WASHINGTON — Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told students at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy yesterday that of all their talents and capabilities, leadership is the most important value they bring to the force.
“I have one requirement for senior enlisted leaders in every service, and that is to lead my young people, period,” Mullen told an assembly of about 300 students and cadre members at the Fort Bliss, Texas, academy. “That’s it. And that’s where I want you focused.”
Senior noncommissioned officers “have to be good at what you do,” and in the skills of their specific military occupational specialties, the chairman said. “But in the hardest, toughest times that we have, there is nothing I can depend on that is more important – and delivers every time – than good leadership,” he added. “Bad leadership will destroy me, no matter what my mission is or what equipment I have.”
Mullen praised the educational emphasis at the Sergeants Major Academy designed to build leadership skills.
Leaders “just don’t just show up,” and there’s always more to learn about how to be the best leader possible, he told the group.
“As good as anyone might be, there is always more to learn about how to do this. … There are good ideas that you never thought of,” Mullen said, noting that many ideas were “loaded in this room” of accomplished, experienced NCOs.
Mullen challenged the students to put the lessons they are learning at the academy to work to strengthen the Army when they return to their units.
Leadership is “making sure we know our people” and the challenges we face, he said. But it’s also “making sure we are mentoring those who are coming behind us” and, after making a difference for them and their careers, “getting out of the way” so they, too, have opportunities to grow.
Mullen told the senior NCOs he’s depending on them to help in addressing a huge range of issues that include suicide, post-traumatic stress, sexual harassment and sexual assault. As they do so, Mullen said, he recognizes that the only constant is change. Leading in a time of change is the “toughest, most exciting, most challenging kind of leadership,” he said.
The chairman told the NCOs their leadership skills will be particularly important as the military brings more of its troops home from combat and readapts to become a largely garrison-based force. Most junior troops have spent so much time deployed that they’ll need leaders to help them adapt to that garrison force, the chairman told the group. “Garrison leadership isn’t just going to show up one day,” he told the senior NCOs.“You are the only ones, I believe, who understand garrison leadership, period. … We are incredibly dependent on you to get it right.”
As that force evolves, Mullen emphasized that he doesn’t want to see it simply revert to its state in the year 2000. Rather, he said, leaders need to help it “take the best of what we were, take the best of what we have become, figure out how to make those work together, and move ahead.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)