Reliance on Personality?

Short SWJ piece that addresses something I’ve been thinking about: The military’s reliance on individual personality to accomplish what should be systematically implemented. I thought of it in the context of population-centric counterinsurgency, cultural respect, and not pulling the trigger when it doesn’t need to be pulled. In my experience, these things worked when the leaders on scene were predisposed to understand them, and didn’t work otherwise. Mr. Dowling addresses personality dependence in the context of civil-military integration:

A common civ-mil refrain we have heard is the effective cooperation is “personality dependent”…Personalities that succeed tend to be those that think more about the team and less about turf, more about consensus and less about being right, more about demonstrating value to their counterpart rather than judging the value of their counterpart. However, I would argue that “personality dependent” is also a sign that there may be some room for organizational improvement.

If an organization has a clear mission, clear lanes and lines of authority, and most importantly the right standard operating procedures for decision-making and action, personality matters a lot less. A flight crew of a 747 can usually taxi, take off, fly, navigate, approach, land, and taxi from one crowded airspace to another without either crashing or having a fight among the crew. Success here is not usually personality dependent! Why is that? Neurosurgery is pretty complicated business involving a team of different specialists and nurses yet we don’t think of success as personality dependent. The same is true for a ballet, or a battalion staff. Organizations with clear processes and procedures for decisions and action, and experience/training in exercising those decisions and actions, will function with much less dependence on personality.

As is usually the case with SWJ, the comments feature rigorous debate with dissenters pouncing on every perceived hole in the writer’s argument. I was disappointed that my article didn’t trigger a similar jousting match.

The part about hockey rinks on Kandahar Air Field is a joke, right?

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