Leadership: The Warrior's Artby Christopher D. Kolenda
Foreword by Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, USA (Ret.) Contributors include Gen. Gordon Sullivan, former U.S. Army Chief of Staff; Conrad Crane; Fred Kagan
This bold, wide-ranging collection brings together some of the most noted military minds, past and present, to examine the crucial role of leadership in combat. Written while Christopher Kolenda was a faculty… See more details below
Foreword by Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, USA (Ret.) Contributors include Gen. Gordon Sullivan, former U.S. Army Chief of Staff; Conrad Crane; Fred Kagan
This bold, wide-ranging collection brings together some of the most noted military minds, past and present, to examine the crucial role of leadership in combat. Written while Christopher Kolenda was a faculty member in the history department at West Point, it covers both classic and modern concepts of leadership and uses case studies from Alexander the Great through World War II to illustrate principles of leadership in concrete historical contexts.
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Recommended by the
ASSOCIATION OF THE
To the Men and Women of the Armed Forces
of the United States
World-class warriors who deserve
The purpose of leadership boils down to one central reality: human organizations produce extraordinary success where they create teams capable of heroic behavior. The study of leadership has been the preoccupation of business leaders, military commanders and political elites since Plato wrote The Republic. Major Chris Kolenda has produced a broad, valuable, and comprehensive addition to the study of leadership in this superb anthology entitled Leadership: The Warrior's Art. On one level this volume is an intensely interesting and readable textbook for a college level course. On a higher level, this collection of essays defines a coherent, history-based theory of effective military leadership for both combat and the peacetime training environment.
Chris Kolenda, the editor, poses as his central thesis the notion that the best way to study leadership is from three perspectives: theory, history and the insights and experiences of others. He has organized nineteen brilliant essays under the themes. The chapters are written by experienced military professionals who have had to put their ideas through the crucible of practical experience, as well as by nationally known civilian scholars who are experts in the study of leadership. The military authors range in rankfrom full general to major. The recognized civilian scholars are highly respected and well published in their fields. These essays are intensely gripping and hard to put down. Fortunately, each chapter stands alone and can be read in a single sitting an aspect of the book that makes it attractive given the pace of military and civilian professions. The format is well suited to support personal and organizational professional development programs.
This leadership anthology presents rich intellectual fare written by authors with dramatically varied experiences and perspectives. The presentation begins with a sophisticated introduction by retired Lieutenant General Walt Ulmer, who was a model and mentor to a generation of young Army officers and West Point cadets before he went on to spend a seminal decade as President and CEO of the Center For Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina. Chris Kolenda and other chapter authors, to include the inspirational former Army Chief-of-Staff Gordon Sullivan, provide an excellent conceptual framework in the opening section.
This foundation is followed by seven fascinating historical case studies in Section II in which we gain insights from analysis of past leaders and organizations. We penetrate into the genius and the tragic hubris of Alexander, and the quirky leadership of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. We witness the devastating failures of the ill-trained and hastily selected American officer corps on the WWI battlefields of France, and then the unbelievable heroism and effectiveness of US Army WWII noncommissioned officers and company grade tactical leaders. We learn of the Wehrmacht's incredible battle performance, leadership flexibility, and ethical emptiness during years of hopeless struggle under the immoral and evil Nazi regime. We grapple with the ethical dilemma presented by General Curtis LeMay whose powerful leadership, organizational skills and technical innovations resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians with massed firebombing attacks on urban areas, but which arguably helped knock the Japanese Imperial Government out of the war and possibly saved a million US Army ground casualties. We study the brilliance of revolutionary Soviet military doctrine and concepts of initiative created by Red Army generals whom Stalin then had exterminated just prior to the Nazi attack on Russia. This historical analysis is an extraordinary set of essays that provide tremendous teaching lessons to leaders charged with the responsibility for people, resources, limited time, and demanding outcome expectations. The reader should also not miss the lengthy and carefully researched endnotes that add enormous depth and credibility to the main chapter essays.
