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Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits in the U.S. Military Officer Corps

Commander Chip Laingen, United States Navy (Ret) 1 2010 - 2011Executive Leadership Fellow Center for Integrative Leadership, University of Minnesota March 21, 2011

2011 Chip Laingen

Laingen is the Communications and Research & Development Director for Minnesota Wire and Executive Director of the Defense Alliance . Commander Laingen is a 21-year veteran of the United States Navy. He was the special assistant and speechwriter to the Secretary of the Navy during the tenures of the 70th and 71st Secretaries. A graduate of the University of Minnesota NROTC program, he earned a B.A. in International Relations and an M.A. in Public Affairs from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.
*Papers that are part of the Exploring Integrative Leadership Series can be accessed online at

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

Introduction Leadership is Influence. That simple declarative sentence is presented at the beginning of an intensive two-week course of study on leadership at the U.S. Naval War College. The attendees are senior officers who are about to embark on tours to command ships, squadrons and shore stations. And the use of that one wordinfluencesparks the beginnings of debates they will have about the most effective leadership traits and styles for their profession. They have all discovered, after an average of 18 years in the military service, that while their organizations culture of discipline certainly facilitates achievement, truly successful units are the ones whose leaders can work across boundaries, inside and outside of their units, to influence rather than to order desired outcomes. The men and women who are members of the U.S. military officer corps exhibit highly integrative leadership traits, particularly after many years of service. The cultural environment, training, and operational and administrative dynamics they face all contribute to this reality. This paper will explore these dynamics for the purpose of adding applied leadership lessons and potentially applicable behavioral and thought processes to

Military professionals do not have a monopoly on integrative leadership traits, but the leadership challenges presented in the military present a rich opportunity to learn from individuals who have been immersed in those challenges.

the various fields of study associated with integrative leadership. The leadership dynamics of military officers will be presented in the context of four broad categories: integrative thinking and behavior; leading and serving teams; the military culture; and expectations from outside the military service. The intention herein is not to suggest that military professionals have a monopoly on any aspect of integrative leadership traits; nor to suggest that other disciplines must employ military leadership principles in order to be successful. Rather, the integrative leadership challenges within the military present a rich and unique opportunity to identify and study individuals who have been immersed in those challenges. This may help inform and expand upon the models and practice of integrative leadership being developed and employed as the discipline is further studied. I. The integrative thinking and behavior of military officers Military officers are often described as jacks of all trades and masters of none. This is true even among those officers trained in highly technical fields, or with specialized skills, such as nuclear propulsion or pilot training. They are systematically moved from one unit

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

to another including from coast-tocoast, and overseas, regularly exposed to newly-embraced management theories and shifting administrative systems, and are expected to handle challenges, both physical and intellectual, sometimes well outside that for which they may have received formal training. This leads to an often frenetic, but ultimately integrative outlook with regard to leadership challenges. The following dynamics will attempt to illustrate this phenomenon. Dynamic 1: Systems-level and distributive1 thought processes are highly developed among U.S. military officers due to the complex and interrelated nature of equipment, mission realities, and high stakes outcomes from the threat and actual use of force. In a Seahawk helicopter off the coast of Somalia in the darkness of an early morning, a Navy flight crew is tracking a small speedboat that has been identified as hostile due to its recent and rapid departure from an ocean-going supertanker being held by pirates. The aircraft commander is Lieutenant Menendez, who is beginning a mental checklist of items that involves a myriad of

In the military context, distributive refers to inter-connected units that are part of the same network of available assets for a commander on scene.

realities and various levels of thought, including: Two sets of rules of engagement, written by both the flight crews own Navy and by the multi-national naval force on station, designed to address the many possible scenarios for interaction with the suspect vessel and its crew International Law of the Sea statutes and precedents such as proximity to territorial waters, demonstrated actions of the suspect vessel both prior to and during the current event, and the right to challenge the hostile vessels movements Two sets of standard operating procedures (SOP) promulgated by the aircrafts host ship and parent squadron, and their applicability (or not) to the current situation The current mission status of the aircraft (fuel state, weapons readiness, weather and ambient light conditions, crew fatigue, and additional mission demands) The locations and capabilities of the host ship as well as other friendly assets, and their awareness of and readiness for the situation. The aircraft and its host ships interconnected electronic system can work together in a distributive wayusing a network system that is able to communicate with and ultimately control other sensors, vehicles and weapons in the same network,

