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By General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., USMC
By MG Frederick M. Padilla, USMC
Chapter 1 | The Commission and the Oath
Chapter 2 | The Profession of Arms
Chapter 3 | The Officer in the Profession of Arms
Chapter 4 | The Officer at Work: The Ethical Use of Force
Chapter 5 | The Officer at Work: Leadership
Chapter 6 | The Officer at Work: Command
Chapter 7 | The Officer and Society: The Vertical Dimension
Chapter 8 | The Officer and Society: The Horizontal Dimension
Chapter 9 | Service Identity and Joint Warfighting
Chapter 10 | The Armed Forces Officer
Appendix A | Founding Documents: The Declaration of Independence
Appendix A | Founding Documents: The Constitution of the United States
Appendix B | Authorizing Statues for the Armed Forces
Appendix C | Service Values of the Armed Forces
Appendix D | Code of Conduct for Members of the United States Armed Forces
By Richard M. Swain and Albert C. Pierce
The Armed Forces Officer
. . . before it is an honor, leadership is trust;
Before it is a call to glory,
Leadership is a call to service;
. . . before all else, forever and always, leadership is a
willingness to serve.
—Father Edson Wood, OSA, Cadet Catholic Chaplain
Invocation at Assumption of Command by BG Curtis Scaparrotti,
Commandant of Cadets, U.S. Military Academy
August 11, 2004
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.
Leaders are expected to guide their followers to mission success at least possible cost. Lord Moran, who served as a medical officer on the Western Front in World War I, and was Churchill’s doctor and confidant in World War II, defined leadership as “the capacity to frame plans which will succeed and the faculty of persuading others to carry them out in the face of death.”3 Moran was skeptical of a requirement for fine character, the honorable virtues, in a leader, but found that a reputation for achieving success was the essential middle term between the ability to formulate a course of action and persuading others to implement it. He believed “phlegm—a supreme imperturbability in the face of death . . . [was] the ultimate gift in war.”4
In the U.S. Armed Forces, the admonition “Take care of your people” is coupled with the requirement for mission success: “Mission first! People always!” This obligation to care for your people is so ingrained that it serves as an ethical principle for those who lead. Indeed, care of subordinates is called for explicitly by three identical passages of Title 10 U.S. Code: Sections 3583 (Army), 5947 (Marine Corps and Navy), and 85831 (Air Force). The statutory “Requirement for Exemplary Conduct” mandates, among other things, that “all commanding officers and others in authority . . . be vigilant in inspecting the conduct of all persons . . . under their command”; that they “guard against and suppress all dissolute and immoral practices”; and that they “take all necessary and proper measures . . . to promote and safeguard the morale, the physical well-being, and the general welfare of the officers and enlisted persons under their command or charge.”5 Still, individual competence remains the first desideratum of Armed Forces officers. As officer-scholar Harold Winton has written: “In war, raw professional competence is a much better harbinger of concern for one’s subordinates than is either humility or approachability.”6
Taking care of the troops means attending to their personal needs—physical, mental, and spiritual—and, to a great extent, to their families’ needs as well. It also means treating everyone with dignity and respect. American Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Coastguardsmen are not hirelings, but professionals. Leaders treat people—subordinates, peers, and superiors alike—with dignity and respect. This is both an institutional norm in every Service and another guiding ethical principle for Armed Forces officers.