The final section on Contemporary Experiences and Reflections On Leadership is the real payoff in this monumental work for the developing leader in the military, business or government. Here are some of the most penetrating and varied approaches to understanding leadership that I have encountered in a lifetime of personal study and experience. Chris Kolenda has crafted a superb balance beginning with the modern Army's most brilliant and broadly gauged officer, Lieutenant General Dan Christman, the current Superintendent of Cadets at West Point, who correctly argues for a broadened and more compassionate officer to handle the complexities of 21st Century leadership. The colorful and legendary Doc Bahnsen boldly tackles the question of charisma and why it remains so vital. The widely experienced and courageous Dick Potter speaks to the questions of the unique leadership requirements of command in elite Special Forces military units. Mark Hertling addresses the frequently unstated fundamental prerequisite to battlefield or team sports success: physical and mental training, toughness and stamina. Retired three-star General John Woodmansee discusses crucial concepts associated with creating high performing units organizations capable of heroic performance because leadership has unleashed human potential. Doug Lute and Robert Cone provide valuable lessons on leadership from the front, vision, character, and training. These essays are classic stuff. They are fun to read and incredibly helpful to understanding leadership.
Forty years ago at age 17, I entered West Point and began the practical study and practice of leadership. It has been a long trail of experiences, pain, the thrills of hard won success and the confidence that develops from the privilege of serving and leading Americans in war and peace. You mostly learn from your own experiences and what you observe in others. If you're fortunate, you are turned on to the study of history, and you gain perspective, maturity and judgment from vicariously living the lessons of both inspired and failed leaders in other places and times. Out of all this you cobble together a set of fundamental leadership convictions, principles and techniques that can embrace the challenges of new environments, changed missions, dynamic crisis situations and slowly evolving American social mores. At the end of the day, you treasure leaders with technical expertise and competence. You recognize that all soldiers and organizations are capable of greatness if their leadership creates an expectation of mutual respect and trust. And finally you understand that leaders must have a coherent vision, form a simple and sound plan, and then lead to the objective.
These intriguing nineteen essays on leadership pulled together by Major Chris Kolenda, US Army, are an enormous contribution to understanding how organizations can produce extraordinary success by building teams capable of heroic behavior. This book is also an intellectual challenge that will pay off with enhanced organizational behavior when leaders apply the ideas, lessons, and insights contained herein. The authors have given us an extraordinary piece of analysis.
Barry R McCaffrey
General, USA (Ret)
The purpose of this volume is to enhance the education of leaders. Education, according to Plato, is not the practice of putting sight into blind eyes; it is the art of turning the soul from the shadows of ignorance toward the light of truth. While the value of this book is not nearly so weighty, Plato's theory of education offers an important insight on the study of leadership. Too often aspiring leaders turn to quickfix formulas as easy solutions to complex leadership problems. The idea is an attractive one provide a set of charts and rules tailored to general situations for the leader to put into a "kit-bag" and pull out when the situation arises. Attractive, but entirely wrongheaded. An equally attractive and troubling idea is to provide a list of hidden, mystical leadership secrets and aphorisms that leaders can place on calendars, placard on walls, and quote ad nauseum in the hope that such feel-good phrases will eventually sink in and make all problems go away. If only it were that easy.
Unfortunately, leadership does not conform snugly into diagrams, models, and flow charts. Similarly, leadership does not fit neatly into the straitjacket of a single personal experience, theory, or historical study. The education of a leader requires a broader perspective.
Experience is the great teacher of leadership, but even the most privileged crowd but a relative few experiences into a lifetime. Personal experience, however, is also the school of hard knocks. The limit of our own experiences and powers of perception suggest that even this school is incomplete. Valuable to be sure, but as Otto von Bismarck once commented: any fool can profit from his own mistakes the wise man profits from those of others. Experience is valuable only if it is imbued with meaning from which one can draw salient conclusions. Otherwise, experience becomes imprisoning.
Intellectual development is the key that opens the door to meaning. The education of a leader must move beyond personal experience and draw on the boundless experience and insights of others. These opportunities for education lie in the pages of history, philosophy, theory, and the reflections of past and contemporary leaders. Personal experience, therefore, must be augmented by the records of others and synthesized by the insights of history, philosophy, and theory. Such an approach broadens one's mind and the richness of one's perspective, and leads ultimately to a much greater understanding of leadership.
