New Chief of Staff: "Jacks of All Trades" Aren't Leaders

Marauder06

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http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/02/army-dempsey-on-leadership-022811w/

Gen. Martin Dempsey, President Obama’s pick for the next U.S. Army chief of staff, wants the service to focus on mastering a few skills in the coming postwar era.
“What do you do with this magnificent Army of ours when Iraq and Afghanistan are in the rear view?” Dempsey asked Feb. 10, the final day of a weeklong war game.
The Army needs to decide which five things — not 55 things — its soldiers are going to master, the four-star told the audience at Unified Quest, an annual Army exercise held at a Booz Allen facility in McLean, Va.
He indicated that if he is confirmed as chief, he will try to focus the Army’s skills and, in doing so, hopes to prepare the service for whatever mission it is given. The Army does not want soldiers who are jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none, he said.
“If we make leaders skilled in a few areas, they’ll have the confidence to adapt when we inevitably get the future wrong,” Dempsey said. “But if you’re not a master of anything, you have no confidence in anything. I’m a passionate believer in that.”
 

Mac_NZ

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Would I be of base in interpreting that as lets train to fight the Russians again because it makes everyone feel comfortable.
 

SpitfireV

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“If we make leaders skilled in a few areas, they’ll have the confidence to adapt when we inevitably get the future wrong,” Dempsey said. “But if you’re not a master of anything, you have no confidence in anything. I’m a passionate believer in that.”

So they'll have confidence to adapt but no confidence to adapt? I'm confused.
 

Dame

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Not everyone can, or should, be a leader in this humble civvie's eyes. If everyone is proficient in only a single skill set where is their ability to adapt?
Managers who train people for one task and then expect adaptability are dooming their people to failure.
Confidence without skill sets = dead.
 

AWP

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Would I be of base in interpreting that as lets train to fight the Russians again because it makes everyone feel comfortable.

That's how I read it. Besides, he is coming from TRADOC and is an Armor officer so I don't expect great things from him. He's a safe pick, no politics, no game changing ideas.....
 

104TN

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I could be off base with this, but what I think ol' dude tried (and failed) to say - is that moving forward leaders will need to be SMEs in an area to provide true thought leadership, not just the ability to adapt.
 

AWP

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I could be off base with this, but what I think ol' dude tried (and failed) to say - is that moving forward leaders will need to be SMEs in an area to provide true thought leadership, not just the ability to adapt.

You could well be right, and I'd like to think I'm wrong, but historicallythe Army (well, the whole of the DoD) has done a poor job of moving forward. Once a war ends (sadly, I think some see the GWOT as winding down) we fall back on what we know, not where we think we should be.
 

policemedic

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I'd agree that a leader should be an expert in something, but a good part of leadership is knowing what you don't know and relying on your ability to surround yourself with experts who can mitigate your inevitable knowledge deficits.

I also see a slight contradiction when he says we should decrease the number of things we focus on, so that we can adapt when we "...inevitably get the future wrong." If you don't know what you're going to face, you don't know which skills you're going to need. I'm not sure that drastically reducing the number of potential tools in the toolbox is the way to go.
 

Scotth

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I also see a slight contradiction when he says we should decrease the number of things we focus on, so that we can adapt when we "...inevitably get the future wrong."

Wasn't it about '88 when the Soviet Union collapsed and "experts" said we didn't need heavy armor anymore because the Soviet threat was gone. A few short years later that is exactly what we had going on in the first Gulf War.
 

DA SWO

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I think he may have worded it poorly.
Too many officers bounce from job to job and never get good at any of them. These same officers then make tactical and strategic level decisions based on their "experience" as a (insert assignment).
Not everyone will be a general, let some of the officers specialize in a few mission areas, and get really good at their job.
Some of the older folks here can remember when infantry guys stayed mech or light their entire careers, now you are interchangable; and it doesn't always work out very well.
 

Purple

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The Army does not want soldiers who are jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none, he said. “If we make leaders skilled in a few areas, they’ll have the confidence to adapt when we inevitably get the future wrong,” Dempsey said. “But if you’re not a master of anything, you have no confidence in anything. I’m a passionate believer in that.”

I'm not sure I agree with GEN Martin's opinion based on what the article claims. The 'former' Soviet armed forces operated on pretty much that concept - they couldn't adapt for shit and were continually handed their asses on platters because of it. And talk about a lack of confidence...our military has always had many issues to deal with, but lack of confidence was never an issue that I can remember but it sure was one for the Soviet forces. Improvise - adapt - overcome has always been the trademark of the American 'fighting man' and I don't see that changing anytime soon. IMO soldiers need to be 'jacks of all trades' who learn to narrow that spectrum of specialization as they move up the promotion ladder which, OBTW, is pretty much what happens now.

Military historian SLA Marshall once remarked that the strength of the American military was its ability to function when others couldn't - that more battles were turned about and won not on finite plans, but on an American soldier at whatever level stuck in a situation with the people he could depend upon the most and being too tired, too hot or cold, too hungry, and fed up to the point he just took it upon himself to get up and do something...and his friend wondering what the hell was happening and going along because he didn't want to abandon his pal...and then a squad wondering what was going on but getting up and going along because it was their pals out there doing something, and then a platoon, a company, a battalion, a regiment or brigade, a division, etc just getting up and doing something. It's the one thing the battlefield cannot quantify - a pissed off soldier just deciding to do something.

I'm hoping the general misspoke or was misquoted and a better explanation of what he means will be forthcoming.

Purple
 

Manolito

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I am one of those that remember the military not being social workers, civil organizers, alternate life style organizers etc. Think back on the past leaders with reputations and ask yourself what were they good at. Probably five things. 1. Training their troops to be killers on the battle field. 2. Insuring logistics supported his killing machine. 3. Earning the respect of his troops by protecting them from politics and most of all leading from the front. 4. Ruling captured ground knowing lives paid for that ground. 5. Making sure they paid for the ground only once I repeat only once.
I worked as a civillian on the first gulf war and was assigned to provide some specific equipment for the initial border crossing. The marine Col. call sign was Darth Vador. I was sent a picture of the equipment crossing over the berms and burying the enemy in their bunkers and under my up armored D-8 Cat and specially modified M9 Aces swung the most beautiful pairs of Bull Balls provided by the civillians. My guess is that Col. didn't lead from the rear or make general.
We all know budget will drive what we do with this fine fighting force not training and preperation.
 

Centermass

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He obviously wasn't speaking to or for anyone who has an Infantry background, let alone those in SOF.

My guess is his new Field Manual 3-0 will debut on the NY Times best seller list once it's released. :rolleyes:
 
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