Mullen Calls Leadership Most Important NCO Contribution

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) 

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