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Vincent Astor Memorial Leadership Essay Contest
The Creative Leader
By Lieutenant Anthony Kendall, U. S. Navy
in his new role.2 The fast-paced nature of nuclear warfare and terrorism may not be so “forgiving” as to allow unprepare officers the time Admiral Michaelis too to change. .
The problem facing junior and seni°r
Too often the answer is a one-'
end. Promulgating standard opera1 procedures (SOPs), instructions,
Successful leaders must be imbued with two types of creative leadership: the first is intuitive creativity, or short-term, tactical creativity, which may be a key element in combat leadership; the second is reflective creativity, or long-term, strategic creativity.
Many times, the officer corps of all services has been stunned when wars or major crises have broken out. In a crisis, marginal performers become a liability, especially if they hold responsible positions. A general fell victim to the “routine” at the Battle of St. Vith when his command was decimated by a fierce German counterattack.
“A middle aged man, he had spent his whole life—a quarter of a century of it—preparing for war. Year in, year out, when the Army had been thought of as a refuge for fools or work-shys,
he had plodded through morning P3' rades in the harsh sun of Texas, hike3 through the dusk of midwestem ma" neuvers, faced the sullen resentfm eyes of the two generations of young soldiers whom he had gigged for cursing-out a sergeant or failing to salute- listened to the same old chatter a hundred times at officer clubs—to f>nl out in one short week that he was a failure.”1
After Pearl Harbor, there was a gre3t exodus of career officers who retired when they were needed the most; the war found them unprepared intellectually 10 cope with the unexpected. The onslaugW of war is like the first snowstorm of 3 bitter winter—the weakest tree branches fall, but the strong ones survive.
An example of a strong officer wh° adapted, survived, and showed reflective creativity was Admiral F. H. Michael's, When he was a lieutenant, he reevaluate his career and goals after the unexpecte attack on Pearl Harbor and overcame h's fixation with battleship warfare. He he
emergence of terrorism, but the proble of dealing with the element of surpr'se_ More than 100 years ago, Karl v°. Clausewitz identified surprise as one the key elements of warfare, and ye1 still fall prey to it as we did at Pearl H3f bor and during the bombing of the rines in Beirut. Terrorism is an irrati°3 and therefore unexpected act. Vice ^ ^ miral William P. Lawrence, Chief Naval Personnel, stated that one of challenges facing the Navy is learn'3-, how to deal with international terrorism-
e-W eeK course with a practical exercise a* ,
erecting barricades at military facil't' throughout the world is only a stipe^e cial, somewhat hysterical solution to ^ real problem. Nor is the solution to n>°
Proceedings / Ju'k
and verification. During prepara-
the most important stage in the crea- act, raw data are gathered. The
e Person has the ability to separate the
lfy the rules of engagement or create m°re computer programs—which are °nly automated man-made algorithms— >o do the thinking for the naval officer. No amount of training, reprimands, or 4e “slaying of scapegoats” will lead to the solution for dealing with the unex- Pocted. More than 40 years ago, Admiral Ernest King provided a clue to the solu- t’°n to this problem in his well-known order prior to World War II:
“There will be neither time nor opportunity to do more than prescribe the several tasks of the several subordinates .... If they are reluctant to act because they are accustomed to detailed orders and instruction—if they are not habituated to think, to judge, to decide and to act for themselves in their . . . echelons of command—we shall be in sorry case when the time of “active operations” arrives.”
There are many characteristics which Separate a successful leader from an unSUccessful one. Moral outlook, intelli- Per>ce, and determination play important [*arts; however, the distinction is one’s avel of creativity. For example, Union General George McClellan was intelli- Sent and highly respected by his men; yet e failed to fully take advantage of tech- n°*°gy such as the use of railroads for '^creased mobility of forces.
Creative leaders take what less creative perceive as “threats” and use them as opportunities and challenges. In deal- jn8 with change and the unexpected, indigence alone is often not enough; one |"ust have ‘ ‘creative intelligence.” Crea- (Vlty will not ensure success in adapting new or modified “rules of warfare,” ut a noncreative, inflexible officer will 'bust certainly fail.
