Saturday, December 6, 2008

Reflections on Leadership

More broadly, if as an officer one does not tell blunt truths or create an environment where candor is encouraged, then they have done themselves and the institution a disservice. This admonition goes back beyond the roots of our own republic. Sir Francis Bacon was a seventeenth-century jurist and philosopher as well as a confidante of the senior minister of England’s King James. He gave this advice to a protégé looking to follow in his steps at court: “Remember well the great trust you have undertaken; you are as a continual sentinel, always to stand upon your watch to give [the king] true intelligence. If you flatter him, you betray him.”

In the military, as at every university or company in America, there is a focus on teamwork, consensus-building, and collaboration. Yet make no mistake, the time will come when a leader in today’s military must stand alone and make a difficult, unpopular decision, or challenge the opinion of superiors and tell them that they cannot get the job done with the time and the resources available—a difficult charge in an organization built on a “can-do” ethos like America’s Army; or a time when a member of the military will know that what superiors are telling the press or the Congress or the American people is inaccurate. These are the moments when an officer’s entire career may be at risk. What will they do? These are difficult questions that require serious thought over the course of any officer’s career. There are no easy answers.

If they will follow the dictates of their conscience and maintain the courage of their convictions while being respectfully candid with superiors and encouraging candor in others, they will be in good stead to meet the challenges facing them as officers and leaders in the years ahead.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Captain Lambert,

The ideas and attitudes expressed by Secretary of Defense, Dr. Robert Gates appear to me to be very sound indeed. He is a good subject to apply the word, leadership, to. I might also say that finding a man to perform the job as Secretary of Defense is mainly a matter of luck, because the people that choose this man and approve his appointmet, in many cases, do not have the proper leadership abilities. It is unnecessary to go through a list and pluck out good leaders and bad leaders, we who served in the Military for any extended time have that list in our own minds.

Very Respectfully,