4th Generation Warfare requires and will continue require leaders that have resounding strength of character and are adaptaing, and in turn developing their subordinates and units to be the same.
The question I would poise to Secretary of Defense Gates after he honored Boyd, and asked officers to emulate him is the “how-to?”
When Army General Peter Schoomaker assumed the responsibilities as Army Chief of Staff in the summer of 2003, I had hope that he would lead change in the Army culture. I still believe after meeting him and emailing him, that he was sincere in changing the Army culture to adapt to 4th Generation Warfare, but the careerists of status-quo waited him out. In his tenure as Chief of Staff, Adaptability became one of the big buzz words alongside change the culture. I would make many officers uncomfortable when asked to attend conferences and meetings when I would ask “How to?”
How do you propose we develop adaptability and nurture those leaders that demonstrate strength of character? What laws, policies and practices, more so beliefs, do we have to address to ensure we develop adaptability and protect leaders of character? I would never get much of an answer.
In March 2006, I was honored by the National Leadership Conference to be a keynote speaker with the likes of Army Chief of Staff General Schoomaker and Lieutenant General Russell Honore (tough act to follow). General Schoomaker gave perhaps his best talk I had heard out of three dealing with why we had to change the culture of the Army. LTG Honore of course was outstanding.
I had also been asked in the preparation for this conference to write ideas for break out groups to discuss the theme of the conference, which was Adaptive Leaders. My ideas were accepted by the hosts, North Georgia Military College (which did an outstanding job hosting the conference) in beautiful Dalhonga GA. I thought since this conference gathered many outstanding leaders and academics related to the fields of leader development, that we would focus the breakout groups on the “how-to?” More specifically, we could gather good ideas from these people in the way of teaching and curriculum development methods to develop an evolving Program of Instruction for developing adaptability (my purpose of this blog is to do the same). Would then publish them and share them with other leader-centric programs.
Myself and a few others who shared that vision, were frustrated as we bounced from break out group to break out group. People, most that were well meaning and intelligent, could not get beyond the buzz words.
Why was creating well thought out ideas for developing and nurturing adaptability hard? Why is it hard for the Army–its working groups or task forces, whoever has been tasked to create a way today of developing adaptability, find it hard to move beyond simply “tweaking” policies, or adding some new initiative to “bribe someone?”
The “how-to” adaptability is hard because of two significant factors: 1) Developing leaders of character who are adaptive, who seek and like responsibility, is complicated. This requires change, which the current establishment is uncomfortable with, especially when it focuses on technology as the solution to all its problems. 2) Due the “cheer leader effect” I pointed out in earlier posts, and “American Exceptionalism,” impact the subordinates of senior leaders like General Schoomaker, or some innovative CEO who is a good leader, have been convinced over years and even decades that nothing is really wrong, and this is just the latest fad these leaders bring to the table. “So,” they say to themselves, “if we can just change the words, but not the substance, then we can wait them out.”
But, there is progress being made, and I will follow up with more posts alluding to these small victories made in leader development and adaptability.
The first thing any organization has to do is define its endstate (a good commander’s intent, long term contract).
First, you have to desire the outcome, what do you want the leader at a specific leader to look like when they emerge from your courses? And it is more than just “be adaptive.” My question to you all out there, if Gates really wants more people to emulate Boyd, then what is the “how-to” to make that happen?
It’s a cliché that Boyd would never receive his due from the Establishment. So it is with great pleasure that Chet Richards reported to a number of the followers of Boyd that the Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates, paid a stirring tribute to Boyd a few days ago at Maxwell Air Force Base.
Here is the section where he refers to Boyd (the complete text is available from DefenseLink).
Let me illustrate using a historical exemplar, the late Air Force Colonel John Boyd. As a 30-year-old Captain, he rewrote the manual for air to air combat. Boyd and the reformers he inspired would later go on to design and advocate for the F-16 and the A-10.
After retiring, he would develop the principles of maneuver warfare that were credited by a former Marine Corps commandant and a secretary of Defense for the lightning victory in the first Gulf War.
Boyd’s contributions will resonate today. Many of you have studied the concept he developed called the OODA loop, and I understand there’s an OODA Loop Street here at Maxwell, near the B-52.
But in accomplishing all these things, Boyd, who was a brilliant, eccentric and stubborn character, had to overcome a large measure of bureaucratic resistance and institutional hostility.
He had some advice that he used to pass on to his colleagues and subordinates that is worth sharing with you. Boyd would say — and I quote — “One day you will take a fork in the road, and you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go. If you go one way, you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises, and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club, and you will get promoted and get good assignments. Or you can go the other way, and you can do something, something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide to do something, you may not get promoted, and you may not get good assignments, and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors, but you won’t have to compromise yourself. To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you have to make a decision: to be or to do.”
For the kinds of challenges America faces and will face, the armed forces will need principled, creative, reform-minded leaders, men and women who, as Boyd put it, want to do something, not be somebody.
An unconventional era of warfare requires unconventional thinkers. That is because this era’s range of security challenges, from global terrorism to ethnic conflicts, from rogue nations to rising powers, cannot be overcome by traditional military means alone. Conflict will be fundamentally political in nature and will require the integration of all elements of national power. Success, to a large extent, will depend less on imposing one’s will on the enemy or putting bombs on targets, though we must never lose our ability or our will to unsheathe the sword when necessary. Instead, ultimate success or failure will increasingly depend more on shaping the behavior of others, friends and adversaries, and most importantly, the people in between.