FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kansas (Feb. 16) — “Military leadership is not merely a matter of tactics and strategy, not merely a matter of courage. It involves a great many factors, of which character and loyalty are probably the most important.” — General George Catlett Marshall.
This quote seemed to be one of the foundational principles reinforced among Cadets from across the nation throughout the George C. Marshall Award and Leadership Seminar held Feb. 12-16. During the four-day event, more than 300 Cadets were privy to presentations, as well as question and answer sessions, with current and past military leaders. They also took part in roundtable discussions with their peers and Army and defense experts.
Gen. David Perkins, commander of Training and Doctrine Command, opened the event by discussing mission command and how the Cadets fit into it. He said TRADOC is fully vested in the future of the up and coming leaders.
“The Army puts leader development and your personal development, attributes and competencies at the height of the list of things we do in regards to importance,” he said. “There’s really nothing we do more importantly in the Army than develop leaders by giving them the tools to develop others leaders.”
He went on to say using those tools learned correctly is essential in the continued success of the Army.
“The Army is a results oriented organization. You must get results while creating a positive command environment, while making people better. If you get results but destroy people or you’re organization, then you’re not a good leader,” Perkins said. “You have to get results so that at the same time when you lead that organization, sometimes in the middle of combat, that organization is better for having had you in it.”
He said professionalism is also cornerstone of a good leader — and that he believes today’s Cadets are ready to carry on that tradition.
“Do you know how we built the professionalism that is the envy of the world? Soldier by Soldier, sergeant by sergeant, lieutenant by lieutenant – it’s taken us 242 years to build it,” Perkins said. “You are a steward of this profession — we are handing off to you a 242-year-old, handmade, envy of the world institution.”
Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy, commanding general of the Combined Arms Center, spoke to the Cadets about leadership development. He reinforced that good leaders need to be flexible.
“Being a leader is serving something larger than yourself and there’s some goodness in that. If you mainly think of yourself, you’re going to have problems. Hubris, egos, those are the things that take people off track and the more senior you become, the more dangerous that terrain is,” he said. “You’re not going to be perfect and you’re not going to have all of the answers. You’re going to have to continue to learn. We need agile and adaptive leaders and units, and the day you stop learning is the day you need to hang up the uniform because you’re going to become dangerous at that point.”
Lundy added, the three C’s of the Army profession, Competence, Character and Commitment will always be essential to good leadership.
“We place a tremendous amount of trust, faith and confidence in you leading our Soldiers,” he explained. “You’re going to have to work really hard on your competence through experiential learning. Your character, you came into the Army with what you had and that’s going to continue to grow by instilling our values in yourself and your subordinates. The commitment — that’s really being all in. While you are wearing the uniform, be all in, because your Soldiers deserve it.”
Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reminded the Cadets to keep in mind the resources they will have in the form of the NCOs they will command.
“As you go out to do your job, you’re going to get a lot of guidance from your company level officers who will teach you how to be a good officer. But the people who will teach you how to be a good leader is your platoon sergeant, NCOIC and squad leaders. Those are the ones who are going to help you and set you up for success,” said Troxell. “As you command, you provide vision, you provide direction on where you are going. It’s their job every day to make sure the men and women are ready for whatever the mission is, the morale is high and quality of life is good.”
Troxell went on to say that any successful partnership is built upon trust.
“Trust is built through relationship building through shared hardships, shared leader experiences. Cultivating relationships is important. That does not mean that you compromise your position as the officer in charge,” he said. “You build trust by showing everything you expect is through your example. There is no better way to gain respect from your subordinates than through your example — even more so than what you say is what you do.”
Maj. Gen. Chris Hughes, commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, wrapped up the seminar by providing his advice on what will make the Cadets successful once they graduate.
“Soldiers will never follow you unless you are an inspirational leader and you find yourself setting the example at the decisive point at the decisive time. Your Soldiers will never appreciate the position you are in as an officer in charge and will never thank you until they see the results of your actions,” said Hughes. “Challenge everything when it comes to taking care of food, water and shelter for your Soldiers because you are responsible for the welfare, well-being and health of those Soldiers. If you get this right, and take care of your Soldiers, they will know you care. The more you prove it, the more the security and trust builds in your organization, and now those Soldiers want to be with you as they understand it’s not about the leaders, it’s about the Soldiers in the organization.”