more important, the lack of systematic monitoring permit a potentially unhealthy range of leader behaviors. Nonproductive behaviors may seen by peers and subordinates as institutionally acceptable if not condoned.

Most military doctrine at the operational and strategic levels is directly devoted to structure and force employment, albeit within the context of traditional values. There presently are no highly visible, heavily resourced efforts to define, inculcate, and monitor the creation and sustainment of organizational climates that challenge, inspire, and motivate all ranks. This remains the case even after highly visible fractures in organizational climates have generated public concern and surely alienated many commissioned and noncommissioned officers over the past two years.

Doctrinal ambiguity does not apply to Army values, which have been traditionally clear in their essence. The recently announced value set is consistent with the past and reinforces Army interest in such matters: Duty, Loyalty, Selfless Service, Honor, Courage, Respect, and Integrity represent the core of a noble tradition. Announcing them is necessary but insufficient, however, for shaping leader behavior and for demonstrating what the Army considers "best practice" in this respect.

The best companies are serious about recrafting their leadership selection and development programs. The present level of interest in executive standards and style, feedback techniques, mentoring, and measurement of leadership results would have been difficult to find in the corporate world 20 years ago.[14]

. Use developmental feedback and mentoring. "Best practice" in this area has left the Army behind. Army feedback and mentoring programs are most robust at the NCO and junior officer levels. The Officer Efficiency Report, even when the prescribed counseling is conducted, has been a crude instrument for commenting usefully on individual strengths and weaknesses. The complex task of giving developmental feedback to subordinates is not taught in the Army school system. The Army War College has included some behavioral feedback in its program in recent years, but it is unlikely that there is the essential follow-up in the students' next organization to exploit the process.

Increasing numbers of large civilian organizations require mid-level (field grade equivalent) managers to participate in laboratory exercises that include structured, instrumented feedback from peers and subordinates. Programs for senior executives (general officer equivalent) which incorporate behavioral feedback from observers at the work site are increasingly popular.[15]

The reason for higher acceptance of developmental feedback in the for-profit world is no secret. Too many executives were and are failing, at great cost to the organizations. It is not possible to determine exact "failure" rates at the general manager and higher levels, but estimates made over the past decade range from 30 to 60 percent. There are no known sources of hard data about Army leaders' success rates. In both cases the definition of "failure" is imprecise. If one were to query serving officers about the percentage of battalion, brigade, division, and corps commanders who were seen as unsatisfactory leaders by a plurality of their subordinates and by many of their peers, I suspect the figure would be between 15 and 25 percent. Actually, there have been enough informal surveys, anecdotal reports, and ancillary studies over the past 20 years to make this more than a "suspicion."[16]

It does seem that the Army has a lower failure rate in perceived leadership effectiveness at mid and senior levels than does corporate America. Possibly, Army systems are somehow more tolerant of some non-ethical varieties of marginal performance. Or perhaps Army selection and development systems are simply more reliable. Regardless, the ranges of estimated failure rates in both sectors are alarming. One out of five selected commanders who cannot gain the trust and confidence of subordinates is intolerable over the long term. Selection errors have an extraordinarily debilitating effect on both the commercial and governmental sectors. The larger institutional sin is that the majority of today's leader selection mistakes are preventable.

Some percentage of individuals seems to have been immunized against significant adult learning, either by genetic happenstance or by early developmental neglect. But leader success rates can be improved by a combination of conceptual training, developmental feedback, environmental support for continuous learning, a performance appraisal system that attends to both development and selection, and a system for promoting leaders based on more than written reports from superiors in the organization.

A program of formal mentoring can assist in the developmental process and in assignment and selection. Mentoring and coaching have long been in the Army lexicon, but their routine use is a localized phenomenon, highly dependent on the interests and skills of unit leaders. There is no meaningful institutional motivation for being a good coach, yet that skill is highly prized by subordinates at every level. Mentoring is done more routinely at junior levels than with field grade and general officers. Most formal mentoring practices in corporations are pairings of a junior and a senior. Even in this design the senior as well as the junior typically learns because of the relationship. Where all leaders must seek and identify one or more mentors from among their peers, superiors, subordinates, or outsiders, and then record their insights over time, even more learning takes place. While there are potential downsides to a formal mentoring program, including perceptions of favoritism or cronyism and some diversions of energy from the immediate task, the consensus is that mentoring programs pay their way.[17]

The Army introduced an improved Officer Evaluation Report late in 1997; it reemphasizes the need for coaching or counseling as part of the officer evaluation process. Junior officers will be well served by this increased emphasis if counseling becomes increasingly important in the evaluation process. Suggestions regarding style and effects of leadership may continue to be excluded from most counseling of officers above the company-grade level. Junior officers will benefit also from an innovative administrative policy that will keep OERs of their lieutenant years out of the hands of selection boards for promotions above the grade of captain. Here we have a fine example of a breakthrough policy that reinforces in practice the pronouncements about providing opportunities to learn without penalty. Conversely, the new OER may compromise its potential as a developmental tool by highlighting a competition for simplistic numerical ratings. It will unfortunately be administered at least initially in a climate that is viewed as ever more competitive and unforgiving.

