The Proper Perspective

My strategy for adding content to this blog was going to be to start off with a summary posting of the main lessons I had learned from 32 years of government service, and then while away the next few weeks by fleshing out each of the lessons. But I came across this article (it was sent to me by a young man who is trying to carve out a career in national security issues) and I was so impressed by one particular quote from Admiral Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that I needed to make note of it right away. In this piece Admiral Mullen is reflecting on what he has already learned about the Army during his tenure. And toward the end he talks about the Army being a learning organization and notes:

We are seeing people unafraid to challenge assumptions or old ways. Our midgrade noncommissioned officers and young captains love what they do. They have led in combat. They are remarkably resilient, and they do us all proud. Junior officers and enlisted men and women need to know that it is right to question the direction of their Service and seniors. In fact, they should be rewarded for it. That sort of feedback is healthy, and it foments the kind of change we need.

I am inspired by his words, which, from what I understand from people who know the Admiral, reflect his inner convictions. I also believe his view that junior officers should be rewarded for questioning the direction of their Service and seniors is not a universally-held or even majority conviction among members of the Senior Executive Service. I wish I could honestly write otherwise, but too many seniors I know still want to make decisions secretly, without engaging the workforce, and without inviting real debate.

One of the first steps toward improving the performance of our government is to empower the federal workforce to make a difference. They have good ideas–but they need more leaders who will respect them.

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