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

thereby requiring a mature thought process by Lieutenant Menendez that is equal to the powerful potential outcomes this represents A need to attain mutually shared outcomes of the multi-national naval force on station that represent not only the military realities of the use of force, but also the effects on regional and global perceptions of the use of force; and the domestic public relations and political outcomes expected in each of the forces home nations. Lieutenant Menendez will likely demonstrate on-scene leadership that integrates many of these complex realities as she communicates with her crew, her ship and the multi-national chain of command. If that leadership is successful (i.e. truly integrative), her resulting actions will help lead to outcomes that are not just confined to resolving the immediate issue at hand, but will also be beneficial toward advancing challenging goals held by many of the actors involved, such as maintaining the openness and safety of the sea lanes of communication, a return to regional political stability, and ensuring the use of force is rationed and scaled to maintain positive international public opinion for its use. This dynamic of military leadership, a systems level and distributive thought process, is

not part of rote military regulations or discipline, but is instead cultivated within individuals over time. Officers in particular are often put in charge of (or operate, as the pilot in the example above) expensive, highly complex and technical equipment; yet many of these officers have liberal arts rather than technical or engineering backgrounds. While they are expected to demonstrate technical knowledge of the equipment, they are not expected to demonstrate the ability to repair it. That responsibility is assigned to the enlisted ratings. Rather, the officer must have an appreciation for the interrelated nature of the equipments various systemsand for how it degrades or improves other units to which it is often connected electronically. And, most importantly, this depth of knowledge and range of thought is valued for its ability to evoke informed decision making related to the entire network in which the officer and the team is operating when a failure occursnot just to find ways to bring the equipment or a suitable alternate on line, but to systematically analyze and react to the effect on outcomes should the failure continue to persist. This type of systems-level thought produces, over time, the ability to consider and analyze the way multiple elements are linked

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

There is less emphasis on specialization within the military officer corps than say, within the medical profession, where increased specialization occurs over time. Military officers must demonstrate a broad understanding of how leadership influences entire systems and the relationship between systems.

not just equipment, but thoughts and opinions, processes, decisions, administrative and operational systems, potentially conflicting rules of engagement or standard operating procedures among allied units, even differing foreign policies. A senior officer, for instance, engaged in something as complex as an international treaty negotiation, has the advantage of career-long reinforcement of systems-level thinking and the outcomes that are possible under a myriad of scenarios. Also informing the systems-level thought processes of military officers are a host of developed and employed skills that go well beyond traditional military onesincluding diplomacy and negotiation, recruiting, administration, and training and education. While officers have often been justifiably described as jacks of all trades, and masters of none, it is also true that the diversity of situations in which systems-level thought is developed is a continually self-reinforcing dynamic that produces an individual who can sometimes bring masterful integrative thought to a wide variety of challenges. They can often do so with the maturity and patience that comes with exposure to previous complexity and risk, and have witnessed both good and bad outcomes in a variety of situations.

Other non-military professional disciplines, of course, require systems-level thinking to influence effective leadership behaviors and positive outcomes for cross-sector challenges. Yet there is arguably much less emphasis on specialization among the military officer corps (particularly with increased seniority) than say, within the medical profession, where increased specialization frequently occurs over time. And, because in a sense leadership is the principal skill required of a military leader, secondary to his chosen technical specialty, the organization emphasizes a broader understanding of how leadership influences systems and their interrelatedness whether those systems be within a ship, units within a battle group, or even the differing cultures among competing tribes in a war zone where nation-building is the principal mission. Dynamic 2: The U.S. military officer corps transfers its leaders often, and to positions that are sometimes radically different in scope and responsibility than previous ones, exposing them to new cultures (both organizational and international) and diverse stakeholders, requiring wholly new skills and approaches to often complex challenges.

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

U.S. military officers are highly nomadic in their careers, both geographically and in terms of the shifting scope and type of responsibilities they are given with each re-location. On average, officers are transferred every twoand-a-half years, and more often than not their new positions involve duties that little resemble those of their last posting. But while their individual tours are generally non-

sequiturs on their face, the exposure to a diversity of challenges, interpersonal relationships, cultures and organizations is cumulative towards development of integrative leadership skills. Perhaps the strongest impact this career lifestyle has on an officer is the sense of urgency it instills. He or she is already immersed in a culture that is often all about speed. Technology advances have meant

In a small office in Crystal City, Virginia, adjacent to the Pentagon, Lieutenant Colonel Jackson, U.S. Army, is reviewing classified communications from the U.S. military attach to Ukraine. His boss, the civilian and politically-appointed Secretary of the Army, is headed to Ukraine in one week. As the Secretarys speechwriter, Colonel Jackson has been tasked with crafting an address to the Ukraine defense ministrys senior officer leadership school. In the speech, the Secretary will lay the groundwork for two new, key messages, on behalf of the Secretary of Defenseforward basing of U.S. aircraft and potential Ukraine membership in NATO. Colonel Jackson is an artillery officer by trade; finding the right words, and tone for this critical U.S. policy speech will be informed by his highly diverse career up to this point, that included the following assignments: Six months at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, learning the Russian language Two years at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, in the Ph.D. program, where he wrote his thesis on the need for expanded European financial and military contributions to collective global security issues Two-and-a-half years as an officer instructor at a civilian land-grant university, where he also, on his own time (but financed in part by the Army) received his masters degree in English, with a minor in rhetoric Three years as an artillery unit commander in Seoul, South Korea which included duties as Community Outreach Officer for the regional multi-national army presence.

