Army’s priority remains developing leaders 

The single consistent thread that runs throughout today’s Army is leadership development was the message of the day at the Institute of Land Warfare Contemporary Military Forum panel discussion on the future of Army leadership development.

“The Army’s number one priority is to develop leaders,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who led a panel Oct. 22 that included Gen.  Robert W. Cone, commanding general U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command ; Gen. Frederick M. Franks Jr., USA, Ret. and chair of the Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III; Lt. Gen. Robert B. Brown, commanding general I Corps and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; and moderator Gen. William S. Wallace, USA, Ret.

With the notion of Mission Command now an essential aspect of today’s Army, leadership development, from the ranks of NCOs up to senior officers, is the driving principle behind Army training. As framed by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mission Command success “demands that subordinate leaders at all echelons exercise disciplined initiative and act aggressively and independently to accomplish the mission.”

One of the primary challenges facing the Army, Odierno said at the session during the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition, is “how to best manage leadership development competence.”

How the Army “develops NCO leaders,” Odierno added, “is what makes us the number one Army in the world.”

“Everybody in the Army is responsible for leader development,” said Cone, including individuals developing their own personal leadership qualities. As the Army moves from an Army at war to a more garrison-centered force, he added, the perils of micro-management must be avoided. In anticipation of that change, he said, the Army has rewritten 44 of 50 field manuals.

In doing so, Franks said, the Army has established “Mission Command as a behavioral change.”

The Army’s comprehensive leader development program, said Brown, has three primary elements: the institutional domain, the self-development domain, and the operational domain. He cited specific programs that were implemented at JB Lewis-McChord, in which senior leaders of Starbuck’s, Amazon, and Boeing provided examples of leadership tacks and strategies from the civilian business world.

That leadership development is essential up and down the chain of command is underscored by the cadre of NCOs who carry out the mission command strategy. “Whatever you do,” said Chandler, “at the end of the day, the NCO will get you the last 100 yards.”

Cone called for a “cross fertilization of leadership.” Multinational efforts over the last 12 years, he noted, have developed leadership understanding.

Ultimately, a 360-degree assessment by peers and subordinates is necessary. That understanding brings with it a responsibility for providing and seeking mentorship throughout the force.