Developing the vibrant intellectual core from which a leader can draw insight into the art of leadership requires the courage and humility to immerse oneself in the ideas and experiences of others. Such an approach differs significantly from the intellectual comfort of the notion that leadership is only a process to be mastered rather than an art to be developed. Process, to be sure, is vitally important to the art of leadership and there is much discussion of process in these pages. But process cannot stand alone. As with any art, leadership has processes that provide certain guidelines, fundamental skills, and principles or rules that make it intelligible as a concept. Writing a good essay, for instance, contains several elements of process: rules and formats regarding argumentative structure, paragraph and sentence construction, grammar, punctuation, and spelling, and the reporting of evidence. Unfortunately, even with the most meticulous attention to the details of the format, an essay bereft of insight, analysis, and spirit remains a poor one. No refinement of the process can make the essay worth reading. On the other hand, a person unable to communicate complex insights in a coherent manner following the fundamental rules of the writing process will ensure his ideas are lost to the reader. In either case the result is a bad essay.
Process without art is empty and lifeless. Art without process is unintelligible. The one is form without substance; the other is substance without form. The pursuit of one to the exclusion of the other is incomprehensible. Art is the catalyst that brings animation, purpose, and spirit to process; process offers form to art, lending structure that enhances meaning to the beholder. Leadership is no more confined to process than writing is to format. Leadership is an art that is made comprehensible by process.
The shelves are filled with books about improving the process of leadership; discussions of how to hone its art are few. Checklists and processes do not challenge our ability to think, they do not force us to defend our ideas or look new ones in the face. They demand no depth. Defining leadership as an art rather than as a process does not mean that leadership cannot be taught. It merely means that gaining a greater understanding of leadership requires intellectual courage. Just as we develop physical courage by experiencing and functioning under physical fear and moral courage by making the choice of right amidst the pressure to do otherwise, so we develop intellectual courage through the discomfort and ambiguity of experiencing ideas that challenge our depth and perspective. Leaders develop intellectual courage by continuously sharpening the saber through education, and in doing so they hone within themselves the art of leadership.
This book is designed to be part of such an education. It does not propose anything particularly new or flashy. These are not ready-made solutions to complex problems. This book explores arguments about leadership, as well as its experiences; it cuts across temporal lines as well as those of genre and levels of organization. It seeks not to be the pinnacle of the leader's education, but rather a complement to an existing program of development or the beginning of a new one. Its goal is to generate reflection, stimulate curiosity, provoke thought, and inspire passion for further study.
The increasingly impenetrable prose in the leadership literature over the past few years stems in part from confusion over exactly what leadership is. Pick up nearly any leadership book and you will find many descriptions of leadership behaviors, many theories on process, and a plethora of adjectives (visionary, transformational, transactional, charismatic). Rarely will you find a precise definition of leadership.
Many scholars assume that leadership is ultimately a process to influence people to do something that they would not ordinarily do to accomplish organizational objectives. This concept hinges on the notion of influence. If by influence we mean "to get someone to do what we want them to do," then we are left with the very significant problem of legitimizing coercion as an appropriate method of leadership. Since such a coupling is unacceptable, scholars have had to invent modifiers to clarify the difference between good and bad leadership. "Transactional" leadership, for instance, is coercive because it relies upon simple reward and punishment for influence, while "transformational" leadership relies on such things as charisma, inspiration, intellectual stimulation, and/or individual consideration. With the good and the bad forms carefully separated, scholars now argue about the specific behaviors, traits, and processes that make up the good forms, and then use complex statistical analyses to support their theories.
While the contributions of such scholarship to behavioral science and to many aspects of leadership are critically important, I am reminded of Tolstoy's poignant statement that "there is no greatness where simplicity, goodness, and truth are absent." To recover some clarity in the study of leadership we need to begin with a sound definition. Leadership is the art of inspiring the spirit and the act of following. The following must be voluntary. The individual and the group of individuals must want to be guided by that person for the latter to be called a leader. Certainly leaders use rewards and punishments when appropriate; some are charismatic in the Weberian sense, some are not. Some stretch others intellectually, some inspire devotion by their simplicity and genuineness. Some possess an expertise far greater than that of their followers, some are merely competent. Some devise unconventional solutions to problems, others implement conventional solutions with sound plans. That the list can go on forever perhaps suggests the limits of the behavioralist approach to leadership.