Lieutenant Colonel Jacksons real challenge is not writing the speech itself, but rather to understand the different relational frames by which each partner, the U.S. and Ukraine, view their nascent politicalmilitary relationship. Those frames have complex histories and diverse individual and organizational players, and inform desired outcomes that are different for each partner. His own ability to perceive those dynamics will help to produce a set of messages that signal U.S. understanding of Ukraines interests, and thereby strengthen the message of mutual self-interest in the basing of U.S. assets. Colonel Jacksons career has included tours that are clearly related to the challenge at hand. The one that comes to mind for him as he starts to outline the speech is the one in Korea. As a Community Outreach Officer, he learned that policymakers were just as concerned about the cultural impacts of a foreign military presence as they were with the regional political perceptions among the countrys 5 neighbors. As a result, his speech will include language that attempts to preempt such potential concerns, thereby laying the groundwork for a collaborative decision making structure.

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

the time in which actual military action takes place is compressed, along with its requisite decisionmaking. And even outside of actual conflict, an officers career progression tends to be rewarded by the aggressive pursuit of readiness standards and goals. Add to that, then, the knowledge that the day the officer checks aboard his new unit, he may be beginning his transfer preparations as soon as 12 to 18 months later, and the desire to make an impact on his unit is accentuated. In this milieu, when faced with issues that require cross-sector leadership, officers quickly learn that there is an initial urgency required not only in decision making, but in learning about the men and women who report directly to him; about those he can only hope to influence well outside of his chain of command; and about the cultural, administrative and operative environment in which he will be leading. This is certainly the case with the example above, as Lieutenant Colonel Jackson attempts to quickly assess the perception frame of his audience in the Ukraine. Coupled with urgency, officers witness another element of their nomadic existence: while military discipline and the shared culture of mission accomplishment allows for orders to be given and carried out fairly readily, individuals within

units know that their officers come and go routinely. An officer has the realization if he desires to make an impact through changeand change is resisted in any organization regardless of the level of disciplinehis charges can likely wait him out and resist change, knowing he will transfer fairly quickly. Effective leadership will therefore come more readily by developing trust, and implementing change by working across any boundaries that may exist. This requires more indirect leadership (influence, essentially) that initially and most fundamentally requires a rich understanding of those with whom the officer is working, even given the shared values and mission-focused mindset of those he is leading. What were the positive and negative management and leadership traits of the officer who came before him? What successes or failures of the unit or individuals within it might have impact on how his own leadership style will be effective? What are the highly individual family and other life stressors faced by his personnel? These realities taken together an urgency to perform at a high level and a desire to deeply assess those within an officers sphere of influencecan be beneficial for challenges that require integrative leadership. If there is a need to exert leadership skills outside of his

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

own unit, as in the example of being an effective community outreach officer in a foreign country, an officer faces the added hurdles of cultural, language and even geopolitical differences. Most officers will interact with such diverse actors during their careers, in cooperative and non-cooperative settings, including foreign military and diplomatic officers, personnel from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and a wide spectrum of people when they are involved in peace-keeping and nation-building activities. Acting in these contexts, where he has no real authority over those with whom he is interacting, an officers leadership is purely based on influence. Here, the need to fully examine the complexity of literally foreign perceptions becomes paramount to success. As an officer matures, his ability to bring previous lessons to bear with an outsiders perspective becomes a force multiplier (to use a military term) for addressing cross-sectoral challenges. He has likely already had experiences with other cultures, languages, and with similar problems in other locations. And his sense of urgency to act becomes tempered by a desire to perceive, to frame and to influence as a precursor to action.

As an institution, the U.S. military is heavily invested in teamwork. Men and women are, of course, highly trained on individual skills, trades and equipment, and the military values the ability of the individual to demonstrate initiative to strengthen the chain of command, should it become severed in a combat situation; hence the Armys slogan a few years back: An Army of One. While that is true, the principal reason that slogan was quickly and quietly retired is that in the military culture, the team trumps all. The power of one is nowhere near the power of many, particularly when teamwork among the many is well orchestrated. This fundamental precept of teamwork provides important dynamics to the concept of integrative leadership for military officers, including the significant diversity of the military, an emphasis on servant leadership, and recognition that the team is often involved in high stakes outcomes. Dynamic 1: The U.S. military is a highly diverse workforce that embraces inclusiveness thanks to a management system that is arguably the most merit-based in society, team-oriented and provides significant responsibilities to individuals. The Commander-in-Chief sits in II. Military officers and the teams the large wingback chair in his they lead and serve private office in the second floor

