A Leader Needs Three Kinds of Integrity
Self-Care, Psychological Integrity, and Auftragstaktik, Faris R. Kirkland, Ph.D., LTC, USA-ret., 1996
To be fully effective, a leader needs three kinds of integrity: ethical, physical, and psychological. Each kind of integrity has an impact on the others, and all require self-care. Ethical integrity has to do with behaving in ways defined as good—telling the truth, taking care of one's troops, not ordering subordinates to do things one is not willing to do oneself. …
Physical integrity has to do with the physiological and bodily ability of a leader to function. The Army has held leaders responsible, in a punitive sense, for their own physical fitness for more than 30 years. But holding them responsible for getting enough food, water, and sleep for themselves is a new idea. During Desert Storm all soldiers were accountable for consuming adequate amounts of water to preserve their physical integrity. Some units organized sleep plans for continuous operations to assure that people on duty, particularly those in positions of leadership, would be capable of coherent thought. This was the operational birth of leader self-care. But it was not universal, and it was fortunate that the ground war only lasted four days. Self-care is still ethically suspect in the Army, and at the end of the ground war, a good many leaders were exhausted.
Psychological integrity is a new and possibly unwelcome concept. There is an emerging awareness that psychologically secure leaders perform more efficiently than those who are insecure. Military operations are fraught with uncertainty and danger, and those leaders who enter combat free of preexisting burdens of fear, anxiety, and doubt are best able to take the risks of trusting and empowering subordinates, bringing their initiative to bear to take decisive action, and making ethical judgments in the midst of the chaos of war. By preexisting burdens I do not mean neuroses that arose in childhood, but nonessential anxieties generated by maladaptive aspects of the psycho-social context of the Army—particularly the ways in which commanders treat their subordinates.
The most important factors supporting the psychological integrity of leaders are competence, knowledge of subordinates, and belief that their superiors are on their side. All of these factors can respond to policy. Competence is the product of military schools and training in units. Knowledge of subordinates is a function of policies that bear on the permanence of personnel in units. Belief that one's chief has an interest in one's welfare has not been the subject of policy initiatives to date, and it is the essential prerequisite for a leader to feel safe engaging in self-care. Such beliefs, and self-care by commanders, are not common in the US Army today. However there is a historical precedent, Auftragstaktik, that offers a framework for the policy initiatives to make them common.