The longer I’m in the Army, the more I question whether leadership can be taught in a formal manner. The US Army heavily stresses “leadership skills”, and talks about leadership incessantly in manuals and throughout its training. Ranger school is essentially a leadership school.
In all honesty I have never seen worse leaders than what I have encountered in the military. People who are downright abusive and in some cases mentally unstable. The Non-Commissioned Officer’s Creed states: “I know my Soldiers and will always place their needs above my own.” I’ve seen very few NCOs who live up to that standard. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Most NCOs use lower ranking Soldiers merely to make their own jobs and lives easier. Obviously there is an accountability and rating problem in the Army, which I suspect is the same problem encountered in any industry that does not produce tangible goods. The fact that many NCOs can reach the rank of E7 and higher while remaining tactless bullies to those under them speaks more of the Army’s rating system than of the rated NCO. The Army is currently implementing a 360 degree rating system in which the lower ranking Soldiers rate their leadership, but even this will not present an accurate picture of what’s going on; lower ranking Soldiers will still be afraid of their bully superiors.
Just a small example of what I’ve consistently seen in the Army. The senior NCO in my office routinely calls his Soldiers “fags”, “nerds” and other derogatory names. Of course he presents this with a small dose of plausible deniability–like he’s joking. He may be joking but I’m aware of what he’s really trying to accomplish: To psychologically subjugate those under him. If he’s truly just joking around, perhaps he would mind if the E4 working for him called him a fag. Doubtful. He doubles his power by telling us all that he can’t stand people who can’t take a joke. Again, can he take a joke?
This is far from the only time I’ve seen this kind of behavior. In fact, I am surprised when I don’t see it.
The Soviet military held that there was no known way to efficiantly make leaders; leaders emerged and took charge through natural processes and those who displayed leadership characteristics were promoted. I tend to agree with this. A person’s psychological and ethical makeup, as well as his or her own personal experiences do more to determine leadership qualities than dreary doctrine.
In any case, it is my fundamental belief that the Army is broken in a deep way. Not only does its leadership exibit a proto-fascist quality in many cases, but the Army’s systems do not function well, systems that are used daily and should run like a smooth machine. But a rough-running machine would be tolerable with consistently good leadership. Instead the Army seems to attract and breed borderline sociopaths. In three years I’ve witnessed ethical and personal violations by NCO that I never saw in any other job. Daily verbal abuse, belittling, sexual relations with lower ranking female Soldiers (against regs), and other actions for which lower enlisted Soldiers would be counseled and punished.