Serve To Lead or Serve To Manage or ....

Re: Can we please discuss real matters for a change!
Posted: 24 Sep 2005 16:31


green_slime said:
Very well Col,

Do we really believe that we are leaving the British Army in a better state than when we, as a corporate body, took it on? Do we have any real say in its direction, or are we merely just budget managers rather than the guardians of our national security and interests?

Is this a new phenomenon or did Caesar and Clauswitz have the same issues?

ExPara said:
Unfortunately, the job of "guardians of our national security and interests" has been contracted out to our elected politicians. If this were not the case, we'd probably be another tinpot dictatorship where this type of open debate would likely end up with a trip to the zoo (as a food item).

As for leaving the British Army, there are plenty of officers leaving! Very, very few of them had any influence in the direction the Army goes in and even fewer will have been able to do anything to improve it. I'm sure though, that somewhere in the mass of people heading for the exists there are some who could, and should, have such an influence. Only those in the very top jobs can change this.

The budget has become king - getting the job done is secondary to that overriding imperative. Somehow "Serve To Manage" doesn't have the same ring as "Serve To Lead".

Oi, bring my soapbox back!

Hang10 said:
Hmm, a good question. Now, before I drop in my tuppence worth, let me say that I am not an officer, nor even an officer cadet, but that I am currently in the middle of the application process. Disregard my views an uninformed drivel if you will, but the reason I first logged on to ARRSE was to "feel the pulse" rather than get tips on press ups, so I thought I might contribute.

Budgetary contraints are something that managers/leaders must deal with in all walks of life, and they consequently influence decision making. However, as far as I can gather, what they influence far less in the armed forces is the management of personnel, rather than resources, especially as far as platoon/troop level command is concerned. By way of example - Plt Cmdr X can send his soldiers on as many courses as he feels he can, to further their personal development, but he cannot indent for an extra Warrior. The opposite is true in many walks of civillian life, where a departmental budget might be designed to cover equipment such as IT systems, or manufacturing devices, but not employee development.

This, I feel is reflective of the culture within the Army, and rightly so. As a guards Colonel once said to me - "Soldiers are our raison d'etre". As the most precious resource the Army has, they must be treated as such. Therefore, If you leave a command appointment having done all you can to further the careers of your soldiers, then you will have left the Army in a better state than in which you found it - at the most fundamental level.

As far as green-slime's question about becoming budgetary managers rather than guardians of national interests is concerned, consider this. Clauswitz beleived that the head of the armed forces should sit in cabinet with government ministers, not so that the ministers knew what the armed forces were capable of, nor to recieve military advice, but to ensure that the Army knew what political goals it was fighting for, and why decisions were being made, and could fight the war accordingly.

The armed forces are an instrument of policy - they do not form it. They write doctrine, and follow it in pursuit of political aims. However, Trivulzio wrote "You need three things to win a war; money, money and more money" . By this argument, and by the "trickle down" nature of responsibility in maneuverist doctrine, bugetary management is an intrinsic part of war preparation and fighting in our armed forces, the question is not that of being "merely" budget managers.

What makes being an officer so special, and why I want to become one, is that it is about more than just management, its about leadership too.

"Again I repeat that riches are not, then, the sinews of war; but good soldiers are" - Machiavelli.

Persian_Kitten said:
ExPara - I was writing a reply to your post when the thread was locked as you made some valuable points. Why don't you start a thread with your comments so we can answer them and still keep in line with Colonel_Crusty's sharp observation that topics in the Officer's board where becoming eroded?

Thank you ExPara for keeping this alive.

But does Serve to Lead still have meaning I wonder. We all know its definition of course, it's,

[align=center]"Being at the front of the queue for the bad things and at the back of the queue for the good things".[/align]

I have tried to abide by that. Some things can never change even in a regime where the budget holder is king.

ExPara said:
The budget has become king - getting the job done is secondary to that overriding imperative.

Being able to manage a seemingly never ending shrinking budget is one of the tasks one has to get to grips with the further one escalates the promotional ladder. Tough decisions have to be made and someone has to make them. Taking responsibility when times are tough is part and parcel of being in a responsible position.

Money, unfortunately, knows no guilt, sense of National pride or personal sacrifice. If it did, no doubt it would wonder why the UK, reportedly the 5th wealthiest nation on earth, would lead one of its greatest institutions to become so demoralised.

Until this happens though, we will have to continue doing the best we can.

For what it is worth:

The MOD is one of the few government organisations that thrives due to the large number of its professional operators being involved in policy, plans and financial decisions. There are very few doctors, nurses and dentists in the Department of Health guiding the future of teh NHS, likewise very few policemen and immigration officers in the Home Office. How lucky are we that we can have an influence on the future of our department and the defence of the realm.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer does not like the Armed Forces, they are a drain on the Treasury and do not win votes. As a Chancellor and as a politician we are not interesting to him. However, we must be realistic to note that no other political party in government would be any better.

Budget Management is only one part of the increasing burden on middle and senior management in the Armed Forces, sadly it is a get on and do situation, which will remain until the Germans are outside Calais, again.

Are we serving to lead? (worthy of a dissertation in itself) In my opinion we have to understand that if our soldiers do not trust that we are doing the right thing for them, or the best for them, then we are failing to serve them. Loyalty works both ways, to do what our superiors instruct us and to represent the interests of our subordinates to our superiors. If we cannot do that then we should step aside and no longer serve.

As to the title: you can manage without leading, but you need to be able to manage in order to lead.

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