Eugene B. Sledge, a teenage Marine mortarman in some of the heaviest fighting in the Pacific during World War II, remembered his company commander, Captain Andrew A. “Ack Ack” Haldane, this way:
Captain Haldane was the finest and most popular officer I ever knew. . . . Although he insisted on strict discipline, the captain was a quiet man who gave orders without shouting. He had a rare combination of intelligence, courage, self-confidence, and compassion that commanded our respect and admiration. . . . While some officers . . . thought it necessary to strut or order us around to impress us with their status, Haldane quietly told us what to do. We loved him for it and did the best job we knew how.7
Taking care of the troops also means training and educating subordinates for the demands and challenges of their individual jobs and unit missions. In its fullest sense, individual development means going beyond the immediate requirements of the job and the mission, to helping subordinates grow in their own careers, preparing them for higher rank, for greater responsibility, and most especially for current and future leadership of their own troops. A good leader leads, and a great leader develops other leaders. In 1921, the legendary Commandant of the Marine Corps, Major General John A. Lejeune, put his own distinctive stamp on the quality of leadership he expected of Marine officers:
The relation between officers and enlisted men should in no sense be that of superior and inferior nor that of master and servant, but rather that of teacher and scholar. In fact, it should partake of the nature of the relationship between father and son, to the extent that officers, especially commanding officers, are responsible for the physical, mental, and moral welfare, as well as the discipline and military training of the young men under their command who are serving the nation in the Marine Corps.8
Leadership may be examined phenomenologically from a number of overlapping perspectives; three currently seem to have particular resonance with military communities:
Leadership is a human relationship between leaders and followers. In contrast to command, which depends on a grant of legal authority, assigned responsibilities, and formal accountability, leadership involves a human bond, a decision by one person to take charge, and corresponding decisions to follow and collaborate by others—followers who submerge their own actions in the vision of the leader. Following may be voluntary, coerced, or negotiated. It may occur simply because one member of the group appears to know what is required right now, when others are confused or hesitant. Followers are the essential complement to the leadership equation.
In an often overlooked 1958 classic about infantry squads, then Colonel William E. DePuy framed a telling epigram, “You can’t see an infantry squad—it is an idea that exists only when jointly held by its members.”9 The same could be said about any group acting in harmony to achieve a common end. Instilling, or maintaining, the idea of the group, and following through with collaborative action, are the business of the leader. Another way to put it is this: troops obey because they must; they follow because they want to. They obey superiors; they follow leaders. The obvious is worth stating: an officer must be capable of being both a superior and a leader.
Leadership is a complex of attributes or characteristics that mark successful leaders, men and women who motivate and direct the efforts of others in collaborative enterprises. The premise here is that one simply is a leader and the route to development lies in imitation of other successful leaders. This is the more traditional perspective, and it is the one the Marine Corps has maintained most faithfully.
In the foreword to his most developed (1960) version of the of The Armed Forces Officer, S.L.A. Marshall characterized the book as dealing with “the two major roles of the officer—as a leader of men, and as a loyal, efficient member of the Nation’s defense team.”10 Marshall’s books are largely guides to commissioned military leadership, examining what officers do from multiple points of view. While his writing offers numerous useful observations, it would be difficult to distill from it a systematic theory of leadership in the sense of mobilizing individual efforts to achieve shared goals. To the contrary, Marshall’s efforts lead largely to a listing of desirable or necessary character traits or attributes of military leaders. These are useful, particularly for novice officers, to help them frame their own place in the profession, and for seasoned leaders to reframe where they stand in their progressive growth.
Marshall’s core list of leadership attributes from 1950 onward was:
The hardihood to take risks
The will to take full responsibility for decision
The readiness to share its rewards with subordinates
An equal readiness to take the blame, when things go adversely
The nerve to survive storm and disappointment and to face toward each new day with the scoresheet wiped clean, neither dwelling on one’s successes nor accepting discouragement from one’s failures.11
Useful as the attributes approach is, it is inherently not definitive because the various lists often differ in content, sometimes leading to a “battle of the lists.” Each advocate thinks his or her list is best, which is to be expected and must be seen in that context.
Leadership is a process, a creative combination of purposeful and identifiable characteristics and behaviors intended to influence others; features and actions that are subject to observation, assessment, evaluation, and correction. This is the view taken by the leadership community in the United States Army. It is discussed in greater depth below.
In fact, these three perspectives are overlapping. Features of one are often accompanied by those of another. Practice of leadership (that is, leadership style) is highly personal and idiosyncratic. It depends on individual disposition, personality, and the leader’s understanding of the immediate circumstances. Suitability of a particular style is circumstantial, depending on immediate conditions requiring a collective response, and the immediate disposition of potential followers. Followers respond differently, depending on their understanding of the circumstances and their expectations of the leader at any particular moment. Generational differences, which are often significant in defining both leader and follower expectations, must be taken into account.12 Sometimes troops can be given directions and led by inspiration. Other times, when they are tired or discouraged, they must be driven.13 Not all leaders are capable by disposition of employing all styles of leadership. Sometimes, senior officers have to pick the right leader at the proper moment for a specific task.