Broad performance feedback at the organizational level is uncommon in both the military and corporate cultures. The Army's after-action review process for exploring the inner workings of tactical unit performance is a model of structured feedback not replicated routinely in the business world. That review process, however, is often omitted from the Army's non-tactical activities.[18] J. F. C. Fuller had it right in 1936 when he commented on the role of tactical critiques for teaching senior officers what they really should know: "Tactical exercises set to bring out . . . tactical lessons are not worth the setting. What an exercise should bring out is the personality and common sense of the generals."[19]

The Harvard Business School may use more case studies on recent military management and leadership than do the military schools. And while significant numbers of commanders of brigades, divisions, and corps have strong reputations for great success or awful failure, the Army does not have a useful protocol for collecting and using the rich lessons that could be distilled from their command experiences. There is no comprehensive, structured after-action review at the conclusion of a command tour. Wouldn't the Schwarzkopf-Franks controversy hold productive lessons about wartime relationships among senior commanders?[20]

There are methods to tap into these cases that would compromise neither unit nor individual privacy. The collective capacity of mid- and top-level executives to learn about themselves and their profession is the critical factor in organizational learning.

. Measure organizational climate. The Army is behind corporate "best practice" in this initiative. Progressive commercial organizations routinely use climate surveys to articulate organizational values, sense strong and weak aspects of the environment, coach managers, and sometimes contribute to assignment or promotion decisions.[21] Some elements of the Army--such as parts of the Army Material Command in recent years--have completed extensive organizational surveys along with instruments that provide feedback on leader behavior. Usually these are the products of a particular commander who has knowledge of the potential of these questionnaires. But while there is no regularly administered Army survey to measure important elements of a command climate, crises sometimes bring on special surveys such as the recent look at sexual harassment and abuse of authority.[22] Morale, mission focus, clarity of priorities, effectiveness of communication, trust in leaders, confidence to perform mission-essential tasks, perceived level of discipline, support for initiative and innovation, and fair treatment of all personnel are not systematically recorded. Had a climate survey been routinely administered, many of the derogatory headlines of 1997 might have been avoided, or the severity of the problems attenuated by timely command intervention.

In other respects, the Army forcefully and frequently collects data on equipment and financial readiness (the outmoded and simplistic monthly Unit Readiness Report, for example). The absence of a parallel reporting emphasis on the state of the human component relegates that aspect of combat readiness de facto to a secondary position. Recent interest in measuring unit operating tempo is a positive move in this area. Another innovation with considerable potential is the Ethical Climate Assessment Survey that was gently introduced in draft form in 1997. That survey provides a structure, and perhaps more important a rationale, for assessing in useful terms the character of the organizational climate. It was designed for informal, optional use by commanders in the field. If supported by the Army's professional education system and appreciated by commanders, it could lead to generalized improvement.

. Educate leaders in techniques for assessing the effectiveness of individuals and groups. Neither military nor corporate organizations do this well. Methods for measuring unit or individual efficiency and effectiveness are the most neglected element in managerial education, and both kinds of organizations assume leader competence to perform these delicate and important tasks. Army doctrine does not cover methods of personal or unit evaluation except in domains of individual soldier skills and small-unit tactical operations. At the Army's Combat Training Centers, officers assigned as Observer Controllers develop unique competence in critiquing tactical actions. Critique of leader behavior has been less formal, slipped into debriefings or informal conversations at the Centers. This approach appears in vogue also at the Battle Command Training Program.

The Army and many corporations have used assessment center technology in one form or another for leader development, and in a few cases for leader selection and assignment. Assessment center methodology was first used in the United States by the OSS in World War II. The reliability of OSS operatives who passed the assessment screening was mixed; lessons from that experiment, while significant, were mostly disregarded. But assessment and other executive training programs clearly have been useful in raising the self-awareness of participants. They most likely produce other salutary developmental outcomes, including improved competencies for performance evaluation by the individuals who monitor the exercises. Army Recruiting Command and the Admissions Office at the US Military Academy are among the Army entities that have used assessment center concepts. Their findings reinforce the utility of these techniques in enhancing the assessment skills of the staff members who conducted the exercises.[23]

When executives participate in a simulation designed to hone their personnel selection skills, results (similar to those obtained from long-range studies done at AT&T and elsewhere) show that experienced leaders can enhance the reliability of their assignment and promotion decisions through targeted training.[24]

The Army does not address the very complex task of how to evaluate the performance of a subordinate on the job, how to apply available technologies to assist in this process, how to take advantage of research in this field, or how to take the temperature of the unit climate and exploit the results to enhance unit effectiveness. Remarkably, many commanders are doing it right anyway. But "many" is not enough. Interestingly, the 1983 version of FM 22-100, Military Leadership, advised its readers to "avoid using statistics as a major method of evaluating units and motivating subordinates." But this wise guidance--supported clearly by pronouncements from the current and prior Army Chiefs of Staff--has not been translated into the coordinated institutional system required for its generalized implementation.

