FORT KNOX, Ky. (Sept. 16, 2015) — Professors of military science, Cadet Command Headquarters and brigade staff members were treated to words of advice from Gen. David G. Perkins, commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, Sept. 11, during a portion of the Cadet Command’s Mission Command Workshop.
While discussing the Army strategy to “Win in a Complex World,” Perkins described some of the challenges in accomplishing that mission including technology, which is the center of a rapidly changing battlefield.
“As you get more technology, it enables things to happen at a much faster rate,” Perkins said. “There is a wider sharing of information, so you have many more decision makers able to share information and influence. Twenty or 30 years ago, you had fewer decision makers because you had fewer empowered people – fewer people had access to a lot of information – fewer people had the ability to project information so they couldn’t influence people.
“Now, you have these hyper-powered individuals – they can get on the Internet, YouTube, etc., and they don’t need any bureaucracy or any hierarchy, they can just start informing and influencing people through social media and things like that,” Perkins said. “Now, the number of people who can do that are unlimited. So I think the rate of change is going to exponentially increase.”
And in the Army of the future, it’s going to be a must for leaders to stay technically and tactically proficient on this new component of battle.
“It’s amazing the young people we get in the Army – the cadets, Soldiers – that’s sort of the world they’ve grown up in. They’re constantly connected, constantly getting information,” he said. “With the current rate of human interaction, this is a continuing challenge. The rate of change is very fast, so you have got to develop methods to constantly stay up on this.”
Perkins went on to speak to the audience about one of the most important tools to be effective in the Army of the future – being a versatile leader in the ever changing global community.
“We have three domains that we say leader development occurs in. One of those is self-development. It’s one of the least well used in my opinion,” he said. “In the Army I grew up in, it was pretty much a ‘go to the school house, get whatever you need there,’ and after that, the assumption was that you weren’t going to get anything new until you came back and went to the next course. For one thing, it was very difficult to access information – you would have to get a hard copy of doctrine. You couldn’t go online to get it.
“So what we are trying to do now, early on, with cadets, Soldiers and instructors, is say, ‘Look, the world changes daily, and we have an institutional component to leader development, but there’s also a self-development portion, so you have got to figure out how you are constantly accessing information,'” he said. “Then there has to be a constant dialogue with your seniors, subordinates and peers – that’s what mission command really is. There has to be a constant engagement in self-development and constant collaboration.”
Perkins said another expectation of leaders in the fast paced world is that they have to be proactive in finding information and solutions.
“Becoming informed is a pro-active sport. You have to go out and become informed – you can’t just sit behind your desk and be informed,” Perkins said. “If someone tells me, ‘I didn’t know about that.’ My response is, ‘What are you doing about it? What do you know about it?’ It’s a failing on my part if I haven’t taken the initiative to be knowledgeable. ‘Nobody ever told me,’ is no longer an excuse – you have to figure out how to be become informed to be an effective leader.”
Perkins said one attribute of a great leader is still dependent on the heart of a Soldier and the values they project.
“Our leaders have to be grounded in Army values. We are a values-based organization. That is what makes us so strong. I’ve found in combat, that probably the number one thing I rely on – that I can trust that they share the same values as I do,” he said. “It’s a very difficult way to raise an army if you do not have professionally committed Soldiers and leaders that are values based. If you don’t, you do not attempt to do mission command because it could go bad quickly. You are empowering people and they could use that power the wrong way.”
His last word of advice was that having all of these skills still needs one thing to be a great leader – provide clarity in a complex situation.
“What we need to do is ask big questions – that’s what leaders do. The first thing that leaders do is ask the big question and not get consumed by the small answers because leaders have to do what nobody else does, that’s why they’re a leader,” Perkins said. “If you are the leader and you are not asking the big questions, nobody is. Leaders bring clarity, the staff and everyone else eventually brings accuracy. What I find too often is that we get bogged down with accuracy of all kinds of data points and things like that, and we lose clarity of the big picture of what the issue is.”
The Mission Command Workshop took place on Fort Knox Sept. 11-17, with the goal of providing attendees with the strategic vision, guidance, direction, and expectations for execution of training, leader development, and corporate restructuring to meet the Army chief of staff’s directives for Force 2025 and Beyond.