The Department of Defense does not define leadership in Joint Publication 1-02, Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. Moreover, the structure of the leadership experience of Armed Forces officers varies among the Services. For example, Air Force flying officers come to direct leadership of significant numbers of people much later than Army and Marine infantry officers. Some submarine commanders lead fewer troops than an infantry company commander, albeit with a good deal more authority. These structural differences, and the significantly different environments in which the Services operate, undoubtedly influence Service perspectives on the nature and practice of leadership.
Still, Armed Forces officers learn about leadership in a number of common ways. First of all, they have their own experiences organizing and directing others to achieve assigned goals. They learn by doing. Then, they observe others, peers and superiors particularly, and adapt their own practice to take advantage of what they see other successful leaders do, avoiding what they see unsuccessful leaders do. They read about leadership in Service schools, and on their own. They expand their empirical base by reflecting on the experiences of others, often historical leaders like Generals George Washington, U.S. Grant, William T. Sherman, George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, Henry “Hap” Arnold; Admirals Chester Nimitz, Raymond Spruance, and Bill Halsey; and the immortal Marine, General “Chesty” Puller. Fictional accounts like Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, Anton Myrer’s Once an Eagle, and Herman Wouk’s Caine Mutiny, influence their thinking, as do the many film representations of air, sea, and land combat, good and bad. Mid-career officers often branch out to sample the mountain of leadership books from various business schools and behavioral science departments that can often be found in airport and other bookstores.
Of all the Armed Forces, the Army seems most devoted to written leadership doctrine. In part, this can be attributed to the fact the Army is a large organization, divided into full-time and significant part-time components. More than the other Services, the Army has to accommodate itself to major periodic expansions in time of crisis and reductions thereafter. Army doctrine, then, takes on a highly structured and positivist form, suitable for formal instruction and institutional application.
For 28 years following World War II, the Army defined leadership as an art and followed a traditional pattern of presenting observed attributes from historical exemplars.14 Today it treats leadership as a process. The primary Army leadership publication today is Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 6-22, Army Leadership. Its expressed purpose is establishment of “Army leadership principles that apply to officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted Soldiers as well as Army civilians.”15 The ADP 6-22 defines leadership as “the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization [emphasis added].”16 The publication defines the Army leader as “anyone who by virtue of assumed rank or assigned responsibility inspires and influences people to accomplish organizational goals.”17 In his foreword to ADP 6-22, General Raymond Odierno, then Army Chief of Staff, wrote, “Being a leader is not about giving orders, it’s about earning respect, leading by example, creating a positive climate, maximizing resources, inspiring others, and building teams to promote excellence.”18 In short, Army doctrine is about what leaders must do.
The change in definition from art to process evolved over time. The 1983 Field Manual (FM) 3-22, Military Leadership, set the Army on a 20-year path of defining leadership in terms of what a leader had to “Be, Know, and Do” (attributes, knowledge, and action). The course-setting volume began with a study of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain at Gettysburg’s Little Round Top as an exemplary model of combat leadership. Current core leadership publications have largely dispensed with historical examples.19 The absence of exemplars is indicative of an institutional commitment to dependence on the behavioral sciences in formulating leadership doctrine as a tool for helping the Army develop leaders. It seeks to do this by defining leadership in abstract terms on the basis of which observable practices can be taught systematically, observed, evaluated, and then critiqued. Current Army leadership doctrine offers a model that combines abstract attributes of character, presence, and intellect, with observable conduct of leading, developing, and achieving. It acknowledges the importance of followership to leadership. It categorizes leadership by level, as direct, organizational, and strategic; and according to whether it is formal, informal, collective, or situational.20
In the Marine Corps, leadership doctrine has been more stable. It remains part of a holistic program of general institutional indoctrination for becoming a Marine. The Marine Corps follows a more traditional pattern of instruction-through-emulation that dates back to the ancients, to Homer and more particularly to Plutarch. Characteristically, Marine Corps Warfighting Publication 6-11 [formerly FMFM 1-0] is given the active title of Leading Marines rather than the more impersonal and abstract Marine Leadership.
