Leadership Training in Afghanistan

Recent setbacks in Afghanistan demonstrate the real, immediate need for leadership in that fractured country. Instead of waiting around for those leaders to emerge, allied forces are actually attempting to recruit them, into the new National Military Academy of Afghanistan.

NMAA is modeled on West Point. In addition to training army and air force personnel, it offers four-year degrees in disciplines like management, law and civil engineering. The idea is to rebuild the country, not just command and control it.

One of the architects of NMAA is Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw. Leadership blogger John Baldoni has posted an excellent two-part interview with Henshaw on leadership challenges in Afghanistan. "In Afghanistan, I saw leaders everywhere," Henshaw says, "faced with the difficult task of obtaining resources in the most constrained conditions I have ever seen."

Top-down military leadership is about as traditional an approach to the discipline as exists, but it's not the only approach. In fact, it may be an increasingly unpopular approach. Tom Davenport even suggests we ban the term "command-and-control" from management-speak. He calls it "simplistic shorthand for a stereotyped approach to management."

Followers can lead, too. An excellent post from our Leading Green blog notes that sustainability has created some strange bedfellows, like McDonalds and Greenpeace. That's right, they're partners, in large part due to the leadership role of outsiders, and those who are usually thought of as followers, like investors and customers. The post is written by Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a group of environmentalists, investors and other good-guy organizations. Essentially, Ceres organizes followers so that they can take a leadership role.

And the always-provocative Barbara Kellerman writes about the blogger who embarrassed the Supreme Court when he published the fact that a recent high court decision on the death penalty was based on a factual flaw.

Kellerman says she sees more stories like this all the time: "I have become convinced that those who are usually thought of as followers -- that is, those without obvious sources of power, authority, or influence -- are edging out those who are usually thought of as leaders."

Power to the people.

By Scott Berinato  |  July 16, 2008; 1:00 PM ET
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It seems to me that Ceres is getting help reaching their goals by enlisting the 'followers' to organize under the guise of some sort of 'unled' group leadership. There is scarcely consensus among followers about what goals an organization should pursue. If a large group does agree, it is always at the behest of a leader who cannot help but fit the description of a traditional leader. Once that person has power, don't they cease to resemble someone without power? There is a reason why decisions are, and must be, made by a few at the top. This article is stupid.

Posted by: dougr | July 24, 2008 5:23 AM

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