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

living quarters of the White House. His steady but tentative hand hovers over the pad of paper in his lap as he contemplates the momentous order he is about to pen in his own words, well aware of the farreaching effects it will have on men and women in uniform, and for the society whose freedoms they protect. He begins to write: "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin (Executive Order 9981,

1948) It is late at night, July 25, 1948. The next morning, President Harry S. Truman signs Executive Order 9981, ending segregation in the U.S. military and also establishes the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and opportunity in the Armed Services. The military is a bureaucratic and conservative organization, highly resistant to change; and this particular change and others like it mandated by presidential authority were neither easy nor automatic even after a presidential directive. Full acceptance and implementation

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

of Trumans order took years to realize in practice following the order. Integration of gays in the military did not occur until 2011 (with a bill signed into law by President Obama), though the Dont Ask Dont Tell (DADT) policy had been in place for nearly a generation prior to that and provided a transition period. Women are only in the past several years entering into the most senior ranks in any numbers, with the combat exclusion for women still in place for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, the military has arguably led American society as an institution that has come to epitomize equal treatment, inclusiveness and opportunity based on performance. For the vast majority of those in the U.S. military, the very nature of the rank structure and its strictly controlled advancement system laid out in Title 10 of the U.S. Code provides an inherent and instant legitimacy for anyone in uniform. And the exemplary history of fair application of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) reinforces a similar sense of justice within the military structure. These realities have established a level playing field on which inclusiveness is more of an accepted norm than exists among the public it serves. In this environment, there is a tendency for those leading a team, and those

within the team itself, to more readily look to others for the individual, unique strengths that each can bring to a challenge; and less of a tendency to negatively perceive others by a label that in their often high stakes environment appears relatively meaningless such as race, gender or sexual orientation. Apart from the diversity of the U.S. military itself, many officers also find themselves working with foreign military units in joint exercises, on combined staffs, or through exchange programs. Military units are increasingly involved in peace-keeping and nation-building operations. This further expands an officers exposure to diverse opinions, administrative systems and cultural backgrounds, providing a still richer perspective for his approach to difficult problems. These realities tend to reinforce a highly inclusive atmosphere in which a leader can look to his team for advice and counsel as he faces a challenging issue and even look upon others across boundaries as having legitimacy that allows for a starting point when negotiation is necessary. He can more objectively perceive, appreciate and empower individual team members for what their diversity can positively provide, rather than for what it can inhibit. Because the U.S. military is

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

Military officers are asked to lead those willing to fight and potentially die for their fellow warriors, unit, or country. Servant leaders in the military have a moral obligation to serve these men and women; know them, care about them, reward them, and provide them the tools they need to feel valued and capable.

an extremely diverse organization, a leader can access, when necessary, a lot of skill and perspective from the toolbox of people even within his own unit. Over time, this further means that leaders will increasingly recognize the power of integrative leadership, and more readily seek out diverse thought and opinion as they realize the inherent power of this approach. Dynamic 2: Servant leadership is a prevalent value in the U.S. military due to the risk and sacrifice asked of those being led, that leads to mutual trust up and down the chain of command, and empowerment of, and knowledge and responsibility transfer to subordinates. The concept of servant leadership was originally codified by Robert Greenleaf in his 1970 essay titled The Servant as

Leader. Its central premise is that truly effective leaders demonstrate a high level of care and concern for those who work for and with them. In the U.S. military, servant leadership is discussed in officer training with an even higher level of intensity: if those we lead are willing to fight and potentially die for their fellow warrior, unit and country, then a leader has a moral obligation to serve them; know them, care about them, reward them, and provide them the tools they need to feel valued and effectively do their jobsand to do so at a level worthy of the degree of sacrifice being asked. Military officers who most readily embody servant leadership tend to have clear and open lines of communication with their subordinates, and thus have thorough and intimate knowledge of

Theodore Roosevelt, leading the Rough Riders in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, demonstrated a care and concern for his troops that illustrates the level of servant leadership prevalent among U.S. military officers, described here from Nathan Millers 2009 biography of Roosevelt: Rumors of a stockpile of supplies on the beach reached Roosevelt, who took a detail of thirty or forty men with pack mules to see if they could obtain some for the regiment. They scrounged around and found some sacks containing about eleven hundred pounds of beans, but a commissary officer refused to let them have them. Producing a well-thumbed book of regulations, he pointed to a subsection stating that beans were to be issued only to an officers mess. Roosevelt went away and as he later related, studied on it and came back with a request for eleven hundred pounds of beans for the officers mess. Why, Colonel, your officers cant eat eleven hundred pounds of beans, the officers protested. You dont know what appetites my officers have, replied Roosevelt as he ordered the sacks to be loaded upon the mules. The military bureaucrat insisted that a requisition would have to be sent off to Washington. Roosevelt responded that he didnt care as long as he could take the beans back to his regiment. As he signed the 10 requisition amid warnings that the cost would probably be deducted from his pay, the sacks were loaded on the mules. Oh, what a feast we had, and how we enjoyed it, Roosevelt told his family. (p.298)