. Use multiple sources of input as the basis for promotion decisions. The leading American corporations are ahead of the Army in using "best practice" in making promotion decisions. Many companies have evolved a system of multiple sources of information to support promotion decisions. And while scholarly literature has urged this approach for years, only in the last decade has the practice become routine in any but the most adventuresome work settings.[25] The evaluation of people for either development or selection, but especially for selection, by anybody but the boss has long been considered intolerable. Such action was thought to undermine authority, to be susceptible to fostering a "popularity contest," and to be hostage to the softer interpersonal standards hostile to productivity criteria. Yet the more closely we scrutinize either theory or practice, the more inadequate the exclusively top-down assessment of performance and potential appear.

"Transformational" leaders have been identified in both military and commercial settings as more effective than are leaders who rely heavily on transactional or management-by-exception leadership styles.[26] (This finding is being reconfirmed at junior levels by an ongoing Army Research Institute study of platoon leader and platoon sergeant behavior.) Some of the critical characteristics and behaviors of the transformational leader are often undisclosed to the boss but are glaringly evident to subordinates and frequently clear to peers. What the boss measures most reliably are immediate task accomplishment, structural decisions, and adherence to prescribed strategy. Perhaps this is why the Army has probably produced the most effective cadre of managers of short-term results--in addition to large numbers of true leaders--on the planet. Meanwhile, transformational behaviors, such as articulating a motivational vision, providing intellectual challenge, inspiring teamwork, considering subordinates as individuals, being open to ideas, demonstrating moral courage, and setting the example of subordinating self to mission, are unreliably observed by seniors even though they require just that information for their evaluation of subordinates.

Peer and subordinate evaluations have been used by commanders especially interested in leader development in some Army schools, in selected pre-commissioning programs, in some special training situations, and in a few units. And while they are apparently used routinely in the military services of some other nations, they appear to remain broadly unacceptable to the US Army general officer corps. It is difficult to dispute the reality that in order to promote individuals who are in fact good leaders we must somehow measure their style of leadership. Only the led know for certain the leader's moral courage, consideration for others, and commitment to unit above self. This is the indisputably crucial element in leader assessment and development systems. If in fact we prize these values and want to ensure that we promote those who have routinely demonstrated them, some form of input from subordinates is required. Again, the concept and technology are available to handle such inputs without organizationally dysfunctional side effects.

. Provide systemic support for continuous learning. Corporate America is struggling with this issue, and the Army has approached it in piecemeal fashion. Adult learning has the attention of the business world because of global competition. While there is a need to deal with the rapid obsolescence of technical subject matter, that is not the central challenge. The pragmatic pedagogical issue is not "what to learn," but "how to learn."

No corporation in the world equals the Army's commitment to continuing formal education. The Army also leads the way in broad education of its leaders among the military services, and a recent Army conference on professional military education noted the importance of the neglected "how to learn" issue.[27] This is another area where conceptual thinking in the Army is advanced but application of the knowledge is slow. The pace of application is dramatically different from the aggressive exploitation of digital information technologies that is driving the Advanced Warfighting Experiment. Are we buying hardware at the expense of those who must train and lead our Army in its use?

Few institutions provide reliable support for the kind of learning or the kind of creativity and innovation essential in a rapidly changing and stressful environment.[28] The question, then, is how do we marshal our intellectual and operational resources to facilitate learning from our individual and collective experience? Workshops tailored specifically to "learning on the job" or "learning from experience" have been one method some corporations have put in place. Such workshops are conceptually similar in attempting to separate skill learning (which the Army does particularly well) from cognitive process awareness (which the Army and most corporations have not come to grips with). Workshops typically involve exercises that require the executives to examine carefully "how" they made specific significant decisions, good and bad. Journals, reflective thinking, work with concepts of adult learning and the emotional hurdles accompanying that process, and ideas on use of mentors comprise the usual curriculum. The challenge is to implant methods for raising awareness about the cognitive and emotional processes that result in decisions. The core of the "learning" issue may be illustrated by a battalion commander's learning from a training incident where the advancing forces moved beyond the range of supporting mortars. One lesson might be "I learned to displace the mortars more frequently so they can provide continuous coverage to the advancing troops." A deeper learning might be "I learned that I need to change my behavior and approach to the staff so that they can interrupt me if necessary to get timely approval to displace the mortars. Or, perhaps I should delegate that authority to my operations officer or fire support officer."[29]

In many respects the Army's attention to human factors is unmatched by other sectors. Building on sincere traditional concerns for compassion as well as for operational competence, many units are notably well led today even as they remain overcommitted. Additionally, the Army has at its disposal a vast but scattered knowledge base that covers the full spectrum of the behavioral, cognitive, social, and biological sciences.

