Publications

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Ethics & Leadership

Oct. 1, 2017

Toxic Culture: Enabling Incivility in the U.S. Military and What to Do About It

Core values are the heart and soul of U.S. military Services and their cultures. Military organizational, strategic, operational, and tactical strength lies in the degree to which the Services’ systems, processes, and behaviors of personnel align with their stated core values, the collective practice of which creates organizational culture. Yet even with the emphasis on core values such as respect and selfless service, the Department of Defense (DOD) continues to experience toxic and counterproductive behaviors that sabotage culture and values, as well as performance, productivity, force protection, health, readiness, and actions of personnel.1 Although DOD has not conducted comprehensive research on toxic behavior, there is extensive private-sector research regarding the impact, cost, tolerance, enabling, and reduction of toxicity. This article applies private-sector research to assess DOD policies and practices and to recommend courses of action. Although the implications and cost of toxicity are beyond the scope of this article, a brief discussion is relevant for demonstrating its significance. Private-sector research has identified relationships between toxic behaviors and adverse effects on mental and physical health (including suicide, stress-related illness, and post-traumatic stress), increasing demands on an already overburdened healthcare system; job satisfaction and commitment; individual and collective performance (cognition and collaboration); employee turnover; and the creation of an organizational culture that tolerates other inappropriate behaviors including sexual harassment and discrimination.2 In addition to the impact on direct targets of toxicity, research has identified the transmission of adverse effects to bystanders and family members.3

Oct. 1, 2017

Butter Bar to Four Star: Deficiencies in Leader Development

This article carefully unpacks the ideas that rigid cultural norms, faulty officer management practices, and significant flaws in professional military education (PME) generate damaging gaps in the development of commissioned Army officers in the Active component.

April 17, 2017

Chapter 5 | The Officer at Work: Leadership

Leadership—convincing others to collaborate effectively in a common endeavor—is the primary function of all Armed Forces officers. Only a few officers are commanders at any particular moment, but every officer is a leader. Indeed the Army and Marine Corps insist that leadership is the common responsibility of every Soldier and Marine.1 The Air Force says “Any Airman can be a leader and can positively influence those around him or her to accomplish the mission.”2 A consequence is that almost every officer considers himself or herself good at leadership, but perspectives on method differ depending on individual circumstances and experiences. This chapter discusses leadership from four different but overlapping viewpoints: accomplishing the mission and taking care of the troops; three concepts of leadership; Service approaches; and “tribal wisdom,” views of leadership expressed by senior professionals.

July 1, 2016

From the Chairman | Upholding Our Oath

As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I am honored to represent the extraordinary Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Coastguardsmen who make up the Joint Force. Throughout my travels and engagements, I continue to be inspired by your professionalism, your commitment to defending the Nation, and your adaptiveness in encountering the security challenges our country faces.

July 1, 2016

Switching the Paradigm from Reactive to Proactive: Stopping Toxic Leadership

An overview of the current thoughts on toxic leadership and an actionable approach for countering and preventing the development of toxic leader environments.

March 29, 2016

Rediscovering the Art of Strategic Thinking: Developing 21st-Century Strategic Leaders

At a time when global instability and uncertainty are undeniable, the demand for astute American global strategic leadership is greater than ever. Unfortunately, tactical superficiality and parochial policies of convenience are undermining joint strategic leader development and the ability to operate effectively around the world. Tactical supremacy and the lack of a peer competitor have contributed to strategic thinking becoming a lost art. This critical shortfall has been recognized for a number of years. General Anthony Zinni, USMC (Ret.), and Tony Koltz stated in their 2009 book Leading the Charge that leaders today have no vision and consequently have “lost the ability to look and plan ahead.” Trapped within rigid bureaucracies, today’s joint strategic leaders immerse themselves in current operations, reacting to, rather than shaping, future events.

July 1, 2015

Vertical and Horizontal Respect: A Two-Dimensional Framework for Ethical Decisionmaking

Everyone wants to be a good person; at least that tends to be a fundamental assumption about most of the people we work with in the Department of Defense (DOD). Yet the newspapers are frequently filled with articles about officers, enlisted members, and civilians falling from grace. Why do so many people make bad choices?

April 1, 2015

On Operational Leadership

Success of any military organization depends on the experience and good judgment of its leaders. Ideally, all commanders should have a high level of professional education and training in addition to some critically important character traits. Moreover, the higher the level of command, the more important it is that commanders and staff meet these requirements. Wars are not won or lost at the tactical level but at the operational and strategic levels. Hence, it is critically important that operational commanders are selected based solely on their proven or potential warfighting abilities and not their political connections or management skills. Operational commanders are not managers but should be first and foremost warfighters.

July 1, 2014

Investing in the Minds of Future Leaders

As the Joint Force prepares for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow, our focus is not simply on military power and platforms. We are laser-focused on leadership. It is the all-volunteer force and its leaders—our people—who remain our greatest strategic asset and the best example of the values we represent to the world.

Dec. 1, 2013

The Noncommissioned Officer and Petty Officer: Backbone of the Armed Forces

A first of its kind, this book—of, by, and for the noncommissioned officer and petty officer—is a comprehensive explanation of the enlisted leader across the U.S. Armed Services. It complements The Armed Forces Officer, the latest edition of which was published by NDU Press in 2007, as well as the Services’ NCO/PO manuals and handbooks. Written by a team of Active, Reserve, and retired senior enlisted leaders from all Service branches, this book defines and describes how NCOs/POs fit into an organization, centers them in the Profession of Arms, explains their dual roles of complementing the officer and enabling the force, and exposes their international engagement. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey writes in his foreword to the book, “We know noncommissioned officers and petty officers to have exceptional competence, professional character, and soldierly grit—they are exemplars of our Profession of Arms.”