FORT LEAVENWWORTH, Kansas. (Feb. 14, 2018) — Being a sound leader involves understanding Army doctrine and applying training to its fullest potential, but another aspect of leadership was the theme for the 40th George C. Marshall seminar this year — emotional intelligence.
During the four-day event, Feb. 11-14, Cadets were under the tutelage of some of the Army’s highest ranking leaders, who all discussed how understanding emotional intelligence affects how effective a good leader can be.
Maj. Gen. Chris Hughes, commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command, opened the seminar by explaining why understanding emotional intelligence is so important for leaders.
“A few years ago someone would have asked why are we talking about this squishy stuff? This soft science? Why is it important to leadership? But after 35 years of experiential learning, I’ve learned there is one truism and that is the business of the Army is people,” he said. “You can fly a helicopter, shoot a cannon or be whatever you want, but technical skills are just that — skills that can be taught to anyone.
“Cognitive skills, interpersonal skills and the ability to work with people, is something I’ve learned we’ve failed to talk about in the Army,” Hughes added. “You cannot allow misunderstandings of people’s personalities, people’s colloquialisms, their mannerisms – all of those things that make us this powerful Army. It’s those things that make us different that make us powerful — that diversity of thought and culture.”
Hughes added, interpersonal understanding can make a huge difference in support of Soldiers when the going get hard.
“Everything you do is observed, everything you do is evaluated, and everything about your persona is captured by your Soldiers. If your instincts as a leader say something won’t work, you must have the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing,” Hughes said. “We always say do the right thing, but we don’t always remind you that doing the right thing is always difficult. You assume all risk and responsibility associated with that act, and it’s normally unpopular to those you lead because it’s normally the hardest road to travel.”
On the second day of the seminar, Lt. Gen. Steven Twitty, commander, 1st Army, mentored the Cadets on his view of how leadership and interpersonal skills overlap.
“You exist for three reasons — to motivate, inspire, and lead,” he said. “When motivating Soldiers you have to remember our Army is a fabric of our society. You’ll have Soldiers from all kinds of backgrounds, Soldiers whose families were well off, that were poor, that came out of foster care, those whose parents were never around — you’ll have them from all walks of society.”
“Your job is to motivate them,” added Twitty. “If I see a Soldier who isn’t motivated, guess who I blame? I blame you because that is your job. That’s why we hire you and pay you, to motivate the Soldiers who can’t be motivated.”
“You also need to inspire them. You may have Soldiers who do not believe that they can achieve and your job is to bring out the absolute best in those Soldiers,” said Twitty.
He added, leadership is the key to the first two charges he mentioned.
“Leading is the most difficult job of the three, because your Soldiers know jack about you. They’re just going to see a second lieutenant come into their ranks,” he said. “You’re just going to go in there and instantly lead? So how do you gain the respect and credibility of the Soldiers you lead?”
“You have to care — care about the Soldiers, care about their families, and I guarantee you’re starting off on the right foot,” added Twitty. “You need to get to know them, not only to let them know you care, but you know what makes them tick. That’s what you need to understand as you move out and take over these platoons — it’s all about caring.”
“You’ve also got to love this business called Soldiering and you have to love your Soldiers. If you can do those two things, you’ve already won half the battle,” he said. “You have to be astute in the Army’s doctrine. If you know your craft left and right, and you are astute, you’re going to be a competent leader. When you’re competent you’ll be calm, and when you’re calm your Soldiers are calm and they will perform because they know that you know your stuff.”
Gen. David Perkins, commander of the Training and Doctrine Command, was the guest speaker at one the dinners during the seminar. He started out by sharing the great responsibility new lieutenants are trusted with.
“Our professionalism, our leaders and our Soldiers, and our dedication and commitment – that’s what makes us who we are. Anyone who spends time with the U.S. Army, that’s what they take away,” he said. “The Army you are going to lead and the Soldiers you are going to lead are in an organization older than the republic they defend.”
“How did we get here? We’ve been building on this thing year after year after year. We do it Soldier by Soldier, sergeant by sergeant, lieutenant by lieutenant — that’s how we do it,” added Perkins. “The problem is you can lose it overnight and you can lose it Soldier by Soldier, sergeant by sergeant, lieutenant by lieutenant. And where are Soldiers and sergeants? They’re in platoons — they work for you.”
“You own the future of the Army because you own those things that make us so different from anyone else. You own the professionalism of the Army,” he added.
Perkins went on to explain what he feels are the essential skills needed to continue building that history of great leaders and great Soldiers.
“Soldiers are actually pretty easy people to please. They are very discerning critics, but it’s not that hard to figure out because all they want is good leadership,” he said. “They have a pretty simple metric that they go through. When you first show up to your platoon or section, generally speaking what your Soldiers and noncommissioned officers are trying to figure out is what makes you tick. They want to know why you do what you do. They want to know if you are doing it for you, for your career progression so that you get promoted or are you truly doing it for the benefit of the unit and them.
“It’s that simple. If they figure out what you are doing and what motivates you is what’s best for the unit, the organization and individual Soldiers, when they come to that conclusion, they almost will never question anything else,” said Perkins. “Even if you ask them to do something that may get them killed. They will take your orders and follow them without question.”