Special Aspects Delineating Military Leaders

In addition to the military's unlimited liability contract, two other factors contribute to the current status of the military institution. These combined aspects militate against too strong an analogy between civilian and military leaders.

. The general officer personality factor. The Army's ability to cope with the challenges of the 21st century will be determined largely by the collective values and abilities of its general officers. They will set and exemplify standards and create policies and climates. Personality and behavioral data on corporate executives and Army brigadier generals have been collected for two decades. Most of these data have come from behavioral questionnaires completed by the participants and from people who have worked with and for them. Other insights were collected as the generals participated in leaderless group exercises with their civilian classmates. Because most of the data are collected using standard psychological tests, many of the generals' results can be compared with that of groups in other sectors. As with all data comparisons there are inherent limitations, but the findings have been reported in both academic and popular journals. They were originally presented by Dr. David Campbell in a 1987 paper.[30]

General officers that we have now are outstanding--they are bright, well educated, experienced, responsible and well indoctrinated into democratic ways. Further, in the few ways we have to evaluate them in comparison with civilian leaders, generals come across as more impressive. In that regard, we are a fortunate society.

Dr. Campbell concludes also that the data (which have changed little since the data collection began in the late 1970s, although today's generals have been observed as somewhat more open and less insulated than those of a decade ago) are sufficient to identify a personality syndrome that he describes as "the aggressive adventurer." His description of that personality would be: "dominant, competitive, action-oriented patriotic men who are drawn naturally to physically adventuresome militaristic activities." Tests show reasonably high needs for "control," tendencies toward "dominance" well above the level of a typical manager, greater comfort with data than with intuition, and a high "achievement through conformity" orientation. (Their executive counterparts in the corporate world have test scores only a bit closer to the population norm.) This set of personality characteristics is highly desirable in many situations. Campbell continued: "Despite my few misgivings, I am impressed by most of the officers that I have been working with. . . . The other civilians in our courses who have worked with them for a week have been almost uniformly impressed by their intelligence, capabilities, and dedication to this country."

The foregoing notwithstanding, there is substantial evidence--summarized in the "aggressive adventurer" description--of a typical personality type whose strengths and weaknesses should be carefully noted as we move into the next century. Research shows convincingly how strengths that served well to accomplish the tactical tasks of early managerial years can become dysfunctional when individuals move to the strategic level. Work by T. O. Jacobs[31] and others in the military community show similar patterns of differential effects of competencies as officers move up in rank. It seems unlikely that the "below the zone" battalion commander will have the inherent inclination to review the suitability of his style for higher command.[32] Again, the issue is that certain characteristics which are invaluable in a strong leader in any organization, and especially prized in the military--such as self-confidence, willingness to accept responsibility, a thirst for facts and hard data, and respect for the status quo--all have possible downsides. Army policy formulation must take into consideration the typical senior officer personality, safeguarding the collective strengths as it consciously attempts to ameliorate the weaknesses.[33]

. The essential but potentially disruptive warrior ethic. Douglas MacArthur was right in 1962 in his parting address at West Point when he said that the mission of Army officers was to "win our wars." If we lose sight of that reality, nothing else will matter in the 21st century. Our Army will become irrelevant at best and disavowed at worst. The issue here is how to sustain the warrior spirit while enhancing those aspects of the leader personality that will embrace change, agility, creativity, and self-awareness when the need for those attributes is paramount.[34]

The "can do" attitude toward military tasks that we rightly prize, when coupled with the typical personality of our colonels and generals, has a downside. Of all the services, the Army epitomizes the loyal servant mentality. It complains less in public about its resource levels, a cultural artifact that has been noted in several studies. Carl Builder said in a 1987 talk, "The object of the Army's worship is the country. . . . The Navy worships at the altar of tradition. . . . The Air Force worships at the fountain of technology."[35] Samuel Huntington wrote in 1957, "The Army developed an image of itself as the governments' obedient handyman performing without question or hesitation the jobs assigned to it." And in a fascinating 1996 dissertation, Stephen Scroggs concluded that the Army is less effective in its relations with Congress than are the other services because of the Army's sense of unseemliness in operating aggressively outside its institutional boundaries.[36]

The warrior ethic does more than set expectations for heroic competence on the battlefield. It also sets the stage for leader behaviors. The primary positive behavior, at the heart of the professional tradition, is the concept of self-sacrifice. This value, remarkably alive amid a professed self-centered society, distinguishes the soldier and supports tactical success. Because obedience is correctly entwined with sacrifice and loyal commitment, and because warfare demands discipline, the need for a hierarchical organization persists even in the shadow of technological change. Arguments to the contrary have not been confirmed in practice.

