• Chiarelli shares leadership advice at CGSC

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    The Center for Army Leadership hosted the Army Leader Exchange presentation “Building Trust through Character and Ethics” by retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli for Command and General Staff College students Nov. 6 in Eisenhower Auditorium of the Lewis and Clark Center.
    Chiarelli served as the 32nd vice chief of staff of the Army from Aug. 4, 2008, to Jan. 31, 2012, before he retired after 40 years in the Army.
    During his presentation, Chiarelli focused on how to create transformational leaders, relaying his own experiences throughout his career as a professor at West Point and the opportunities he had to pursue a higher education.
    “I hope to give you some insights into what you should do in the second half of your service, which is a time to give back to the institution — the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines — whatever your service, that we all love,” Chiarelli said. “The future of the Army, and all the services, depends on creating an environment where future leaders have access to continuing education and experiences like I had.
    “The future of the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marines, rests on our ability to grow transformational leaders, not managers,” he said. “I believe education and the experience it provides cultivates this type of leader. I believe that we grow great combat leaders today, however, because we effectively devalue education when those same men and women are forced to lead in the Pentagon like I was, they too often become processed-bound managers.”
    Chiarelli said the greatest example of a transformational leader he could give was that of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
    “Gates refused to become a manager, nor did he allow the process to get in the way of doing what was right given the realties that no one could imagine when the wars started,” Chiarelli said.
    Chiarelli said Gates put the well-being of the service members first, saying Gates felt responsible for the safety of every service member who deployed, wrote handwritten notes on every condolence letter that came across his desk, and would waive his speaker’s fee when it was mentioned that a Gold Star mother would attend.
    Gates also took the initiative to field the first mine-resistant, ambush-protected tactical vehicles even when others disagreed.
    “Gates knew what his requirement was on his first day,” Chiarelli said. “Field a vehicle that could withstand the most (improvised explosive device) blasts, thereby saving the lives of the soldiers and Marines that he was sending into harm’s way. That’s what he did.
    “I think the decision to field the MRAP was the single greatest display of transformational leadership I observed in 40 years in the military,” Chiarelli said. “I think it is noteworthy that I credit a civilian and not a military leader with that distinction. In fact, military leaders were the biggest naysayers.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Chiarelli said the lesson of Gates and the MRAP is one to follow.
    “We need to find a way to build transformational leaders who are willing to make these kinds of stands,” he said. “If I were given the opportunity to educate, to develop our officers it would focus on creating leaders that know when to manage while at the same time knowing when to lead the transformation.”
    Chiarelli said this can be done in five ways. First, being responsible for creating a professional climate and becoming stewards of the profession.
    “Your primary responsibility is no longer for individuals,” he said. “You’re now stewards of the institutional (military) and its ethic. The institutional Army and its ethic depend on how you treat and take care of every single soldier and their family.”
    Second, “be the kind of leader you always wanted to serve under when you were a captain,” he said.
    Third, “remember what made you mad and fix it when you can,” he said.
    Fourth, grow future Army leaders.
    “Open doors for their professional and personal growth,” he said. “It will thrive in the climb because of the climate you create.”
    Finally, be a life-long learner.
    “There are no new problems,” he said. “Every issue you deal with as a field grade officer, someone before you has dealt with and written about and I hope you’ll take the time to read what they wrote.
    “All of you are going to be faced at some time in your career when you know what the right thing to do is, but you know what the cost of doing the right thing is going to be,” Chiarelli said. “Everybody is going to have to evaluate that situation on their own. I just hope that when you reach that point, you’ll think about everything that got you to the point you’re at and the people you serve. Never forget those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and their families and what you owe them, and if you do that, I think you’ll always make the right decision.”
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