Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Leadership and Laziness

I got this one from Jerry Pournelle. It's worth reading as an analysis of how leaders are selected (or rejected) in the armed forces. There are lessons for the civilian world as well.

In classic military science, officers are divided into Brilliant vs. Stupid, and Lazy vs. Active. Now understand, these are relative terms: we are assuming that this is not Lake Wobegon, and even the Stupid can be pretty smart compared to the general population; stupid is probably the wrong word although it is the one generally used in these discussions. You will see what I mean in a moment.
This produces four classes of officers. What do you do with them?

First, the commanders, from company to regiment to division to army to army group: which class do you want as commanders? The answer is that you want them Brilliant and Lazy. Then for their Chief of Staff you want the Brilliant and Active. The reasoning is simple enough. The Active tend never to leave well enough alone. They drive the troops mad with new schemes for improvement. Your units go to hell.

However, you need the Brilliant and Active in the picture, just not as commanders. Someone has to recognize problems and look for solutions and agitate for improvements. You want the man at the top to understand this, and select among the various recommendations those which are needed – and which are affordable. But you want the agitation for improvement, else things atrophy.
So far so good. Now what do you do with the Stupid and Lazy? Why, that’s the bulk of your officer corps. They follow orders, and if they come up with awful ideas they aren’t so active as to try to implement them. As to the Stupid and Active, you encourage them to get out and go away. You have no place for them.

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