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
REFLECTIONS ON LEADERSHIP