The Marine manual is more inspirational than categorical or dogmatic. It refers to leadership as “the combination of the intangible elements of our ethos and the more tangible elements of our leadership philosophy.”21 Examples for emulation are common. The Marine Corps continues to subscribe to the view of General Lejeune that “leadership is a heritage which has passed from Marine to Marine since the foundation of the Corps . . . mainly acquired by observation, experience, and emulation. Working with other Marines is the Marine leader’s school.”22 The core reference remains paragraph 1100 of the Marine Corps Manual, which lists three Marine Corps leadership qualities: inspiration, technical proficiency, and moral responsibility. It quotes General Lejeune’s 1921 instruction:
Leadership.—Finally, it must be kept in mind that the American soldier responds quickly and readily to the exhibition of qualities of leadership on the part of his officers. Some of these qualities are industry, energy, initiative, determination, enthusiasm, firmness, kindness, justness, self-control, unselfishness, honor and courage. Every officer should endeavor by all means in his power to make himself the possessor of these qualities and thereby to fit himself to be a real leader of men.23
In reflecting on Lejeune’s use of “soldier,” it is worth remembering that he commanded both Marine and Army units as the commander of the 2nd Division in the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I.
The Air Force and Navy appear more concerned with individual development programs in which leadership techniques are acquired through progressive and varied experiences, including terms of professional education, than with didactic doctrine.24 The professional organization of the sea Services, the U.S. Naval Institute, publishes a family of officer guides written by notable Navy officers such as Admiral James Stavridis. In May 2014, the Navy established a Naval Leadership and Ethics Center as a command under the Naval War College “to serve as the Navy and [Naval War College’s] instrument to provide curriculum development along with assessment to instill fundamental tenets of ethical leadership throughout the Navy.”25 The Air Force leadership manual, published by the Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education at Maxwell Air Force Base, offers a framework for thinking about differences in leadership practice at various levels of responsibility, but is not overly concerned with techniques or specific behaviors.26 Like the Army manual, it also includes reference to followership as a critical element in the leadership “system.” The Air Force also has a formal program for mentorship as part of its development program that may be as important as its formal leadership instruction.27
In addition to formal leadership doctrine and examples from experience, biographies, and fiction, the Armed Forces also possess a kind of “tribal wisdom” that is passed from generation to generation in formal presentations, shared observation, and experience. The cumulative notions, retained in the institution, seem remarkably similar throughout the several Service tribes. Valuable elements of tribal wisdom are found in public presentations by senior officers and noncommissioned officers.
In 1999, then Rear Admiral Mike Mullen, Director of Surface Warfare, told a class of surface warfare officers that there were certain core attributes required to succeed as a leader in the Navy: “Truthfulness in everything you do; Trustworthiness to follow direction; Demonstration of a capacity for active listening; and Always do your personal best.” To these he added what he called “the fundamental goals of a good liberal education: courage, judgment, curiosity and imagination.”28 From all these he synthesized a set of what he called life-skills: integrity, initiative, responsibility (to Sailors, family, and self), establishment of goals, and flexibility. Mullen concluded:
The greatest advice I can give you is the oldest of them all in our community: Get out there and walk around. Talk to your Sailors, other junior officers, the chiefs and even the commanding officer because leadership is about “being there.” . . . Being there to influence events on the deck plates. . . . Being there to lead—leading your Sailors. . . . Being there for the good times as well as the bad, just as our Navy is there to carry out its mission.29
Nine years later, Admiral Mullen, by then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, advised graduating Midshipmen of the Naval Academy to do three things: to learn from their mistakes; to not be afraid to question their seniors—to stand up for what’s right; and to accept accountability. “If you are wrong, admit it. If you have erred, correct it. Hold yourselves accountable for your actions.” He continued:
The quality of our work and our personal conduct say more about who we are and what we stand for than anything else. You should strive to conduct yourself always in such a manner that it can never be said that you demand less of yourself … or of the men and women in your charge … than that which is expected of you by your families or your countrymen.30
Much of this tribal wisdom can be summed up in the following five propositions about leadership.
