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Views And Opinions

Future Leadership And The Road To Somalia

by Captain R.A. Herold

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The Directorate of Land Strategic Concepts has recently released a publication entitled Future Force – Concepts for Future Army Capabilities. It examines some of the challenges the Canadian Forces (CF) will face in the future and discusses some of the changes needed to remain effective.

There is a lot worth reading in this book. Change is, of course, inevitable and the onus is on all professional soldiers to at least familiarize themselves with what lies ahead. I do, however, wish to raise a serious concern left in my mind by this publication – namely its consideration of leadership.

Chapter Seven deals with the question of command and includes a list of what are described as “attributes of the future leader”. This list is sufficiently critical that it is provided in full here:

  1. Culturally aware
  2. Geo-politically aware
  3. Well educated in:
    1. Economics
    2. History
    3. Ideology and Sociology
    4. Technology
    5. Law of conflict
  4. Capable of making rapid decisions under stressful situations
  5. Creative
  6. Highly developed cognitive skills
  7. Adaptable to life-long learning
  8. Tolerant to risk
  9. Highly developed interpersonal skills
  10. Effective communication skills
  11. Highly defined aptitude for computer-based learning
  12. Comfortable with advanced computer-based technologies
  13. Above average maturity.

Well, nobody can say that the list is not lengthy, and few could debate that such skills and attributes are, indeed, likely to be required of future leaders. However, has anybody else noticed some key omissions? What is missing from this picture?

Far be it for me to naysay the authors of this publication, but how about the following attributes?

  1. Integrity
  2. Loyalty – specifically including loyalty to one’s subordinates
  3. Physical courage
  4. Compassion
  5. A strong sense of morality and ethics
  6. Moral courage
  7. The basic conviction that one’s nation, mission and troops are more important than one’s own personal well-being, benefit or advancement.

Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) has rendered such values obsolete, or, at best, quaintly dated. Perhaps. But many of us still remember the shame and embarrassment the CF was subjected to as a result of Somalia.

The Somalia Inquiry Report, released just eight years ago, severely criticized not only individual CF leaders but also its leadership – and there is a difference. It found that leadership in the CF was neither well-defined nor well-taught. Careerism was rampant, responsibility and accountability severely lacking. Our failure to insist on the highest standards of honour, integrity, and selflessness in our leaders had led our uniformed services to their lowest point in history, and our humiliation was laid out for the whole world to witness. It was not a pretty picture and it was not a pretty time.

The Somalia Report listed the following as Core Qualities of Military Leadership:

  1. Integrity
  2. Courage
  3. Loyalty
  4. Selflessness
  5. Self-discipline.

Odd, is it not, that not one of these core qualities – or anything remotely like it – is included in the Future Force list?

Having defined the core values, the Somalia Inquiry Report went on to list Other Necessary Attributes as follows:

  1. Dedication
  2. Knowledge
  3. Intellect
  4. Perseverance
  5. Decisiveness
  6. Judgment
  7. Physical robustness.

Here we see, for the first time, some convergence. But, however important, such attributes are very much secondary to those at the core of Leadership. Why were they not included in such an exhaustive list?

Lest someone try to brush off the Inquiry Report as having been written by a bunch of ‘know-nothing civilians’ with no appreciation of military realities, let us look further afield.

Canada’s Army is the keystone publication for the professional Canadian soldier. In its own words, “...most importantly, Canada’s Army establishes the doctrinal foundation for the professional competency of all ranks in the army, and serves as the basic source document for all instruction and training leading to that end”. This work lists three attributes of military professionalism – Responsibility, Expertise and ‘Corporateness’. The only intersection with Future Force appears to be technical ability – expertise. Canada’s Army goes on to discuss the role of the officer and the general qualities required of officers, warrant officers and senior NCOs – our leaders. The requirements for integrity, honesty, accountability and responsibility are explicitly mentioned. Again, Future Force appears to fall short of present official vision and doctrine.

Canada’s Army also discusses the army’s ethos, based on Duty, Integrity, Discipline and Honour. Was this just ‘lip-service’ or did we really mean it?

Moving on to another key doctrinal source, B-GL-300-003/FP-000 Command provides the following list of character attributes for successful commanders:

  1. Leadership
  2. Professional Knowledge
  3. Vision and Intellect
  4. Judgment and Decisiveness
  5. Willpower
  6. Integrity.

In the subsequent detailed discussion of Command’s list of attributes, we again find things that are missing from Future Force – things like courage, honesty and loyalty.

Can it be that the authors of Future Force intended “tolerant to risk” to include, or equate to, personal (physical) courage? Possibly. Is the phrase “highly developed interpersonal skills” supposed to somehow serve as a wrap-up of integrity and loyalty? Perhaps. Were the authors expecting that such things would be taken as read? Maybe, just maybe. But effective leadership is so central to a good military and its failure or absence so devastating that even such a considered omission is insupportable.

Forgive an old dog for growling, but I find myself wondering if Milton Gregg, Paul Triquet or Cecil Merritt could have led their troops in such outstanding fashion had they been raised upon such a diet. There is, to my mind, something deeply flawed in a philosophy of leadership that fails to highlight such things as integrity, courage and selflessness in a list of requirements for our future leaders. To me, the Future Force list is not a recipe for leaders, it is a recipe for ‘technocrats’ – and it was technocrats, not leaders, who led us to Somalia.

Technology managed by technocrats has never been a substitute for good leadership. I would submit that the Army needs to take this issue back to the drawing board – and soon.

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Captain Herold is a Logistics Officer serving as the Deputy Commanding Officer of the Area Support Unit in Calgary.