Empowerment, Environment and The Golden Rule

Rule,” which puts caring, respect and fairness for soldiers first. 

Leadership for the 21st Century
General Dennis J. Reimer, US Army

This January-February 1996 lead article is one of three Army Chief of Staff General Dennis J. Reimer has written for Military Review. His command philosophy is simple: Leaders should do “what is legally and morally right;” create an environment tolerant of mistakes and free of the zero-defects mentality, where soldiers can achieve their potential; and live by the “Golden Rule,” which puts caring, respect and fairness for soldiers first.

AT A STAFF MEETING one morning, the, colonel reprimanded the post quartermaster because the paradeground flagpole was not perpendicular. Then, pointing to a lieutenant, he snapped: ‘Lieutenant, if I told you to put up a flagpole and get it straight, how would you go about it?’ ‘I’d say, sergeant, erect the flagpole,’” the lieutenant replied.”

The lieutenant in this story, Samuel Sturgis, went on to become a lieutenant general and the chief of Army engineers. This anecdote about him is not unique. Incidents like this happen every day in America’s Army and help explain the essence of US Army leadership.

Secretary of Defense William Perry likes to relate a story about General Andrei Nikolayev, deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, when Nikolayev was on a two-week tour of military bases in the United States. After visiting the first base and seeing our noncommissioned officers (NCOs) in action, he told one of his aides, “I know that these men and women wearing sergeants’ uniforms are really officers in disguise.”

But as he went from base to base and talked with the NCOs, Nikolayev came to realize they really were not officers. He was stunned and after two weeks told Perry that, “No military in the world has the quality of NCO . . . Found in the United States.” he went on to to say, “That’s what gives America its competitive military advantage.”

Our NCOs are one reason we have the best military in the world.

As the Army chief of staff, my fundamental duty isto ensure America’s Army is trained and ready to defend the nation’s security and freedom. I am also concerned with creating stability within the force after a long and significant draw down. I want to create an environment in which all soldiers can “be all they can be.”

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