Leadership is a bond of trust. As the epigraph at the head of the chapter reflects, “before it is an honor, leadership is trust.” Followers trust leaders to direct their efforts to success at the least necessary cost. Leaders trust followers to comply with their direction. General Sir John Hackett addressed the link between the leader and the led thus: “The leader,” he wrote, “has something which the others want and which only he can provide. . . . This something is partly the ability to find an answer to a problem which the others cannot solve. But there is also the power, when difficulties have to be overcome, to help people over them. . . . What the leader has to give is the direction of a joint effort which will bring success.”31
In a speech to the West Point Class of 2013, General Martin E. Dempsey, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, showed the cadets a photo of an infantry squad in Afghanistan:
You’ve all heard that warfare is changing, technology is taking over, the Army is a thing of the past. But you know, the most sophisticated piece of warfighting equipment in this picture is this squad leader and he hasn’t changed all that much really since the days of the Roman legions. Politics are going to change, technologies will change, the enemy will change, but that squad leader won’t. And you his leader can’t. . . . He is operating because he trusts that that man or woman to his right flank, that rifleman, is protecting him while he does his job. And similarly, that rifleman who is oriented outward is confident and trusts that the squad leader has his back. It doesn’t get any more fundamental than trust. And trust is built on confidence in each other. And confidence comes from recognizing the competence, the character, the quality of each of us . . . trust is the very foundation of our profession. And if you’re not living up to earning your part of that equation, you’re not living up to being a member of the profession.32
Trust is omni-directional, a mutual vertical relationship between leaders and followers, and a horizontal reciprocal trust among soldiers that those on their left and right will do their part. S.L.A. Marshall quotes Army General James G. Harbord, General Pershing’s Chief of Staff, subsequently commander of the 4th Marine Brigade, and briefly commander of the Second Division in World War I. Harbord wrote: “Discipline and morale influence the inarticulate vote that is constantly taken by masses of men when the order comes to move forward—a variant of the crowd psychology that inclines it to follow a leader. But the Army does not move forward until the motion has carried. ‘Unanimous consent’ only follows cooperation between the individual men in the ranks.”33
This bond of trust between leader and led is no less important between higher commanders and soldiers on the fighting line. “Don’t worry, General. We trust you,” a 3rd Armored Division Soldier told Lieutenant General Fred Franks, VII Corps Commander, on the eve of the ground attack in Operation Desert Storm.34 As General Eisenhower told his son John, the leader must be able to count on the organization doing what he directs (see chapter 3, section titled “Central Virtues,” for a discussion of Discipline).
Senior leaders trust intermediate leaders to translate their orders into meaningful instructions, which they pass on to their subordinates as their own. Soldiers count on the commander’s technical competence, on doing his or her best to buffer the troops from the storms above, and ensuring their success at what the commander orders. S.L.A. Marshall has a telling observation about the importance of junior officers as leaders: “even when things are going wrong at every other level, men will remain loyal and dutiful if they see in the one junior officer who is nearest them the embodiment of the ideals which they believe should apply throughout the service.”35
A leader builds and nurtures trust in an organization both by being trustworthy and by being trusting. Troops must be able to take the leader’s word at face value and have full confidence in his or her technical competence and moral character. The second element of trust is equally essential: troops must know that their leaders have confidence in them and take their word at face value as well. The officer who continually second-guesses the troops, or micro-manages them, will not be leading an organization distinguished by trust, and thus that officer will fail in a primary obligation. As Admiral William Crowe put it when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “You cannot run a unit just by giving orders and having the Uniform Code of Military Justice behind you.”36 Coaching, mentoring, and trusting are critical activities of the successful leader.
