Headlines describing senior military officials relieved for cause are a symptom of a serious leadership problem. Far from an exclusively military issue, it extends across government agencies and to members of Congress, and every case diminishes public confidence in our nation’s leadership.
Too often the “loss of confidence” leading to dismissal is rooted in personal misconduct resulting from a lack of judgment, hopefully but unlikely a one-time bad decision. In many cases the offender had feelings of being above the law, of playing by a different set of rules due to position or status. This sense of entitlement comes from a lack of humility.
Arrogance is ingrained in business and other areas where people compete—even people on the same team—and the military is no exception. While this trait serves one well in some situations, leaders are more effective when they display sincere humility.
The loss of humility among leaders across organizations should not be surprising. We encourage and reward self-aggrandizement and frown on those who are less self-promoting, and have removed humility from leadership curricula.