Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Leadership in the military

Yingling has some great ideas. I linked to his article last week, and now he's writing for Small Wars Journal, which is becoming a favorite of mine. From his recent piece:

The most common criticism of the piece is that I did not address the role of civilian authorities more explicitly. While I don't think a serving officer should publicly criticize civil authorities, there is a more substantive question here. Who does society hold responsible for the application of non-military instruments of power to achieve the aims of policy? That's a much larger question than the one I took on regarding the responsibilities of general officers. However, it's a fair question that I would like to take a stab at eventually. Any thoughts on this topic are very much appreciated.


An interesting observation. The Vietnam generation did not fully assimilate their experiences until after the war was over. In units and service schools, the captains, majors and lieutenant colonels discussed their experiences, drew conclusions and argued for reform. In the information age, this dialogue happens in real time. Junior leaders are able to compare what senior leaders say with what's happening on the ground in a matter of minutes. I don't think our organizational models and leadership theories have caught up with the impacts of the information age.

Very courageous of this man to put himself out there like this. Writing like this could seriously affect his military career, but statements like this make it easier for others to follow and establish a dialogue. We simply have to take advantage of information as it becomes available - hindsight and learning from mistakes is not good enough.

Something needs to change, but I fear the mechanizations which make this happen. What are our options? Congressional oversight? Those congresscritters seem to screw everything else up, so I don't have much faith in them. Change needs to come from the bottom-up, which is and idea contrary to everything 'military'. A system of promotion which rewards critical thinking, outside of the box ideas (yes, I hate that term too), and a more efficient exchange of ideas.

Here's where I get crazy: why not a system similar to the slashdot moderation system? People with high rank can moderate papers, ideas, concepts - anything written in this system. The more people moderate you highly, the better your karma gets, and the more likely you will be promoted. Lower-ranking people can also moderate (though less frequently) as well as meta-moderate, which is basically moderating the moderators, if that makes sense to you. That way, if a ranking officer continually promotes people with subpar ideas / groupthink, it will be discovered that this high-ranking officer isn't quite up to snuff. Not to say that this person hasn't put in their dues or deserves to be demoted, but just that they don't respond necessarily well to new ideas.

It's just a thought. I'm going to try to flesh it out when I get a chance.

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