I order to discuss creativity and how :s encouragement can pragmatically ^Prove the quality of the naval officer 0rP$, it must first be defined. Psycholo- i8ts have described creativity in many j terent ways but basically agree that it ' a°y process by which something new— n idea or an object—is produced, in- ei o'ng a new form or arrangement of old ements. The new creation must contrib- e to the solution of the problem. *he process is divided into four basic tjo§es: preparation, incubation, illumina-
Cess is also referred to as immersion, r)ataUSC thiuhcr is literally deluged in ei)ca- The noncreative person may experi- e the same phenomenon, but the crea- significant from the worthless. General Douglas MacArthur spent his earlier years in the Philippines and the Far East gaining experience that served him well during the “crisis years.” For the young naval officer today, the Naval Academy, Officer Candidate School, or the Reserve Officer Training Corps is the foundation for gathering data. His experiences during midshipman cruises should serve him well in the 21st century if he is able to discern the useful from the worthless.
Incubation is the least understood and most controversial stage of creativity. The term means to hatch, to develop, or to take form. The meaning suggests a time of unconscious work or a period spent away from the problem, dropping preconceptions concerning the method of solution.
Incubation seems to be present intuitively, although there is no solid evidence to support this. There have been several attempts to prove the existence of incubation, but most studies have been unsuccessful. One study tested for the existence of several possible factors for incubation: free incubation, a pause from trying to solve the problem; demanding cognitive work, shifting a person’s direction to other concerns; active review, a belief that absence from a problem forces a person to remember forgotten but important ideas; set breaking, breaking an unproductive set or overcoming a fixation; stress reduction, failing to solve a problem because of too much pressure or motivation; and visual analogies, a claim that incubation occurs because an event is analogous to the solution of the problem. The introspective naval officer may not be unproductive after all; he may be developing principles that will someday contribute to the well-being of the country and the Navy.
Illumination is a sudden insight into the problem. Elements that precipitate insight include intense but unsuccessful work on the problem, a time interval between working on the problem and final illumination, and, finally, a chance moment of reflection which brings the person back to the previous problem. This hiatus can sometimes bring about dramatic results. Scottish inventor James Watt worked unsuccessfully for two years on the development of a condenser for the Newcomen steam engine. Then, one day, while taking a Sunday walk, he came up with the solution in a matter of minutes. Before the Battle of Midway, Commander Joseph J. Rochefort from the Combat Intelligence Unit at Pearl Harbor came up with the idea of sending a cleartext bogus message to be intercepted by the Japanese saying that Midway’s freshwater machinery had broken down. From intercepted and decoded messages, it was discovered that the Japanese were planning an attack on the nebulous “AF.” The Navy confirmed “AF” meant Midway when a subsequent Japanese message, in reaction to the fake message, reported that “AF” was low on freshwater. This small creative act contributed to the final victory at Midway.
Verification is essential, because it brings an idea from the theory of the mind to the rigors of reality. Verification tests the solution’s value. Unfortunately, verification may come too late. Pearl Harbor verified in a tragic manner what some officers had been saying for years— that Pearl Harbor was vulnerable to air attack.
Behaviorists believe the most promising way to increase creativity is by constructing an environment that nurtures and encourages the creative individual. Creativity can be fostered by “reinforcement of selected behaviors and shaping to progressively higher levels.” Superiors can provide leadership not only by example but also by teaching. Some officers confuse enigmatism with leadership. Yet, a true leader should foster creative behavior by explaining his own decision-making processes. He should aggressively seek out and critique his subordinates’ creative processes and encourage them to develop the same in their own junior officers. SOPs, instructions, and regulations are not providing junior officers the needed “reinforcement of selected behaviors.” “Teachers,” not cult leaders, are needed to prepare today’s junior officers to be tomorrow’s leaders.
A major hindrance to creativity is conformity, which is defined as involving loss of self-reliance and undermining the creative powers by emphasizing the outside environment over the individual’s own thought process and imagination. We must not have a corps of officers who “. . . know how to conform but not create, interpret but not innovate.”
Conformity could be one reason why officers generally score low on creativity tests. Research tends to substantiate this hypothesis; officers also usually score high in conformity.
Officers who are nonconformists often do not advance in their careers, because nonconformity in an officer is often confused with counter-conformity. Creative, nonconformist officers do not strive for the superficial goal of difference for its own sake or for its notoriety. Generally, they are not martyrs but pragmatists who seek change to improve the organization. Researchers report that creative people tend to have a higher tolerance for ambi-
°Cecd'nRs / July 1984
they depend upon for guidance. An
‘C. Whiting, Decision at St. Vith (New York: Ball311
(New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston,
guity, unusual problem-solving techniques, and unique approaches to solving a problem.12
Organizational structure can be a negative environmental influence that can “institutionalize” conformity. Detrimental effects may be found in the following aspects of the naval environment: specialization, because in striving for efficiency and stability, the Navy tends to go to the extreme and isolates officers from the “big picture”; departmentalization, which is good to a certain extent, but it can also limit channels of information; structuralization, because even though a military structure is needed, it can exert great pressure on individuals to perform, thereby reducing creativity.
