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In the past few years one of the more prominent avant-garde expressions use to describe the American predicament15 "crisis of leadership.” Indeed the events of the summer of 1974 seem, on a PfeS1 dential level at least, to bear out the verity of this phrase.
The "crisis of leadership” syndrome has been nourished by the current eco nomic atmosphere and the resultant general lack of confidence in the present and the future. All this has caused a
heightening of leadership consciousness in all facets of our society—government- industry, and, not least of all, the m*1 tary. .
Several months ago, Time magazine devoted an issue to the elusive subjee of leadership. In Time's inimitable 'vaib it sought to quell the ripening panie the leaderless American mass by dec ing that there are in this country at leaSt 100 young or, at least, youthful ernerg ing leaders. It should arouse the pvpe of every dedicated military man that an insignificant number of those listed ^e:e in some way involved with the mifitarf service.
Is this due to a popular effort subjugate the military’s role in our soc> ety or are we, in fact, experiencing °u own "crisis of leadership” in the mil'tar^ services? The former premise is far more likely the case than the latter. As ^ young and relatively inexperienced nav officer I shall explore the current state of U. S. military leadership and what can be done to further cultivate this so necessary quality. ^
In my three years at sea, I have serve under three outstanding commanding officers—each with his own order 0 priorities, method of accomplishing specific goal, and concept of his leader ship role. Yet, all three have certain leadership qualities in common. Tde' are dedicated to their country, NaV)’ ships, and men. They are professions s in the fullest sense of the term, and the) treat people like people. They are pr0 ucts of one of the finest conceived leader ship development courses—the bJ- ' naval officer’s career pattern. These men had to become leaders very early in their careers.
In this age of cynicism, it is an in creasingly formidable challenge to in spire men in the pursuit of impr°ve ment of performance when they muSt
tJefiekM the tough> proficient, bat- o leader, whose genuine humanity
fear ° ^ news b*s passing t0 bring ^ t0 cbe eyes of the most hardened WhoS "^ere 'S General Alexander Haig ha Ji a profound sense n ed with incredible decoru ation
cffoUrC Puk^c recognition for their ns, a pay scale that is torpid in its £«« t0 inflation, long periods of y separation, and the necessary rou- nes that technicians find degrading. a ,ecently, we have been exposed to , ,ltnPosing array of eminent military WalCrS ^*ere 's Admiral Elmo Zum- the ' ■ ° tbe courage to perceive military man in the context of the ater society and demanded organ- tlQnal as well as individual flexibil-
aT Th«e Abrams.
with a profound sense of duty, am a situ-
as delicate as few military men rni |eVCr conironted. And there is Adas ^ ^yman Rickover, a man branded by ^entric b7 bis contemporaries, yet tj ose farsighted leadership, unques- ra^j technical acumen, and incompa- e dedication achieved the modern qC e naval nuclear propulsion. nianUr military is still the bastion of ny fine and potentially great leaders. f0C US expi°re those qualities which y j,Cr tbe potential for leadership in the • rnilitary. I say the United States
military because ours is a system unique in the history of nations. And our military’s position in that system is also unique. The military leader must always keep in mind, as he progresses through his career, that his goal is the defense of a free society and that his ultimate direction must always emanate from civilian leaders, as frustrating as that may sometimes seem. The military leader must truly believe that the privilege of freedom is the opportunity to serve a free people.
Professionalism is that all-encompassing quality that is nearly as hard to define as leadership itself. In fact, the two terms are complementary, since before the ideal military officer can be a professional, he must be a leader. In the simplest terms, being a professional means knowing your job, your ship (or aircraft, etc.), and your men. The absolute need for these three professional criteria is obvious. In theory, complete mastery of these criteria ensures the professional leader’s ultimate capability to successfully complete any assigned task. All too often, however, as the technical requirements steadily increase, the third criterion is brushed aside. The junior officer, harried by continuous qualification and administrative requirements, finds himself running a perpetual obstacle course, the end of which he is unable to see. And, as his eye becomes riveted on that course and he searches in vain for the end, he loses sight of the men who work for him, and for whom he is "responsible.” Unfortunately, because of the very nature of the program and its myriad of technical requirements, this has especially been true in the nuclear submarine force. But it has not gone unnoticed. The Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic Fleet, recently, in speaking to junior officers throughout the force, has sought to make them aware of this critical responsibility. The true military professional must realize that the successful accomplishment of his mission is ultimately attained, not by reactors, pumps, generators, or associated paperwork, but by people—the hearts, nerves, and spirits of ships and planes and units. The professional leader makes the well-being of his men his top priority.
It is not my intention to degrade the necessity of a leader’s technical proficiency and knowledge. Just as it was essential for our military predecessors to be intimately familiar with the wind and sea and the ships and weapons they utilized, so it is for the modern military leader. In order to carry out his mission, he must know all his capabilities and precisely what limitations can be imposed by the loss/fault of particular equipment. He must also have the technical knowledge to certify that his men are capable of operating their equipment and to ensure they continue to maintain their proficiency. This is not a facile task, but an ongoing responsibility. We all know the rapidity of technical evolution today. The leader must keep up with it or he loses the realistic perspective of his current capabilities.
