Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, who spoke on a panel addressing the future of leader development at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C., said developing adaptive leaders for a complex environment is a top priority as the Army prepares for an uncertain future. (Mike Morones / Staff)
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Developing adaptive leaders for a complex environment is a top priority as the Army prepares for an uncertain future, senior leaders said Tuesday.
“The one thing we all know is our ability to predict the future is not very good, and the best way to overcome that is with leaders who are adaptive, who are capable,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said.
Odierno, who spoke on a panel addressing the future of leader development at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C., said he is personally involved in this issue.
“This is something I want to take on personally because I think it’s so important,” he said. “I always believe that the U.S. military’s had a distinct advantage, and it’s because of our leader development programs.”
The Army must take the lessons learned from the past decade of war as it looks to the future, Odierno said.
Referring to his experiences in Iraq, Odierno said the Army went in understanding its enemy, but had “no idea, in my opinion,” about the socioeconomic issues unique to that country.
It took the Army at least two years to figure out the fight on its hands in Iraq, and much of that responsibility extended to junior leaders as well, Odierno said.
“It’s not just generals and colonels that need to learn this,” he said. “We know that platoons, squads and companies can impact things both tactically and strategically.”
Gen. Robert Cone, commanding general of Training and Doctrine Command, echoed Odierno’s comments.
“Because of the nature of our doctrine, everybody in the United States Army is responsible for leader development, even if it’s just their own leader development,” he said.
To shape the way ahead, the Army this summer unveiled its leader development strategy, a comprehensive effort led by Odierno to bring back into focus training and education. It also emphasizes broadening assignments and better talent management.
The Army also launched leader development forums, which take place every 90 days, Cone said. These Army-wide events take place in a virtual environment, and they allow “a majority of our commanders in the Army to come online and gain knowledge and offer opinions about the things we do,” Cone said.
The Army also uses the annual leader development survey to identify issues or challenges, Cone said.
“It’s a living, breathing document,” he said.
For enlisted soldiers, the Army is taking a close look at the noncommissioned officer education system to identify any shortfalls or areas that need to be expanded or emphasized, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Ray Chandler said.
NCOs also have been asked to participate in a survey to help shape this review.
“This is very different from the way we’ve developed training in the past,” Chandler said. “What we felt was important this time was to say, ‘NCOs, we want to hear from you and ask you, what do you want to see? What’s important to you, and where is it important?’”
More than 100,000 soldiers have responded to the survey, and the feedback continues to come in, Chandler said.
“Will the NCO education system expand? I would expect that in some circumstances, it will,” he said. “We’re going to look at where the balance should be.”
In addition to training and education, another critical part of leader development and leading effectively is mission command, the panel members said.
Mission command is made up of two parts, the philosophy and war-fighting function.
The philosophy guides leaders on how to command, including building cohesive teams, creating mutual trust and creating a shared understanding of the mission and goals.
As a war-fighting function, mission command lays out tasks commanders and their staffs must do to make decisions, execute the mission and integrate the other war-fighting functions.
The other functions include intelligence, fires, and movement and maneuver.
Many tenets of mission command have been used by good commanders throughout history, but the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which saw leaders at the squad, platoon and company levels taking on more responsibility and operating more autonomously, led the Army to codify and include mission command in its doctrine.
Mission command requires leaders to be willing to take smart, calculated risks, Odierno said.
“This is not golf. This is a team sport that takes leaders that are able to build organizations and individuals,” he said.
This is an important time in the Army, Odierno said.
“We have combat-hardened leaders. We have probably the most experienced force we’ve ever had,” he said. “How do we utilize that foundation of combat-tested capability and project that to future challenges ... so we can leverage that experience?”