The impediment to optimal organizational functioning arises from failure to recognize that the efficacy and de facto legitimacy of the authoritarian mode differ dramatically depending on the situation. There really are only two "different situations" the leader must confront. As mentioned earlier, there is the situation where immediate action and centralized control are the guiding parameters. This is the "operating" situation, requiring standard procedures and crew "drills," with expectations for prompt, discernible, measurable results. The linkage between cause and effect is clear. Hard data are usually available for decisionmaking. Reflection or contemplation is out of place. The typical general officer or CEO personality fits well into this situation. Any tendency of personality toward immediate action is reinforced in the junior leadership years when prompt, aggressive control of the tactical situation represents laudatory behavior.

The other type of situation gives the general officer or CEO personality more trouble. It requires contemplation before action, patience with ambiguity, and an appreciation for broad participation in the decisionmaking process. This is the "building" or "improving" situation. Its focus is on sustaining or improving the strategic situation, on protecting institutional values, on reconfiguring organizational systems, on investing in basic research and education, on taking time to coach and mentor. There are tenuous links here between cause and effect; results--even when discernible--are difficult to quantify. Often there are incomplete or conflicting data from multiple sources. Skilled, self-aware leaders are able to recognize and discriminate between the behaviors suitable for these two situations.

More important, senior leaders in particular must be able to shift from one set of leader behaviors to another. Army performance appraisal rewards the "operating" mode. This bias is reinforced by such behavior modifiers as the monthly "readiness" reporting juggernaut that highlights the measurable and not necessarily the important. Then we compound the problem by allowing relatively limited time in any one assignment, making it difficult for a leader to gain trust and to make seminal contributions. In effect, everything about the current system moves leadership style relentlessly toward the "operating" end of the spectrum.

The warrior ethic, essential as the distinctive characteristic of the profession of arms, can rationalize leader behaviors that are situationally inappropriate. The classic example is the authoritarian leader whose penchant for centralized control results in poor decisions because his style denies him essential information. An idea long enunciated by many respected senior Army leaders--disagreement is not disloyalty--has not permeated the fabric of the institution.[37] The absolute authority essential in battle can be a spawning ground for abuse of power. This is especially true if behavioral guidelines for the exercise of authority are sketchy. Fortunately, many aggressive, mission-oriented officers are also self-restrained, sensitive to the situation, respectful of others, tolerant of ambiguity, open to ideas, and generally comfortable with themselves.

There are no indications that the environment of the 21st century will be less challenging for leaders than that of the 20th century. As military operations become ever more complex, and their environments more exacting, the boundaries of acceptable and productive leader behavior in different situations will become more restrictive.

Systemic Adjustments to Support Army Leader Development

. Adjustments in the educational system. The first adjustment--the shift from what to learn to how to learn--has been identified or at least re- discovered in recent Army discussions. Curriculum changes at the Army War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces lately have focused more attention on "thinking skills" in their introductory courses. This modification can be conducted throughout the Army's professional education system without distracting from mastery of essential technical skills. We need close scrutiny of student research papers, greater use of analysis of prevailing procedures and doctrine, and creation in the classroom of a skeptical--if respectful--mindset. Case studies in leadership and management need to substitute for some of the repetitious tactical scenarios. Excellent tactics will not compensate for lack of perceptive leadership in either preparing or employing military units.

The second adjustment has been under consideration for years and implemented primarily in basic skill training where it has received mixed reviews. This is the move at staff and war college levels from a selection and attendance mode of education to a more individualized and competence-based mode. Instruction should be tailored to individual students. Length of residence would depend on a careful assessment of student needs, experience, and expectations. Student achievement should be based on demonstrated competence in written and oral examinations given when the student feels prepared for the individualized tests leading to a diploma. Some students may take two years to complete a course at one of the service war colleges; others could be finished in six months. There might be some minimum number of months in residence to gain the insights that come from residential membership in an academic setting. Significant credits toward graduation could be earned through prior "distance learning." Structured coaching in leader behavior and standards should continue in post-schooling assignments.

. Adjustments in unit readiness reporting. Unit readiness and its reporting should be redefined to include assessments of cohesion, morale, and discipline in addition to the traditional measurements of equipment status and personnel fill.[38] Reporting intervals for major units should be changed from monthly to quarterly. This simple step would reduce the significant administrative effort now expended on a reporting process that is in disrepute at lower organizational levels. More important, this revision would provide a mild sense of liberation and empowerment to unit commanders, and a step in the direction of cultural change to strengthen mutual trust within the chain of command.

A separate but related action would require periodic assessments of the organizational climate in a more comprehensive manner than through the quarterly readiness reports. There are techniques available for this purpose; they would have to be explained to all interested audiences and taught in the professional education system. The Army would have to decide how the results of the surveys should be compiled and distributed, and be candid regarding their potential effects on commanders' records and reputations. The best model for climate surveys for the early years of their implementation is to provide unit results only to unit commanders, with higher headquarters receiving only consolidated reports. After a few years other modes of distribution of results should be considered. The questionnaires themselves would constitute a tutorial on Army expectations about organizational leadership.

