General shares views on leader development
July 3, 2013
By NICK DUKE
FORT BENNING, Ga., (July 3, 2013) -- Lt. Gen. David Perkins, the commanding general of the U.S. Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, Kan., spoke to a group of students from the Maneuver Captains Career Course June 25 at Derby Auditorium as part of the Combat Leader Speaker Program.
Leader development is the Army chief of staff's number one priority, Perkins told the MCCC students.
"As I go around and talk to leaders everywhere in the Army, the number one thing that I point out, especially when we're talking about the future, is the chief of staff of the Army's number one priority … leader development," Perkins said. "The future is so unknown and there are so many possibilities out there.
"The only thing that we can actually guarantee is that in the future we're going to have to have very well-developed leaders that can lead in very ambiguous situations and very challenging situations and can really pull a team together to do very difficult things with maybe not a lot of time to think about it or a lot of guidance ahead of time."
However, in order for the Army to develop leaders, Perkins said a focus should be placed on identifying those Soldiers who have the attributes necessary to become an effective combat leader and then helping Soldiers to use those attributes in an effective manner.
Courage, empathy, selfless service are some of the attributes leaders need, he said.
"So, we have to have those individual attributes, but those individual attributes alone are inadequate because what we then have to teach them is how to align those attributes in time and space to produce competencies. If you look at our doctrine, leader competencies are all verbs. 'Develop others, lead others, take care of others.'"
During the Battle of Baghdad in 2003, 2nd Brigade was tasked with making a "thunder run" into downtown Baghdad.
During the run, the brigade encountered heavy enemy resistance before eventually capturing Saddam Hussein's main palace and staying overnight in the heart of the capital, effectively signaling the collapse of the Iraqi regime.
Perkins said those experiences in Baghdad helped him to shape his understanding and belief in the principles of mission command.
"Mission command is built upon trust, a shared trust, up and down the chain of command, left and right," he said.
"That's the first thing you have to develop -- an environment of trust where subordinates can trust their leaders and leaders can trust their subordinates. The second thing is that everybody has to have a common understanding of the problem.
"What is the problem we're trying to solve before we focus on the actual solution itself? Then, we have to have a common visualization about how we're going to solve that. One of the ways you do that is by having very well-trained units and very well-developed leaders, because if a unit is very well trained and very good at what they're doing, then a commander will not be hesitant to empower them and trust them in getting the mission done how best they understand and visualize it."
Perkins said Soldiers and civilians at Fort Benning are instrumental in helping to determine the future structure of the Army.
"Fort Benning has always been on the cutting edge of leader development, has always been on the cutting edge of trying to discern what future capabilities we need in Soldiers as well as our equipment and it's obvious that Fort Benning is still on the cutting edge of that," he said. "So, whether you're a member of the staff and faculty here or whether you're a student, you need to understand that what you do here is essential to building the capabilities of the Army to deal with the future, whether that's a year from now or 20 years from now. Historically, our Army has looked at the institution, and specifically Fort Benning, to build that capacity and deal with the future threats our Army will face."