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

them. They know their strengths and weaknesses, what they need to be most effective, and what external forces are affecting them, and how. This in turn strengthens their knowledge of the diversity inherent in the unit, and builds a further appreciation for that diversity as a resource. Risk is also an important element of servant leadership in several ways. Most importantly, as described, in the military context there is requisite appreciation for the often great risks taken in support of the units mission or values. But there is also risk for a leader who asks his subordinate men and women to fully open up to them, as it leads to expectations that are sometimes difficult to fulfill. While empathy can be appreciated in and of itself (it is therapeutic for many to just have someone listen to them), having unrealistic needs unmet can lead to frustration. And the chain of command, in the end, is paramount. Thus, servant leadership that is not balanced with well-communicated boundaries of authority can lead to challenges to authority at inopportune moments, as when combat mission requirements call for blind and instant obedience to orders. On balance, an understanding of servant leadership can enhance the ability for a person to exhibit integrative leadership. Because it

enhances the two-way communications, trust and mutual risk-taking within a unit, there is a resultant increase in the degree and effectiveness of teamworkand therefore a desire to use all of the skills resident in that team to solve the most difficult challenges that arise. And there can be an acceptance of the precepts of servant leadership even outside ones own normal sphere of influence. Its embrace can encourage an appreciation for others work and sacrifice that may be dedicated to goals or even values other than ones own. This can be especially the case if one has a mutual, professionally-driven respect for the others profession that may have a very similar code but is subsumed in a wholly different culture. Thus a military officer, used to finding shared values on a more human level, may have a greater tendency to look for common ground when working with those he is trying to influence crosssectorally. Dynamic 3: Military officers have an innate sense of the need to immediately trust those with whom one is working thanks to a team orientation on problem solving, and a belief that the stakes are generally high because of the potential outcomes of the decisions being made.


Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

At a Forward Operating Base in the Afghan desert, First Lieutenant Willis Grant is sending a call-forfire request against a hostile enemy location that he has not actually seen himself. Lieutenant Grant made the decision to do so after receiving several pieces of data and permission from the following sources: Civilian Human intelligence information from an Afghan citizen who just hours ago was at the target location Special Forces from a unit other than his own who are close to the scene data sent by secure satellite transmissions detailing the enemy threat A remote spotter from another military service who is at a nearby location specific map grid coordinates to make up for the failure to receive GPS targeting data An on-scene commander from another nation within the combined allied force who has tactical mission authority permission to engage the target In order to get his job done the Lieutenant has had to use his trust, instinct and training, in very short order, to: gather information from a local civilian national and two remote individuals from other units; receive permission from the command post of an army from an allied nation; and send his coded

summation to an airborne command post that will further relay the information to an unmanned, armed drone. Lieutenant Grant has complete trust in this disparate team that the attack will lead to the right outcome. The team that is operating successfully together in the example above is a complex multi-national one. Despite the fact that most of the team members are military (with the exception of the Afghan civilian informant), they are from various units, different services and several nations, all of which have unique cultures of their own. Yet the team is a cohesive one for three interrelated reasons. First, the bond of military hierarchy is common which effectively instills trust by rote and discipline; second, these disparate players have worked together before (and in fact exercise continuously together), testing individual and organizational reactions to crises, working through differing perceptions of threats and breaking down barriers that may have existed from pre-conceived notions. The latter is an important element for integrative leadership, according to Barbara Crosby and John Bryson (2009) of the Humphrey Institute: Cross-sector collaborations are more likely to succeed if leaders make sure that trust building activities (including nurturing

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

cross-sector understanding) are continuous (p.211-230). And third, the stakes regarding the array of potential outcomes of their individual and collective actions are generally highboth in terms of their own immediate, personal security, and for the longer term outcomes of their mission, including the ultimate goal of an end to conflict. This analysis is intuitive in the sense that it describes a building of trust among team members who are engaged in the same mission against a common opponent. But it may be, too, that the relatively high level of diversity of many military teams, as in this example, has an impact on an individual officers ability to trust others outside their normal circle to a degree higher than among other professions; or at least allows them to be more open to gaining trust from diverse sources. And while the ability to gain trust may require a higher initial threshold of acceptance given the stakes and often short time frames involved, once established that trust tends to

be consistent and fiercely held. Both elements can certainly be useful in a situation that requires effective integrative leadership. III. The military as a unique cultural milieu that fosters integrative leadership traits The U.S. military is undeniably a multi-cultural cauldron, reflective of the nation. While the diversity of its individual members is capitalized upon by the best of its leaders (as described in a previous section), there exists a unique, shared culture that supersedes the individual and is valued for its simplicity and its connection to a sense of duty. That reality requires a unique balance from leaders who can appreciate the inherent value of diverse thought and deliberation; yet who can also bring that diversity to bear for a common purpose, often do so decisively, in a fast-paced environment and under great stress. Dynamic 1: There exists a well defined, shared sense of purpose and set of core values that underpin the culture of the military. Within each of the military services there exists a set of unquestioned values that service members learn, live and abide by each and every day. They are few in number, and simply stated as in the manner above; yet there are whole classes and exercises