. Adjustments on how to learn leadership on the job. The issue here is feedback. It should come from two sources: a formal mentoring program and a supplement to the Officer Evaluation Report. Each field-grade and general officer should be required to select two formal mentors. The specifics of "mentoring" should be broadly defined, with the professional education system once again responsible for teaching the selection and roles of mentors along with techniques for receiving and providing behavioral feedback. Mentors could be active or retired military, or civilian; they could offer intimate and non-threatening feedback, and they could provide a confidential repository that the chain of command simply cannot.

At the end of a battalion-level command assignment, there would be a comprehensive analysis of the leadership strengths and weaknesses of the outgoing commander. This should be an off-the-record procedure designed to assist in leader development, and it should be formalized by Army regulation. Lessons learned from the mentorship program would be provided to the Army's professional education system. These analytical feedback sessions should be conducted by a specialized team outside the local chain of command, with participation from that chain of command, and from mentors, and scheduled well after all evaluation reports have been completed.

There should also be developmental feedback to the rated officer from peers and subordinates as well as from superiors. (Where this is being done in industry, there have been no reports that the chain of command has been ruptured as a result.) Information on behaviors, collected by a suitable questionnaire, should be provided initially only to the officer concerned. There are modalities for keeping feedback somewhat confidential as to actual source (using a minimum of five or six individuals who are not specifically identified, for example) and the feedback does not have to derive exclusively from current peers or subordinates.

If in fact leadership is important, we need to develop more effective ways to measure it than we now possess. We have found no way to verify the presence or absence of some crucial leader behaviors other than to query the followers. If the institution cannot come to grips with this fact, it will never reduce significantly the error rate in leader selection. The need to enhance the retention of high-quality personnel in the competitive decades ahead will reduce even further the acceptable level of mistakes in military leader selection.

. Adjustments in the promotion system. Revisions of career field groupings envisaged by the new officer personnel management system can provide a giant first step in adjusting the Army officer promotion system.[39] The proposed de facto compartmentalized promotion quotas will limit competition to within career groups; it will thereby eliminate the system that now abandons most combat arms officers who are not selected for battalion command.

The promotion process itself requires major adjustments. Selection boards for promotions to the grade of lieutenant colonel and higher need a broader base of information than is now available. In addition to whatever evaluation reports are in the file, there should be an application from the officer himself, indicating the positions for which he feels qualified and interested, and outlining the special skills he has amassed over the years.[40] The selection board also should be provided the results of a canvass of peers and subordinates attesting to the leadership side of the personality. There should be a fresh query of former superiors, some selected by the applicant, who would indicate on some scale the relative readiness for particular assignments of the individual being considered. The main point is to expand the useful information available to the boards. This protocol can be designed in a manner that does not subvert command authority. The judgment of selection board members would still reign supreme.

Selection of brigade-level commanders should be similar to the promotion scheme outlined above. Again, officers should apply for brigade command. They should have an opportunity to explain their career goals. This procedure would also offer an opportunity for quiet avoidance of the command selection process for those officers who have concluded that other options are more realistic or comfortable for them.

The Essential Task Is Not How to Define Requisite Leadership, But How to Develop and Sustain It

Leadership principles and lists of traits and descriptions of required situational behaviors will continue to flood the market, even though the basics of leadership that derive from timeless human needs and aspirations have changed little in all of recorded history. While studies and the deductions therefrom will shed light, our challenge is to move into the 21st century with a good record of practice, not just a solid platform of theory. It is the record of practice to date that should give all of us who have participated some feelings of satisfaction along with profound concern and resolve to do better. Our Army has recovered from several low points over the last hundred years. The revitalization between 1970 and 1990 is a monument to collective institutional commitment supported by creative Army leadership and an understanding public. Were we to sink again to a real low, there could be a serious question regarding the national capacity to restore the institution to what it must be. Bold initiatives now can ensure the future. "Good leadership" is essential not only as the ultimate battlefield force-multiplier but also as the primary guardian of the institution.


1. A recent study showed high levels of patriotism and "warriorism" among West Point cadets. See Volker C. Franke, "Warriors for Peace: The Next Generation of U.S. Military Leaders," Armed Forces & Society, 24 (Fall 1997), 33-57.

2. A number of such assertions can be found in the popular press. The 1997 issues of Army Times, articles in The Wall Street Journal, an item in the 22 September 1997 US News and World Report, commentary in service journals, and other evidence would be unconvincing singularly. However, comments from the House National Security Committee as reported in the 14 July issue of Army Times and the findings from the recent large survey associated with sexual harassment, confirming other recent survey data, leave little doubt that there are more than superficial problems with elements of the climate of the Army. Other studies going back more than a decade (HQDA "Longitudinal Research on Officer Careers," and the 1985 "Professional Development of Officers Study," among others, found substantial levels of dissatisfaction.)