For many, the term patriotic is an archaic one. It evokes images of blind, flag-waving fervor and the "my country right or wrong” philosophy to some. But in the proper context, it is an absolutely essential quality for the U. S. military leader. The patriot truly believes in the ideals and principles, preservation, and basic good intentions of his country. He also believes that the personal sacrifices required of him are (1) necessary, (2) recognized, and (3) where possible, rewarded.
Those "leaders” who cannot make a
If we can motivate our people, then as leaders, we cannot fail.
do all this, we can motivate our peop
total commitment should get out. But there are many who do not. Such men see something farcical about the maintenance of a military service, yet they stay in. For them it is just another job, not a way of life. How can these people hope to motivate, inspire, and lead men unless they are self-motivated, believe in the rightness of what we do, have confidence in our superiors, and, should the need arise, be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice? The credibility of our deterrent military force depends on the strength of our resolve.
I have stressed the human side of leadership qualities. Although there are situations that dictate that the leader put aside direct human considerations for those of the mission, the leadership role requires the manipulation of people whose lives we may be controlling. For this reason, the true leader must, in my opinion, be compassionate. How can he counsel others if he lacks the ability or insight to put himself in their places?
We must not, of course, confuse empathy and sympathy, but we must ask that our leaders possess genuine concern for the well-being of their charges. The leader must be a listener; he must be conscious of the sociological conditions which may have influenced the individual. Using this, and what he has learned from the individual, he must be able to objectively counsel and evaluate him. This is a quality that builds upon itself and it is one that the junior officer must seek to cultivate from the beginning of his career.
There are many other qualities that may contribute to leadership ability, some that have been obvious in great leaders, some that have not. A man with charisma can overcome many other deficiencies, especially when a great portion of his time involves him with the public—for example, General MacArthur. On the other hand, the less flamboyant type, such as an Admiral Spruance, may achieve a powerful leadership role through quiet, capable determination. Strict devotion to duty is a byword for the leader, yet his misinterpretation of it may also result in his downfall, as evidenced by those involved in the recent Watergate scandal. Who would deny that honesty is an essential leadership quality? Yet we have all been the victims of the lack of it on the part of our leaders.
At this point, other young officers, striving to develop the necessary characteristics of leadership, might well ask, "What qualities are most important; where does one start? I might remind them of what former Secretary of the Navy Paul H. Nitze wrote in his ''The Role of the Learned Man in Government”: "When given half a chance the combination of courage and an open mind can do wonders.”
It has often been stated that leadership cannot be taught. But those aspiring to leadership roles must be willing to learn. We in the military service are fortunate in that, due to the continual rotation of jobs and duty stations, we are exposed to a wide variety of leaders, leadership styles, and leadership qualities. From his unique position, the commanding officer generally sets the tone for the type of leadership that will be exercised within his command; and, in so doing, determines the probability of his officers successfully completing their assignments. A military unit is a resilient entity, a mechanism of action- reaction. An action at the top generates vibrations which should be transmitted through the chain-of-command down to the most junior member, and, conversely, reaction should be generated upward from that member. If a command assumes the "crisis management” approach to leadership, the frequency of action-reaction oscillations through this
chain will reach the point where the unit’s strength can only deteriorate. Placed squarely in the center of the unit chain-of-command, the junior officer is in an optimum position to regard an evaluate his seniors’ leadership styles" how they react to the command’s demands and attitudes, and how they process and disseminate these to those under them. Then, via subsequent rota tions, the would-be leader has the op portunity to observe others react *n similar situations. _
There is nothing to equal this expen' ence. And every successful militaT leader has used it to develop his own leadership qualities. It cannot be substi' tuted by the classroom, in psycholog) and management courses, or in seminars with other junior leaders, as valuable as these may be. The future military lead£r is the officer today who is constantly learning from his contacts with other leaders and implementing the knowledge gleaned from his own leadership roles.
There is, then, no "'crisis of leadership” in the U. S. military. We have many fine leaders and we are developing new leaders all the time. For potentia leaders, there is the input of career- oriented service academy graduates, and
the much needed liberally-educated
input from ROTC and OCS programs, well as the experienced former enliste men and women. The military shorn be a perpetual developer of leaders. ^c must be vigilant now, with its size ever- decreasing, that the U. S. military doe* not turn inward, losing its perspective of its place in our free society. Today5 military leaders, and emerging ones, must be aware of the society that has molded the people who work for them, and flexible enough to adjust easily to the changing influences of civile11 control.
As leaders we must represent the goals that our nation espouses. We must treat all people as we expect to he treated ourselves, and evaluate for per‘ formance and abilities, not superfie*3 biases. We must never cease to learn an develop our professional abilities and our intellects. And, we must sincerely believe in what we are doing. If we ean