A more comprehensive approach exists in the realm of ideas. Leadership is about trust trust in the leader's vision, trust in the leader's competence and character, trust in the leader's respect and care for those under his or her charge. Every effective bond between people has trust as its bedrock. Every failed relationship is ultimately an actual or perceived breach of that trust. Leadership is so difficult because earning that actual and perceived trust is so challenging. Successful leaders earn the trust of others, and in doing so inspire that voluntary spirit and act of following.
Good leaders have an understanding of the human condition. While a number of recent studies have sought to explore the specific behaviors of leaders to which people respond most favorably and thereby gain insight into the motivations of followers, I believe that Thucydides, the fifth century B.C. Greek historian, provided a more profound insight into human motivation. Thucydides tells us that prior to the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War an Athenian citizen informed the Spartan assembly that Athens was animated by three of the strongest motives fear, interest, and honor. Among other things this is a statement on the enduring motivations of humanity. Fear and interest are understandably compelling; the idea of honor is less clear. Honor can be expressed in terms of reputation, respect, prestige, fame, pride, and esteem. When the ideas of fear, interest, and honor intersect people become exceptionally motivated. Fear of punishment produces only so much effort as to alleviate the threat of punishment. Monetary or other material interest engenders only enough effort to achieve the reward. When the ideas of honor become involved people are motivated to exceed expectations they go "above and beyond the call of duty." Upholding moral and ethical values, maintaining standards of excellence, developing, fostering, and sustaining personal and collective pride, these all represent interests and fears that go beyond the merely physical. The most effective leaders are able to motivate people to operate above the material plane. They do so not by appealing to fear and interest alone (the "transactional" approach), but by appealing to ideas more lasting, more meaningful, and ultimately more human. Such leaders can inspire exceptional performance because they understand both human nature and human motivation. You will find the ideas of fear, interest, and honor offer an interesting sub-text to the chapters in this volume.
Leadership is indeed the warrior's art. And like leadership, the definition of "warrior" has also become obscured. The term is contested in contemporary discourse. Those who believe the military is suffering through a sort of "moral crisis" and loss of martial spirit lament that the hard edge of the fierce and courageous warrior has been blunted by the forces of political correctness. They point to the numerous "chain-teaching" mandates about sexual harassment, equal opportunity, homosexual policies, and consideration of others, as well as declining readiness rates, inadequate performance at combat training centers, and the discussion of women in the combat arms as evidence of such softening. They argue that America's military must recapture the warrior spirit.
On the opposite side of the argument are those who believe the notion of "warrior" to be inherently savage and antithetical to a military befitting 21st Century America. They see the celebration of a warrior ethos in terms of unbridled, bloodthirsty machismo, and the perpetuation of such ethos as responsible for sexual harassment, racism, hostility to and violence against homosexuals, domestic violence, etc. In combat or on peacekeeping missions, they argue, the ethos will result in war crimes and violence against civilian populations.
Each side points to the other as part of the problem. The first group regards the second as misguided social engineers with little to no military experience who have placed the readiness of the military at risk. The time spent on hours of human relations training will have severe consequences on the battlefield, they claim, resulting in needless casualties and the potential jeopardy of American interests and security. A "soft" military, the argument goes, cannot measure up to the ferocious "barbarians" of the world. The second regards the first as angry critics at odds with society and contemporary reality. The military cannot protect society if it is divorced from its values. As the military is called increasingly to humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, consideration and gentleness are more desirable than ferocity and martial ardor. If the military cannot protect its own soldiers and families from violence within the ranks, how can it possibly protect our own society and others?
What is really at stake here is more than the definition of the warrior it is the identity of the military both in the eyes of itself and society. Recovering the true idea of the American warrior is thus part of the answer to the question of identity. Plato, perhaps, put it most simply and most eloquently when he spoke of the "guardian" in the Republic. The guardian, he argued, must be fierce toward the republic's enemies and gentle toward its friends. The guardian must at the same time be gentle and spirited. The true guardian, he claimed, is philosophic, spirited, swift, and strong. The simplicity and wisdom of Plato encapsulates the idea of the American warrior. One who possesses the highest ethics and morals, who is kind, respectful, and caring toward society, comrades in arms, and non-combatants, and yet fully trained and ready to fight and win against any enemy who threatens our interests, our Constitution, and our way of life represents the American warrior.
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