3. From a presentation by then-Brigadier General David H. Ohle on "1995 Leadership & Professionalism Assessment Study Trends," at a conference on military ethics, Cantigny, 13 March 1996.

4. See Major General John C. Faith, USA Ret., "The Overcontrolling Leader: The Issue Is Trust," Army, June 1997.

5. Personal discussions and informal surveys by the author.

6. A representative collection of papers describing future leader demands was presented at the "Leadership Challenges of the 21st Century Army Symposium," 18 March 1996, prepared by the Institute for Management and Leadership Research of Texas Tech University. A similar set of required leader behaviors was mentioned by several speakers at the 9-10 December 1997 conference, "The Impact of High Technology on the Physiological and Psychological Dimensions of Warfare," held in Atlanta.

7. This 1982 publication, The Future Battlefield: Human Dimensions and Implications for Doctrine and Research (Washington: Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, 1982), has relevance for 21st-century leadership.

8. General Gordon R. Sullivan, USA Ret., is not naïve about concepts of "learning organizations." His book Hope Is Not A Method (1996) provides broad insights on the subject. But the institution struggles with the link between concept and practice.

9. Paul Van Riper and Robert H. Scales, Jr., "Preparing for War in the 21st Century," Parameters, 27 (Autumn 1997), 9-10.

10. General Dennis Reimer's quote in the 31 March 1997 issue of Army Times is consistent with his other comments on AWE implications. He has shown a keen awareness of the potential effects of the downsizing and high optempo on the organizational climate, and of Army After Next leadership challenges.

11. An excellent article on the subject is Major Donald E. Vandergriff's "Toward a New Institutional Culture: Creating the Officer Corps of the Future to Execute Force XXI Blitzkrieg," Armor (March-April 1997).

12. See Charles C. Moskos and John Sibley Butler, All That We Can Be (New York: Basic Books, 1996).

13. The effect of "climate" on trust, cohesion, and unit effectiveness has been validated in many studies. One good reference is the ARI Newsletter, Vol. 9 (June 1992), which relates leadership to small-unit effectiveness. An ongoing ARI-sponsored study led by Dr. B. M. Bass will revisit some of these issues. Another important work on climate and trust is Excellence in the Combat Arms by Major J. A. Simonsen, Captain H. L. Frandsen, and Captain D. S. Hoopengardner (Claremont, Calif.: Naval Postgraduate School, December 1984).

14. One of many overviews of issues and programs in the corporate world is Leonard R. Sayles, The Working Leader: The Triumph of High Performance Over Conventional Management (New York: The Free Press, 1993). The Peters, Bennis, Waterman, and Drucker books have much the same kind of information.

15. A most convenient reference for 360-degree feedback and enhancement of self-awareness is the Summer and Fall 1993 Special Issue (Vol. 32, Nos. 2 & 3) of Human Resource Management. An officer's first deep insight in this issue may come from the Leadership Development Program conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) that is available to brigadier general selectees.

16. An Army War College Military Studies Project authored by Tilden Reid dated 5 June 1983 titled "Performance of Successful Brigade Commanders Who Were Selected to BG as Viewed by Their Former Battalion commanders," concluded that 28 percent of those brigadier generals should not have been selected.

17. For a convenient overview of mentoring programs, see Christina A. Douglas, Formal Mentoring Programs in Organizations: An Annotated Bibliography (Greensboro, N.C.: Center for Creative Leadership, 1997) .

18. Two exceptions were the 1986 Fort Hood Leadership Study prepared for HQDA-HRL by the Essex Corporation; and the September 1987 report on the formation of the 7th Infantry Division (Light) prepared by Walter Reed Army Institute of Research as Technical Report No. 5. (The effect of these organizational analyses is unknown.)

19. J. F. C. Fuller, Generalship: Its Diseases and Their Cure (1936; rpt. Harrisburg, Pa.: Military Service Publishing Co., 1984), p.76.

20. Tom Clancy with General Fred Franks, Jr. (USA Ret.), Into the Storm: A Study in Command (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1997), should stimulate professional discussion on issues of authority, style, and relationships.

21. The Army has considerable experience with a variety of surveys. There was once, and perhaps still is, a HQDA Pamphlet (600-69, 1 October 1986) that provided a convenient "Unit Climate Profile" format. One summary of corporate use can be found in Daniel R. Denison's 1984 article in Organizational Dynamics, "Bringing Corporate Culture to the Bottom Line." It is use of data, not the gathering of it, that has been the primary flaw in the Army's survey efforts.