Honor, Courage, Commitment (Core Values of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps) Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence In All We do (Core Values of the U.S. Air Force) Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage (Core Values of the U.S. Army)

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

dedicated to reinforcing each value, from boot camp damage control scenarios for enlisted personnel that illustrate a specific value, to formal seminars at command leadership school for officers. These are deeply ingrained and methodically reinforced throughout a service members career. This dynamic introduces a challenge for an officer: first, he must constantly work to create an environment that champions and rewards individual thought and action. Effectively doing so will reinforce the need for initiative even among the most junior individuals, particularly during the stress and unpredictability of combat situationsa well-known and much emulated hallmark exhibited by U.S. military units. Second, he must simultaneously foster a shared sense of mission and purpose that includes strict adherence to a common set of values, and an unquestioning obedience when situations call for decisive action. This balance of individual action and unit cohesiveness, when achieved, ultimately reinforces an officers ability to analyze diverse thought and look for ways to find common purpose, and therefore his ability to exercise integrative leadership. It also leads to a heightened confidence that diverse thought is not a barrier, but a dynamic to be understood and tapped into. Taking

this analysis to its extreme, an integrative military leader can also examine an enemys core values (or potential enemy), likely to be dramatically different than his own, as a center of gravity that can be exploited and attacked if the need arises. Strange (1996) notes that the U.S. Marine Corps, based on the writings of Sun Tzu and Von Clausewitz, defines an enemys center of gravity as primary sources of moral or physical strength, power and resistance (pp. 93-96). Another important element of the military leader who understands the power of shared values and common mission is effective communication on a level that taps into their power, rather than just assumes their existence and acceptance. Aristotle intimated that the influential leader does so by appealing to the character of those being led in three fundamental and interrelated ways: an appeal to character (ethos); an appeal to reason (logos); and an appeal to emotion (pathos) (Shay, 2000). This appeal to character is powerful, in that a search for shared core valuesor even human values for those well outside ones normal sphere of influencecan be tremendously beneficial for building effective cross-sector leadership. Dynamic 2: The military maintains a relatively constant,

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

People First Mission Always. (U.S. Navy slogan) Semper Paratus (Always Ready. Credo of the U.S. Coast Guard) Come on you bastardsdo you want to live forever? (Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daley, U.S. Marine Corps)

fast-paced tempo of operations and training even during peacetime. This results in a culture wherein officers are predisposed to regard most situations with urgency, and with the need for extensive contingency planning. Central to the unique culture of the military is a predisposition among its members to remain on the move, at the ready at all times, putting the mission first, before all other things. Hence the tradition of maintaining the watch, even during circumstances when there is little if any call to do so, other than to reinforce the tradition of individual and unit vigilance. And officers tend to be highly engaged not only with the issues they face, but also with the issues they could be faced with. Readiness for any situation is paramount, particularly given the speed at which circumstances can go from monotonous to life-threatening. As a result, contingency planning is not simply something done at a high level with regard to grand strategy for potential conflicts; it is also a constant for military leaders for the most mundane of topics. Asking what if is a recurring mantra in an officers head: What if my engine fails here? What if the Congressional committee before which I am testifying asks me if I have coordinated with other

agencies? What if this civilian Afghan informant is not trustworthy? What if my deployment is extended and my family has to move without me? What if the enemy is not where we thought it was? As the individual asks those questions, he is also formulating solutions, and in most cases with various options that are situationally dependent on a range of potential outcomes. A well-known phrase in the military is No battle plan survives contact with the enemy (Helmuth von Moltke). For officers, the enemy is often loosely defined, and can include a senior budgeting office threatening the funding for a program upon which the unit relies for equipment modernization, or even an administrative system that is not as flexible as his operational requirements suggest they should be. The result of this somewhat manic degree of planning is a cultural dynamic that may appear as paranoia, but in reality is a disciplined way to help guarantee outcomes that are if not completely as planned, are at least expected and manageable. This can positively impact integrative leadership by reinforcing individual traits that are more innovative, inquisitive and adaptive when working across sectoral boundaries.

