Friday, September 25, 2009

Signs of institutional vitality and health - Does your organization have them?

I should note that during my time as Secretary, I have been impressed by the way the Army’s professional journals allow some of our brightest and most innovative officers to critique—sometimes bluntly—the way the service does business; to include judgments about senior leadership, both military and civilian.

I believe this is a sign of institutional vitality and health and strength. I encourage every member of the military to take on the mantle of fearless, thoughtful, but loyal dissent when the situation calls for it. Agree with the articles or not, senior officers should embrace such dissent as healthy dialogue and protect and advance those considerably more junior who are taking on that mantle.

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.

Robert M. Gates

1 comment:

Nutz said...

As a leader, if you don't have the stones to throw your "Stars" or other brass on the table and quit to support your position then you probably should not have gotten that far.

Politics and career longevity have no place at the table when the lives of your soldiers is on the line.

I hope Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the newly appointed commander of forces in Afghanistan has the stones to get what he needs to execute the CiC's guidance.