Leaders set and enforce standards. Military leaders are responsible for getting the most out of their subordinates, and for protecting them from unnecessary burdens, but leaders are not shop stewards. Orders are their orders, and standards are their standards. They insist on their achievement. John Baynes, a retired British officer and historian, has written:
A strictly imposed discipline is not condescending. . . . To allow a soldier to disobey orders is really to insult him. A good man, in any walk of life, knows what he can do, and what he should do. If he fails, he expects the just reward of failure. . . . A man in authority who lets his subordinates get away with poor performance implies in doing so that they and their actions are of no consequence. . . . Tolerance is not only disliked by the soldier for its implication that his efforts do not matter much, but also because it is to some extent an abnegation of duty by his superior.37
S.L.A. Marshall wrote that “the level of discipline is in large part what the officers in any unit choose to make it. . . . To state what is required is only the beginning; to require what has been stated is the positive end [emphasis in original].”38 Leaders never walk past slackness without acting to correct it. They accept responsibility for maintaining high standards and reinforce their regular attainment.
A key requirement of leadership is the obligation to create and sustain a behavioral space that encourages ethical conduct from Servicemembers acting under or within the leader’s authority. This gets back to the warning from General Mattis to Naval Academy midshipmen quoted in chapter 1 that, “you must make certain that your troops know where you are coming from and what you stand for and, more importantly, what you will not tolerate.”39 Setting boundaries of acceptability can be formal, presented as command direction, or it can be as simple as reminding members of the principles of ethical conduct and correcting subordinates for acts of laxness such as using racial epithets to refer to host nation civilians, or using false bravado to encourage aggressiveness. Soldiers learn what is acceptable very much by watching how their superiors react or don’t react to what is going on around them.
A major part of setting formal boundaries is their public enforcement. Equally important are the informal methods leaders employ to avoid violations by setting a desirable tone, especially by being aware and alert. Leaders must always be attentive to what is actually taking place in their unit by “being out there,” listening actively to junior Servicemembers, both in what they say directly when questioned and what the leader hears them say when they are talking among themselves. Sometimes comments made in humor by one member to another can reveal an ethical laxness that can grow if not corrected. Leaders must attend continually to the ethical space, or it risks being taken over by others with different standards and values. Setting proper boundaries and encouraging ethical behavior protect subordinates from the dehumanizing effects of the combat environment.
Leaders set the example. General Colin Powell said of the relationship between Soldiers and platoon leaders:
They will look to you for inspiration, for a sense of purpose. They want to follow you, not be your buddy or your equal. You are their leader. They want someone in charge who they can trust—trust with their lives. They want someone they respect, someone they can be proud of. They want to be able to brag about their lieutenant.40
Officers set the example every day by demonstrating their technical knowledge, their physical conditioning, and their professional appearance and deportment, and particularly by exhibiting a positive attitude in the face of adversity. In conditions of stress, they must maintain a calm demeanor and demonstrate self-possession if they expect the same from their troops. Soldiers will key off of the leader in times of stress. Commander Thomas Buell related a story about Admiral Spruance, whose flagship was hit by a kamikaze off Okinawa in World War II. The staff was unable to find the Admiral and searched for him around the ship. They found him manning a hose in a burning area of the ship with members of a fire control party, applying “leadership on the deck plates,” as Admiral Mullen put it.41 More recently, when the Pentagon was hit by the terrorist attack on 9/11, members of the Army staff finding their way through the dark out of the chaos and carnage remembered looking up and seeing General Jack Keane, a big man and then the Army Vice Chief of Staff and a four-star general, walking calmly into the dark corridor to see where he could help.42
Leaders are models of courage, physical and moral. Physical courage is an obvious requirement for military leaders. The leader who is seen to hesitate or lack confidence in battle loses credibility with those who depend on him. Moral courage—the courage to act under conditions of stress, to do what circumstances require and accept responsibility, to give an order and make it stick—is something less commonly addressed. There is, perhaps, no requirement for moral courage greater than sending soldiers into battle. This is true for senior commanders who send forces into harm’s way, knowing all will not return, and particularly for junior officers and enlisted leaders who live with and know the people they lead and command personally, as individuals. General Peter Pace, at the time Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned West Point cadets:
Your soldiers want to follow you. They want you to be good. They will cling to leaders who care about them. The worst thing that you can do in combat is get yourself killed. It’s also the easiest thing to do in combat. . . . As a leader you will have to decide who does what in life and death situations. And I will tell you that you will want to do it yourself. You’ll want to do it yourself because A, you know that you know how to do it; and B, it’s easier to do it yourself than to send one of your soldiers out and watch them get killed doing what you told them to do.