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

IV. Expectations for military officers from the broader public, nationally and globally According to the 2010 Gallup Confidence in Institutions poll, the U.S. military is the most trusted institution in America by a wide margin (Saad, 2010). In fact, the military has been rated number one in Gallup's annual list continuously since 1998, and has ranked number one or number two almost every year since its initial 1975 measure. With trust comes expectation to live up to that trust, a fact that military officers are well aware of. Despite high profile exceptions such as the Tailhook misconduct among naval aviators in the early 1980s, and the Abu Ghraib prison guard incidents in Iraq beginning in 2004, military officers tend to be more willing to risk their own lives than to risk their careers in betraying the trust of the public which they serve. And, as the U.S. military has been increasingly active on the world stage, even going beyond traditional

military operations with the evolving nature of conflict and postconflict operations, citizens of other countries look to U.S. military officers with a similar level of high expectations for their general conduct, and for their ability to work across boundaries of nations, culture and language. Dynamic 1: There exists a high level of personal excellence, and moral and ethical conduct expected of the military by the public which it serves, including on a global scale. The military officer corps has a highly developed sense of what their service to the nation represents, and what their conduct means for the legacy of that service. From the very first day they enter training as candidates, officers are provided with a sense of obligation and responsibility equal or greater to the respect returned by virtue of their rank. The element of servant leadership described in a previous section includes serving the

On the door of an office in the outer ring of the Pentagon, a standard placard that identifies its occupants looks like thousands of others in that enormous building, designed originally as a civilian hospital, and derisively known among its occupants as the five sided wind tunnel. Next to the placard, however, is another sign; neat, and expertly aligned, but clearly unofficial. It displays a single phrase that proclaims: Imperfect people striving for perfection. The office is home to a public affairs staff group, its officers dedicated to maintaining the public image of the service whose motto has always been: The FewThe ProudThe Marines.

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

militarys higher purpose and shared values, not simply the individuals within ones unit. Indeed, the officer swears an oath to serve and protect the Constitution, and the warrant on her commission contains a catchall phrase that drives home the sense of higher expectations: that she will perform all manner of things thereunto pertaining. There is also significant visible symbolism that surrounds an officers existence, including the uniforms that are worn. The rank and unit insignia, even aspects of the color and cut of the uniform itself, all have elements that reinforce the traditions of excellence they are expected to uphold. A naval aviators gold wings insignia, for instance, have a nearly invisible bump on one of its anchors flukes. That bump, known as a becket, is symbolic of the holes that existed on anchors of tall ships in the 18th century, to which an extra line was fastened ensuring a way to raise it should the anchor chain break. Its meaning goes deeper, symbolizing the need for redundant planning to ensure success, the importance of systems design even for the simplest, but critical items of military hardware, and the need for teamwork among shipmates who must help ensure others follow procedures to guarantee success.

This level of symbolism is ubiquitous and seems over the top for those outside the culture; it is in fact central to building unit cohesion and pride, esprit de corps, and constant reinforcement of a culture that requires adherence to a standard upholding the high expectations of the public it serves. The wearing of a uniform also provides a reminder of the need for personal excellence as the individual is a highly visual example. The term Leatherneck for U.S. Marines comes from the band of leather that was sewn into the high collar of dress uniforms for added stiffness, forcing the wearer to hold his head higher and straighter to reflect his pride. Another interesting reality that affects a military officers behavioral expectations is that the nature of conflict has evolved in recent years and officers face entirely new expectations that have evolved at the same time. Since World War II, wars have become Cold Wars and undeclared conflicts; conflicts have become United Nations police actions; and police actions have now become operations as the U.S. enters a period of aggression against non-nation state actors engaged in terror, with the possibility that such warfare could last far longer than a full 20-year or more career. The nature of conflict now includes an

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

In the 21st century, the resolution of conflicts often entails ongoing peace-keeping and nation-building operations which expand an officers jack of all trades portfolio to include negotiation, multiple languages, civilmilitary liaison, oversight of construction, and many other duties far removed from their official scope of training.

awareness among officers that postconflict outcomes are not what they were for previous generations of officers. Those outcomes lead to ongoing peace-keeping and nationbuilding operations, for which officers have expanded their jacks of all trades portfolios to include negotiation, language, civil-military liaison, oversight of construction and institution-building projects, and many other non-traditional military roles, or duties far removed from the scope of their training. Finally, the military culture of expectations is different than the citizenry they protect because there exists a requirement for members to remain apolitical in the conduct of their duties. Far enough up the U.S. military chain of command the leadership becomes non-uniformed, and politically appointedand ultimately, elected, in the case of the Commander-in-Chief. Thus, while U.S. military personnel are obviously citizens who can vote and hold strong opinions, they are prohibited from active political advocacy while on duty, or in uniform. This tenet means that officers generally view those in senior leadership positions, particularly civilians, as having an inherent legitimacy and due respect irrespective of the political view those individuals may hold. This is not blind obedience, but more a faith in the constitutional and

electoral system to which the officer is duty-bound. Thus an officer, particularly a more senior one, is forced to look for common ground and ways to work with those even outside of his own uniformed culture, including the politicallyappointed, civilian officials who are senior to them. In multi-national venues, that may include foreign, allied officers or civilians who may legally outrank them in given situations. All of these realities tend to reinforce higher personal and professional expectations among the officer corps. And as leaders, officers then tend to exhibit traits that respect and understand different roles, expectations and cultures among those with whom they must interacthence building upon their ability to be effective integrative leaders. Dynamic 2: The military is constantly asked to be at a high level of readiness in all respects, even during times of relative peace, and regardless of the level of resources provided for its assurance. As such, many officers have become adept at challenging the status quo in order to ensure peak readiness of their unit. In a speech to the entire Brigade of Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, the Secretary of the Navy delivers an effective reminder to the young, future officers of the Navy