Even if the environment is not truly conformist, it can still be detrimental to the officer if he feels that his surroundings warrant his conformance. Thus, he spends much of his time trying to conform. Conformity can alienate the creative individual from the group and in so doing limit his information channels.
The assumption has been that creativity is a desirable quality in the officer corps. Is creative talent really needed in the military and is it easily recognized? Historically, people fail to recognize creative individuals. As an outside example, research found that a group of future teachers rejected as undesirable a list of traits presented to them; yet, the list was developed by consulting people identified as creative. Naval leaders are teachers and can also fail to recognize or appreciate creative potential. A former superintendent of a military academy, responsible for the creative development of future leaders, stated, “Success or failure in battle with the Fleet is in no way dependent upon a knowledge of biology, geology, ethics, social science, the literature of foreign languages, or the fine arts.”13 Years ago, a superior officer of Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan’s stated in reference to Mahan, “It is not the business of a Naval officer to write books.”14 If Admiral Mahan had been encouraged more by his superiors, how many more junior officers might he have inspired to greatness?
When creativity is either scorned or not recognized, there are disastrous results;
► Admiral Mahan was ignored by many Americans but not by the Japanese, who used many of his principles to the grief of the United States; his writings also influenced Kaiser Wilhelm II’s decision to build a powerful German Navy.
► Rocket pioneer Robert Goddard was ridiculed as a “moon man” in the United States; yet the development of the German V-2 was aided by his early plans.
The following include policies which the Navy should continue supporting and additional recommendations needed to nurture and increase creative output:
Sponsor Creativity: Creative people may not communicate their results because they are not necessarily skillful in verbal communication. A superior officer can use his power as a sponsor and advocate by acting aggressively and decisively as a “teacher” to aid in the development of a junior officer’s communications skills.
Decrease Specialization in War Colleges and Graduate Schools: Creativity flourishes in a theoretical environment. Emphasis should be on the idea behind the “hardware,” not on the hardware itself. The specialized training should be taught in such courses before the officer enters a war college or graduate school.
Constant Reevaluation of the Organizational Structure: Without violating the chain of command, a more informal communication should be encouraged between the departments at the squadron or ship level. Frequently, a junior officer may only have one or two jobs in his first tour; however, a good skipper will ensure that the junior officer learns about the tasks and responsibilities of other departments. The commanding officer should avoid “rewarding” the outstanding junior officer by keeping him in one billet during his entire tour.
Study the Effects of Officer Training: Training includes the Naval Academy, Officer Candidate School, and the Reserve Officer Training Corps. Identify when conformity is essential and eliminate it when it is not.
Invest in Creative Production: Short periods of time should be allowed for special projects; idle time is an essential element in creativity. If all of an officer’s time is devoted to working on the mundane and the routine, the mundane and routine will probably be all he produces. A commanding officer should encourage creative production by assigning a promising junior officer two weeks to do anything that he believes will aid squadron or ship operations. This unstructured and vague task will challenge the junior officer to think. The ship’s operations could well be improved by the infusion of new ideas. To encourage the junior officer to solve problems and make critical judgments, the commanding or executive officer could also develop non-routine scenarios that require command decisions to challenge the junior officers to come up with solutions. The commanding officer may also learn from this exercise.
Expand Information Channels: The “need to know” principle should be reevaluated. Also, there should be less concern with money restrictions on important conferences. The junior officer should be sent to important meetings—if only 10 listen. More bibliographical data should be developed, both intra-community and inter-community. The Navy should continue sponsoring and encouraging the use of tactical journals among the warfare communities.
Recognize Creative Officers: The United States should never lose one of >ts major military advantages over the Soviet Union—U. S. officers are more imagin3' tive and creative than their Soviet counterparts, who are often inflexible.
Ultimately, a civilian government ap' proves defense policy, but it is extremely dependent upon wise counsel from the services. The results of conformity an lack of insight were demonstrated by the poor performance of the military leadership in providing the civilian government with an accurate picture of the situation during the Vietnam War, the Iranian hostage situation, and the Beirut bombing- Conformists work nicely in the milim^ system, but they fall apart in a crisis, because a crisis is usually unexpected an causes an upheaval in the very system cer, no matter what his rank, who has 3 myopic view of the world, is neither an asset nor a leader.   4 5 6 7 8 9 0 * 
Proceedings / Jub
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