Leadership Portrait: General Peter Pace of the U.S. Marine Corps
By Jason Santamaria, Wharton MBA Student
and former U.S. Marine Corps officer
Four-Star General Peter Pace, U.S. Marine Corps Commander in Chief of the United States Southern Command, visited the Wharton School on October 4 to speak about leadership in the military and business environments. In a presentation to several MBA classes on leadership and a forum with university president Judith Rodin and Wharton vice dean David Schmittlein, General Pace offered his insights on making sound decisions, selecting the right organization, dealing with moral dilemmas, and taking care of those in oneâs charge.
The officer directly responsible for all military operations in the Western Hemisphere below the southern border of the United States, General Pace made his first point on leadership even before the presentation began. He circulated throughout the classroom and personally introduced himself to every student present.
Making Sound Decisions: As a newly minted lieutenant leading his platoon on patrol in Vietnam in 1968, Pace asked his company commander for direction at three decision points. On the third request, his commander sternly replied, âdo your job and make a decision, lieutenant!â The moral to this story: Sound decision making comes from understanding the division of responsibilities in oneâs organization. Be aggressive in addressing all matters within your control, and inform your superiors only when the challenge at hand exceeds your responsibilities.
Selecting the Right Organization: General Pace was fortunate to have served in several units with disproportionately high numbers of officers who later became generals. While his experiences in these high-performing units greatly enhanced his professional development and were personally satisfying, his involvement was not by choice, but rather by assignment. His advice to business students who will have the opportunity to choose among multiple lucrative opportunities after graduation: Do not sacrifice satisfaction for money. Be someone who seeks out class organizations that have strong values and leadership principles aligned with your own and that are comprised of talented individuals with whom you would value working.
Dealing with Moral Dilemmas: During his thirteen months in Vietnam, one of Lieutenant Paceâs Marines was shot in the chest by a sniper in a nearby village. Pace was so outraged that he called for an artillery barrage on the village. An odd look from an experienced non-commissioned officer, however, prompted Pace to reconsider his actions, and he cancelled the barrage. It turned out that the village was filled with non-combatants. The winds of war caused Pace to deviate momentarily from his sense of right and wrong. In a similar manner, the winds of business could tempt one to deviate from oneâs moral bounds. General Paceâs advice: Think through who you are and what your moral bounds are before entering potentially compromising situations. Be aware that certain courses of action can break your code of right and wrong. Listen to your conscience and never abandon your integrity.
Taking Care of Those in Oneâs Charge: Throughout his career, General Pace has continually sought to improve his capacity to demonstrate a genuine concern for the welfare of those in his charge and to include his subordinates in the decision making process. And in each new assignment, his Marines have reciprocated this effort by performing at a higher level, thus creating a virtuous cycle. General Paceâs advice to new business leaders: Take care of your people; help them with their problems; place a premium on their personal and professional development; and listen to their advice. Itâs the right thing to do, and they will take better care of you than you could of yourself.
Very few of the senior Marine generals today are of the Chesty Puller mold. Of course that is true of Army senior generals as well. No one wants to buck the system at the expense of their career so no one tells the civilians what they really need to be told. Whenever I see a pic of the JCS sitting at the table I see 6 bobbleheads.
One refreshing appointment recently was the annoucement that LTG William Wallace would get his fourth star and would run TRADOC. Most of us felt that his comments in the invasion of Iraq killed his chances,but I am glad to see that he is out of the dog house.
Having spent a lot of my time in the (Brit, obviously) Army working with the US forces, I welcome that news. Peter Pace to me comes across as a guy who has his head screwed on right, and is not prone to coming out with pointless statements such as "We're gonna kick some ass" as a lot of your generals do.
Incredibly smart fella, he seems to be - maybe he'll be able to spread a calming influence across to those who tend to shoot first and ask questions later.
Edit: Just read that bit about the barrage on the village - at least he did have the good sense to cancel it, he listened to his SNCO. Just backs it up for me.
see that General Myers, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs admits that the US military is starting to run on empty..
In a ' classified' report to Congress that somehow didn't remain ' secret' for very long he says that operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have constrined the military's ability to tackle other potential conflicts [ so no going after Iran, Syria, N. Korea or other problems for the next bit, please ]
he stated that future wars may be significantly longer as a result " and achieving campaign objectives may result in higher casualties and collateral damage "
The US has 138,000 troops in Iraq and 17, 000 in Afghanistan both are suffering from various factors such as depleted supplies of precision weapons [ used in the opening phase of ' liberating ' Iraq ] and have a heavy reliance on The Reserve and National Guard components..
at the same time the Army announced that it missed its April recruitment goal by 42%!! and the Reserve recruiting fell 37%..
recruiters cite potential recruits and their families are wary of enlisting in light of Iraq and also because the US economy offers improved civilian job opportunities and recompense [ also no one gets shot at -or is less likely - at a States-side job ]...
Not to kick the boys while they're down [ well, why not ].. but ,if Pte Lynndie England is an example of what they're ' fishing in ' to the forces these days I'd say they're beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrell already and that doesn't bode well for America's ' military might '..