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Becoming an Officer of Consequence

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Journal article

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Much of the literature about military history and leadership is focused on a few great leaders who rose to meet the martial challenges of their time and place. Often forgotten are the subordinates who enabled these leaders to see their challenges more clearly and who helped them turn their decisions into action, causing the outcomes that established their places in history. To Americas great fortune, many of the smartest and most service-minded youth opt for military careers. Those who rise to three- and four-star positions and assume command of armies and fleets constitute less than one-half of one percent of those who serve as military officers. The vast majority of those who select a military career will achieve more modest positions of rank, responsibility, and authority. Despite their more modest ranks, however, almost all leave indelible marks on the senior officers they serve under in one staff or another, and some will help those leaders achieve greatness. Frequently, especially for those temporarily assigned to staffs, officers serve in important decision making positions with limited experience or scant operational proficiency in areas for which they are directly responsible. Yet their commanders and staff peers will demand the same high level of performance that has characterized their careers up to that point. While some are not equal to the task, most are, and a few excel. Those who rise above their peers and gain the ear of the commander become officers of consequence because their commanders value their judgment and seek their counsel when making difficult choices. Achieving that status requires a mix of professional skills and personal traits. This article will focus on those traits and will also draw attention to the special challenges staff officers face when they serve as temporary individual augmentees. It also examines what commanders expect from their staffs and how they view their subordinates.

Subject Categories:

  • Administration and Management
  • Psychology
  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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