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

and Marine Corps. He precedes it by flashing an image on the giant screen of the field house. It is a page taken from the program published for the Army-Navy football game nearly sixty years ago. The image is a bow-on photograph of the battleship USS ARIZONA plowing through a heavy sea. The caption next to it states: It is significant that despite the claims of air enthusiasts no battleship has yet been sunk by bombs. The date on the program is November 29, 1941 just eight days before Pearl Harbor was attacked from the air and the ARIZONA itself was sunk at its moorings. The Secretarys message is a visually poignant one, given that stark reminder of historic tragedy: central to their role as leaders is the

need to constantly question the accepted norms and deeply held beliefs that are part of their rigid, military culture. The message is highly counterintuitive to the young midshipmen, all of whom have been immersed in a system that is deeply rooted in, and reliant upon, the many traditions that make up their daily routines. But this is the beginning of a constantly-fought balance that the most effective leaders among them will achieve over years of service. The very traditions that bring excellence through rigid standards and esprit de corps are also potentially the cause of blindness to a world that constantly evolves around them, including the norms of the society they are sworn to serve and protect. This balance involves risk, and not the type of risk that one normally associates with men and women in uniform. The military is generally a system that rewards risk in battle, but not one that rewards an officer for questioning the status quo, whether it is an accepted tactical maneuver in the face of an enemy movement, or a simple administrative procedure. Yet, as with the blind adherence to the battleship as the central, undefeatable capital naval asset, the consequences of not challenging tradition can be even more devastating. The very best officers strike an effective balance, take

Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

risks on and off the field of battle, and honor tradition by protecting the more fundamental needs for the institutions survival. Adding to this dynamic is the fact that the military has become significantly smaller than in previous generations, even as the scope and frequency of operations has steadily increased since the end of the Cold War. While technology has enabled force reductions through more capable, automated systems, the same use of technology has led to a desire to field the newest advances in systems as they evolvewhich in itself is occurring at an ever-increasing rate. The result is an officer corps that continually questions the applicability of its current hardware and systems, and strives to improve or replace them. And most recently, the embrace of greater efficiencies throughout the military has further reinforced the tendency for officers to evaluate change with regard to the effectiveness of their units and the individuals within them. There exists, then, a constant balance between these competing realitiesbut they are not wholly incompatible, and in fact can reinforce each other. In terms of the impact this dynamic has on the integrative leadership abilities of officers, it tends to foster a sense for

the need to continually evaluate the resources around them, to re-assess how they can influence the people and assets that can bring about action, and to question outdated norms that would otherwise be impervious to change. All of this creates, ideally, a willingness to look, listen and learn from nontraditional sources that can have real power in their diversity. Conclusion Leadership is influence. Even in the rigid context of the military the most effective leaders know that real success is more the result of influence than orders. Officers who have served in the military, particularly for long careers, tend to exhibit traits of leadership that are highly integrative, making them effective in a variety of challenging situations. These traits are developed because of dynamics they face in their roles as leaders: the complexity of the inter-related operational and administrative systems within which they operate; the teams they lead and serve while championing the individuals within them; solid core values that guide their behavior and decisions in a context of constant urgency; and high expectations of the society and world in which they serve.


Exploring Integrative Leadership Traits

References Crosby, B.C., & Bryson, J.M., (2010). Integrative leadership and the creation and maintenance of cross-sector collaborations. Leadership Quarterly, 21(2), 211-230. Greenleaf, R. K., & Spears, L. C. (2002). Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness 25th Anniversary Edition (25th ed.). Paulist Press. Helmuth von Moltke the Elder - Wikiquote. (n.d.). . Retrieved March 25, 2011, from Miller, N. (1992). Theodore Roosevelt: A Life. New York: William Morrow Publishing, p. 298. Saad, Lydia. Congress Ranks Last in Confidence in Institutions. (June 22, 2010). Retrieved March 25, 2011, from Shay, J. (2000). Aristotles Rhetoric as a Handbook of Leadership. Retrieved March 25, 2011, from Strange, J. (1996). Centers of Gravity & Critical Vulnerabilities. (2nd ed.). Marine Corps Association. Truman, H. (1948). Executive Order 9981: Desegregation of the Armed Forces. Retrieved March 25, 2011, from