El liderazgo militar, y más concretamente los mecanismos que una organización utiliza para seleccionar a los mejores para ocupar sus puestos directivos están siempre en cuestión. El éxito o fracaso de la persona no sólo pone en tela de juicio al protagonista, sino a la institución entera. El comandante Nestler ha escrito una artículo que ha levantado ampollas en el US Army, y que merece la pena conocer.
Developing Strategic Leaders for the Army
Developing Strategic Leaders for the Army By Maj. Scott T. Nestler
Great leaders are either born or made. In either case, they can be made better through development over time. The Army’s leader development system contains three pillars: institutional (schooling), operational (assignments) and self-development. This framework is useful in developing direct, organizational and strategic leaders, although the application is somewhat different at each level. The term “strategic” here refers not to the highest level of war in the traditional context (that is, tactical/operational/strategic) but rather a way of thinking by leaders at the colonel and general officer ranks.
The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College published Strategic Leadership Competencies in 2003. After reviewing the academic and military literature on strategic leadership, the authors identify six meta-competencies—identity, mental agility, cross-cultural savvy, interpersonal maturity, world-class warrior and professional astuteness—to provide a manageable set of characteristics that encompass the multitude of knowledge, skills and abilities provided by other references. While they may provide a useful construct for directing the Army’s leader development efforts and facilitating self-assessment, the three recommendations outlined in the conclusion are perhaps the more significant contribution:
• Responsibility for the integrated leader development process needs to be assigned.
• Growing strategic leader capability must begin at the pre-commissioning level.
• Self-development must become more than a reading list of history books.
Establishment of the Army’s Senior Leader Development (SLD) office in January 2006 was an important step in the process of assigning responsibility for leader development. SLD is responsible for “the development, utilization and management of our strategic leadership, a combined force of general officers and active duty Army competitive category colonels (and promotable lieutenant colonels).” SLD serves as “the Army’s single organization to develop and manage our Army’s senior leaders … directly by the Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff of the Army.” Formed around two existing organizations, the General Officer Management Office (GOMO) and the Human Resources Command (HRC) Colonels Division, SLD provides the means to include personnel processes (for example, strategic human resource management) as part of developing strategic leaders. By managing senior leader training and assignments in one location, SLD has an advantage over the rest of the Army. The challenge is to extend this model to Army leaders at all levels, rather than having leader development split, as it is now, with Army G-1 and HRC controlling the operational pillar (assignments), G-3 and Training and Doctrine Command in charge of the institutional pillar (schooling).
By suggesting that the Army begin growing strategic leaders earlier in their careers (even as early as before commissioning), the War College authors recognize that growing leaders who can think in a strategic manner takes time. Also, some tasks, such as learning a foreign language, are easier to accomplish at a younger age than later in life when the skills may be required, but being too prescriptive is not a good idea. Rather than forcing the language du jour into pre-commissioning programs, the goal should be to expose cadets and junior officers to the breadth needed as a foundation for strategic leaders. Exposure to other cultures sows the seeds of a curiosity for things outside national boundaries, and taking a course in critical thinking or philosophy gives young leaders a foundation to see things from other perspectives. The bottom line is that we can’t expect officers to suddenly be strategic leaders when they are selected for promotion to colonel if the wide foundation was never established earlier in their careers.
The authors of Strategic Leadership Competencies point out that the Chief of Staff, Army (CSA) Reading List contains only Army heritage and history titles. They suggest that the addition of books from the corporate world, the use of other forums (like the Internet) and involvement with groups and organizations outside the Army are also vital to the self-development pillar in growing strategic leadership competencies. The concept of voluntary reading to improve professional competence is not new; the Army’s standing guidance on this subject, written 43 years ago but still in effect, recognizes that “complexities of modern warfare require that all military leaders keep themselves currently informed on military affairs, as well as matters of national and international interest.” The purpose of the reading program is to stimulate constructive thinking, encourage Army personnel to engage in voluntary reading to improve their professional competence and deepen understanding of the significant role of the Army in world affairs.
This regulation also directs that an annual reading list of up-to-date titles be published and that copies of all books on the current list be available for loan from Army installation libraries. A few years ago, responsibility for this program shifted from The Adjutant General, under the supervision of the Deputy Chief of Staff (DCS) for Personnel (now DCS, G-1) to the Center for Military History (CMH), where the list is now maintained in an online format. With CMH responsible for the reading list, it should come as little surprise that the spotlight is on history. The study of military (and more general) history is not unimportant; indeed, it should be a fundamental component of an officer’s self-development program.
The CSA’s Professional Reading List was last updated in July 2004. It is divided into four sub-lists, each targeted at officers at different points in their careers and development. Although some recent books have been added to the list for senior leaders (for example, The Lexus and The Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, Thomas Friedman, 2000; and Transformation Under Fire: Revolutionizing How America Fights, Douglas Macgregor, 2003) these changes do not go far enough in the direction that the authors of Strategic Leadership Competencies want in order to guide the Army. The following list (primarily compiled from the past three years of summer reading recommendations at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland) provides the reader with some useful additions to the list.
• Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk (Peter Bernstein) addresses the concepts of risk and uncertainty.
• Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (Malcolm Gladwell) considers rapid cognition and encourages readers to use rational intuition to make instant conclusions.
• Bullies, Tyrants and Impossible People: How to Beat Them Without Joining Them (Ronald Shapiro and Mark Jankowski, with James Dale) offers strategies for dealing with difficult people.
• How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization (Franklin Foer) examines how soccer can help us understand how international forces affect politics and life around the world.
• Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (Michael Lewis) considers how the Oakland Athletics general manager uses scientific management to make decisions quantifiable and accountable.
• One Billion Customers: Lessons from the Front Lines of Doing Business in China (James McGregor) provides a historical overview of China’s transformation into a modern industrial state.
• Rational Exuberance: Silencing the Enemies of Growth and Why the Future Is Better Than You Think (Michael Mandel) looks at technology, innovation and economic policy and growth.
• The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization (John Maxwell) shows that you don’t have to be at the top of an organization to lead.
• The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time (Jeffrey Sachs) explores the causes and potential cures for global poverty.
• The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Malcolm Gladwell) examines social epidemics and a way of understanding quick and unexpected changes.
• Trust: The Social Virtues and The Creation of Prosperity (Francis Fukuyama) studies the interconnectedness of economic life with cultural life.
• Winning (Jack Welch, with Suzy Welch) presents the management wisdom developed during 45 years at General Electric.
Many of these titles are not directly about leadership (and definitely not about military history); however, they provide broadening experiences that aid in the self-development of strategic leadership competencies.
Col. John M. Collins’ concept of an “intellectual clearinghouse” is one example of the suggested use of the Internet and other forums. He describes the participation of a diverse membership (active and reserve component officers, NCOs, civilian employees, retirees, academicians, journalists and others) in online discussions on topics of interest. A small staff solicits opinions, encourages controversy, screens responses and synthesizes opinions for presentation to decision makers. While he focuses on the primary benefit of such groups being their contribution of innovative thinking to national power, the individual members gain tremendously from participating. Members of the Warlord Loop, a 150-person open-source e-mail net focused on national security issues and run by Col. Collins, heartily affirm the value of their involvement in their strategic leadership competency development.
As part of the CSA’s leader self-development focus area known as the bench, the Army has recently implemented a self-development tool that is a version of the 360-degree assessment called the leader personal feedback tool, which leaders can use to gain candid feedback about their leadership skills from superiors, peers and subordinates. To ensure that responses are both honest and candid, safeguards in the system keep the results completely confidential and the responses totally anonymous. Feedback from self-initiated assessment tools (like the 360-degree assessment) throughout a leader’s career will be stored in a leadership development portfolio (LDP) to permit a cumulative view of self-development over time. Other tools being prepared are: cultural awareness, personality awareness, critical thinking tool and a coach’s journal.
The LDP is available 24/7 via Army Knowledge Online (AKO) to provide continual opportunities for self-development.
By providing immediate, relevant and compelling feedback, the LDP provides a professionally supported forum to strengthen the pillar of self-development by promoting leader adaptability through increased self-awareness.
Another interesting use of the Internet by and for leaders at the direct and organizational levels is www.companycommand.com, obviously familiar to this magazine’s readers. This web-based community was founded in 2000 by a small group of officers serving at West Point as a way for company commanders to share their ideas with leaders across the Army. There is now a sister site, www.platoonleader.org. In 2004 the Army began providing official support for the sites. As today’s junior officers familiar with these forums progress through their careers, perhaps the Army should create a web site that focuses on issues facing strategic leaders. While these organizations may be new to the military, the Community of Practice (CoP) concept has been around for 15 years. The CoP definition has changed since then to incorporate the ideas that members have a shared set of interests and are motivated to do something about them, and that CoPs are self-generating, with self-selecting members that are not necessarily colocated.
Encouraging officers to participate in specific groups and organizations is clearly not a good idea, but it makes sense for the Army to make known the benefits of participation in extra-military groups of individuals’ own choosing to their self-development.
Whether the groups are academic (for example, the American Mathematical Society), professional in nature (for example, the Society for Human Resource Management), social (for example, college alumni associations, car clubs or others) or service-oriented (for example, Rebuilding Together With Christmas in April) is not so important; the interaction and exchange of ideas with others outside the Army but within an officer’s broader interests are what is critical to self-development.
Although the Army has made some progress toward each of the three recommendations of the authors of Strategic Leadership Competencies, there is much that remains to be done. This is especially true with regard to the final recommendation concerning ways to improve the self-development of strategic leadership competencies, but will not occur without determined efforts by both the Army as an institution and individual officers.
Only by continuing the work already begun, following through on the recommendations outlined above and developing other innovative solutions will the Army produce the best strategic leaders for its soldiers.
Maj. Scott T. Nestler is a full-time Ph.D. student in management science at the R.H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland. He is an operations research analyst with experience as a force structure analyst in Army G-1, Plans Division and as an assistant professor in the Mathematical Sciences Department of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. His operational experience was with Patriot air defense missile units in Texas, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.