22. In late 1997 the Army distributed a special survey ("Army 1998 Survey") that queried a sample of officers, NCOs, and DA civilians on the six Army imperatives: Quality People, Effective Doctrine, Force Mix, Challenging Training, Modern Equipment, and Leader Development. This survey has potential for deriving important insights on perceptions in these areas. Something of this genre is needed on a routine basis, with considerable discussion about distribution and use of the results.

23. The Fort Benning Field Unit of the Army Research Institute and various offices at the US Military Academy have conducted in-house research on assessment centers.

24. A. Howard and D. W. Bray, Managerial Lives In Transition: Advancing Age and Changing Times (New York: The Guilford Press, 1988), is a definitive, exhaustive work that supports the thesis that we can do better.

25. For a discussion of the issues of the use of peer and subordinate feedback in organizations, see David W. Bracken et al., Should 360-Degree Feedback be Used Only for Developmental Purposes? (Greensboro, N.C.: Center for Creative Leadership, 1997).

26. The 1994 book Improving Organizational Effectiveness Through Transformational Leadership edited by Bass and Avolio has since been updated with more support for the general thesis: transformational leadership produces productivity that is unequalled by other styles in the full range of leader behaviors.

27. Professional Military Education: An Asset for Peace and Progress, Panel Report (Washington: Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 1997).

28. See Morgan W. McCall, Jr., et al., The Lessons of Experience: How Successful Executives Develop On The Job (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1988). This is about the best book around on this subject.

29. There has been a lot of good material produced in the past several years on the challenges "successful" adults have with their growth and continued learning. See, for example, Robert E. Kaplan et al., Beyond Ambition: How Driven Managers Can Lead Better and Live Better (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991); and Gilbert Brim, Ambition: How We Manage Success and Failure Throughout Our Lives (New York: Basic Books, 1992).

30. David Campbell, "The Psychological Test Profiles of Brigadier Generals: Warmongers or Decisive Warriors?" Invited address, Division 14, American Psychological Association, New York City, 30 August 1987. The study data were updated at the Center for Creative Leadership in 1996 with no significant changes in the collective test scores of the general officers participating in CCL programs.

31. Dr. T. O. Jacobs, formerly with ARI and now on the faculty of ICAF, has studied general officer capacities and competencies for three decades. His briefings on senior officer requirements have described, particularly in the cognitive domain, most of the requisites we now discuss as essential for leadership in the 21st century.

32. Data are scarce on whether the selectees for the critical battalion command positions have more of the desired characteristics of senior leaders than do the non-selected. Some preliminary analysis of comparisons between battalion command selectees and their non-selected peers conducted at the USAWC and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces appear to find few differences in many of the attributes normally associated with successful performance at strategic levels. Contributors to this research include Colonel (Ret.) M. L. McGee, Dr. T. O. Jacobs, Dr. R. N. Kilcullen of ARI, and Dr. H. R. Barber of the Army War College.

33. An excellent discussion of personality and the senior leader is found in chapter eight "Executive Assessment," in Strategic Leadership and Decision Making (Washington: Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense Univ. Press, 1997).

34. One good recent publication that mentions the challenge of selecting warriors from a peacetime force is a Naval Doctrine Command paper of July 1995 by Dr. James J. Tritten titled "Navy Combat Leadership for Tomorrow: Where Will We Get Such Men and Women?"

35. "Mirrors to the Service's Personalities," by Carl H. Builder, a member of the RAND staff, a luncheon presentation on 28 March 1987 to a conference on "The Air Force in the 21st Century."

36. Stephen K. Scroggs, "Army Relations With Congress," unpublished dissertation, Department of Political Science in the Graduate School of Duke University (1996).

37. Part of the problem must rest on the shoulders of followers, albeit a small part. See Ira Chaleff, The Courageous Follower: Standing Up and For Our Leaders (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1995).

38. The Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force On Readiness, June 1994, contains some good advice in the "Personnel" section. It mentions "demonstration of a real commitment to `people first' programs" and "careful management of OPTEMPO," pp. 12-13.

39. The task force led by Major General David Ohle has constructed a rearrangement of Army career paths and promotion alternatives that if implemented can have a significant, positive effect on the culture.

40. The Army's new Officer Evaluation Report (a better name than the previous "Officer Efficiency Report"), includes a section for the rater to note "unique professional skills" which could assist in this process.

Lieutenant General Walter F. Ulmer, Jr. (USA, Ret.) is currently a leadership consultant. For nine years he was President and CEO of the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C., an international non-profit educational institution devoted to behavioral science research and leader development. His military assignments included Commandant of Cadets at the US Military Academy, Commanding General of the 3d Armored Division, and Commanding General of III Corps. General Ulmer is a Distinguished Fellow of the US Army War College, and he was coauthor of the College's Study on Military Professionalism and of Leadership for the 1970's. An earlier version of this article was presented at the US Army Research Institute conference on "Human and Organizational Issues for AAN" in Leesburg, Va., on 14 November 1997.

Reviewed 17 February 1998. Please send comments or corrections to