Leadership Lessons from the US Army in Iraq

When I was in the Philippines a friend of mine from the US lived nearby. He was a missionary working in the field of theological education, training future Filipino church leaders. Dan had been a captain in the US airforce stationed in Iraq. He used to like to describe himself as the beneficiary of the ‘finest leadership training school in the world – the US military’. I thought again of these words as I listened to a fascinating radio programme on the BBC recently – Iraq tales what the army learned.

The UK and US military deploys their own historians to interview troops at all levels before, during and after conflicts to see what lessons can be learned and how to improve training and tactics. Listening to extracts from those interviews was enthralling – your stereotypical ‘grunts’ come acrsoss as anything but. Artciulate and reflective there is much to learn here, and not just applicable to the field of conflict.

At the end of the programme the lead investigator sums up what he has learned through hundreds of thse interviews. And it boils down to this – the greatest asset of the military is it’s leaders, millions of pounds  / dollars are spent annually training them. However the most significant contribution the Army can make to officer core is in putting greater investment into who it selects for leadership and how it empowers them to lead.

It strikes me that a similar thing could be said for the church to, particularly the Church of England. There is rightly a great emphasis and resources given to training leaders. However I am convinced the need at th moment is not for better ‘trained leaders’, but for a better selection of leaders and greater empowerment of those leaders to actually lead.

The programme ends with this question for the military:

The key question is who do we select as leaders and how do we empower them to lead?