But you’ve got more than one soldier, and all of your soldiers are looking to you for leadership. They will do whatever you tell them to do. They do not want you to do it for them. . . . They understand the risks. But if you go do it and you get killed, you have taken away their leadership. And in thinking that you were being self-sacrificing you have really done damage to your unit.43
Notably, General Pace remembered the name of each Marine he lost as a platoon leader in the Battle of Hue in Vietnam; remembering the names of lost comrades is not an uncommon trait among combat leaders. When the decision was made not to nominate Pace for a second term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff because of congressional opposition to the policy of the administration he served, many suggested the general should resign before his term was over. He told an audience at the Joint Forces Staff College on June 15, 2007: “I said I could not do that for one very fundamental reason,” which was that no Soldier or Marine in Iraq should “think—ever—that his Chairman, whoever that person is, could have stayed in the battle and voluntarily walked off the battlefield.”44 Although it did not occur on the battlefield, Pace’s stand was modeling moral courage too, to say nothing of a professional’s sense of duty and a personal sense of proportion.
Leaders build and sustain morale. Morale is the combination of pride and collective self-esteem that binds units into organizations greater than the sum of their parts—esprit de corps, which S.L.A. Marshall calls “what the unit gives the man in terms of spiritual force translated into constructive good.”45 “Esprit,” he writes, “is the product of a thriving mutual confidence between the leader and the led, founded on the faith that together they possess a superior quality and capability.”46 Esprit reflects a collective morale, which has its foundation in the individual. Individual morale nurtures the shared determination to prevail, come what may. In his memoir of service with the Indian Army in World War II, novelist and former officer of the Indian Army John Masters quotes a speech on morale given early in the war by Field Marshall “Bill” Slim:
In the end every important battle develops to a point where there is no real control by senior commanders. Each soldier feels himself to be alone. Discipline may have got him to the place where he is, and discipline may hold him there—for a time. Co-operation with other men in the same situation can help him to move forward. Self-preservation will make him defend himself to the death, if there is no other way. But what makes him go on, alone, determined to break the will of the enemy opposite him, is morale. Pride in himself as an independent thinking man, who knows why he’s there, and what he’s doing. Absolute confidence that the best has been done for him, and that his fate is now in his own hands. The dominant feeling of the battlefield is loneliness, gentlemen, and morale, only morale, individual morale as a foundation under training and discipline will bring victory.47
S.L.A. Marshall, like Slim, was a student of morale. Before he wrote The Armed Forces Officer, he wrote Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command, which many still consider a classic study of leadership in combat.48 In his initial edition of The Armed Forces Officer, Marshall paired morale with discipline and argued that the second derived from the first. “The Moral strength of an organic unity,” Marshall wrote, “comes from the faith in [the] ranks that they are being wisely directed and from faith up top that orders will be obeyed.” Discipline he defined as “simply that course of conduct which is most likely to lead to the efficient performance of an assigned responsibility.”49 To achieve moral strength requires effective leadership:
The art of leadership, the art of command, whether the forces be large or small, is the art of dealing with humanity. Only the officer who dedicates his thought and energy to his men can convert into coherent military force their desire to be of service to their country. . . . Diligence in the care of men, administration of all organizational affairs according to a standard of resolute justice, military bearing in one’s self, and finally, an understanding of the simple facts that men in a fighting establishment wish to think of themselves in that light and that all military information is nourishing to their spirits and their lives, are the four fundamentals by which the commander builds an all sufficing morale in those within his charge.50