By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMarch 16, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The Army is a profession of arms, and as a profession, one retired Army general wants to remind senior leaders that leadership starts with personal responsibility.
Retired Gen. Carter F. Ham, Association of the U.S. Army president and chief executive officer, spoke with senior warrant officers at the Warrant Officer Career College during a visit March 8 where he spoke about the importance of ethics and leader development.
"As [these senior warrant officers] occupy current senior leadership positions and will move on to even more senior leadership positions, I think it's important every now and then to take pause from the technical and tactical world that they live in … and to think a little bit more broadly about senior leadership and what it means to be a senior leader in the Army," said Ham. "Given our experiences over the past couple years where we have seen some very highly visibly ethical and behavioral shortcomings, I think it's very important for senior leaders to think a little bit about their role in cultivating ethical behavior."
Ham said it's important that the Army is viewed as a profession by not only Soldiers, but civilians, as well.
"It is important that we convey to those who are considering Army service to make sure that [they know] this is not a job," he said. "You are joining a profession that has rules, that has regulations and has standards of conduct that assesses itself, and is committed to a larger purpose to serve others, which I think is a very important distinction for those who want to serve."
On the other end, Ham said it's important to educate the civilian population that do not have military experience to understand that the Army is committed to a set of ideals that go beyond any one individual's objectives.
During his time with the senior warrant officers, he said he chose to talk about this topic because of high-profile cases of unethical behavior involving senior officers in recent years. Although the cases may not be widespread, it's not something that people should become accustomed to.
"I think this is something that we've got to pay attention to," he said. "We can say all day long that these are just anomalies and that these things happen and aren't very prevalent, but I would say it's a concern for all us who hold leadership responsibilities in the Army.
"We need to be increasingly self-critical, and because we're all human and subject to human feelings, we need some help sometimes when understanding our own behavior, our own beliefs and our own actions," he continued. "It's not about you -- it's not ever about you. It's OK to have ambition, it's OK to have aspirations, it's OK to want to aspire to other things in the Army, but that has to be bridled by humility and a deep-seated, genuine sense of selfless service."
With that sense of personal responsibility, Ham said that there also needs to be communication between other senior leaders, and for that reason it's necessary for all Soldiers to get perspective from cohorts other than their own, which is another reason he wanted to speak with the warrant officers.
"It's certainly worthwhile for the students to have the opportunity to engage with a diverse group of outside speakers," said the retired general. "Not just from serving or former senior military folks, but from thought leaders in academia, in business, in government. It's important for these senior leaders to understand a variety of perspectives, all of which they take aboard, think about it and what it contributes to their individual portfolio of how they're going to lead."
Ham said that level of perspective runs both ways.
"The flip side of that, particularly for the warrant officer cohort, is there aren't many people inside the Army who have any depth of understanding how special this cohort really is, so the opportunity for those of us outside of the warrant officer corps to see this, to engage with them, and to share that knowledge more broadly about the tremendous capability that is resident in the warrant officer corps, I think that's value added, as well," he said.
"It's important for us to think about how to get a clearer picture of ourselves," he continued. "It's for all of us to take on a very personal role in leader development, and your participation here as you go forth from this school with the responsibilities that you have and the opportunities that you have to mentor, to coach, to develop those with whom you serve is an important responsibility for you. The honor is in serving."