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Lt. Gen. Lanza: The new Army requires new leadership

I Corps commanding general lectures at University of Washington

Lt. General Stephen R. Lanza speaks to the next generation of leaders as part of a lecture series from the Henry M. Jackson School. Photo credit: Richard Baker

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Lt. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, commanding general of I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, believes the new Army requires new leadership, new modes of thought and new motivation. His presentation, Jan. 15 at the University of Washington in Seattle, "Building Agile and Adaptive Leaders for a Complex Environment," illustrated those points. The lecture, sponsored by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, offered Lanza a forum to express ides to the public on the new direction of the military.

Lanza, an artillery graduate of West Point, took command of I Corps Jan. 6, 2014. A veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Joint Guard in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn in Iraq, he has gathered years of practical experience as the Army has been blazing new trails. Secretary of the Army John McHugh called him "... a tested warrior, a proven leader, and an effective, tenacious commander."

Lanza is a powerful and inspiring speaker without being domineering or overbearing. He inspires confidence and, if the audience at UW's Kane Hall was any indication, rapid and appreciative admiration.

The fall or the Berlin Wall and 9-11 were key points in shaping his life. Lanza feels we now live in an environment of instability. "We must adapt faster than that instability," he said. Quality leadership is the key.

Today's military leader must be "able and adaptive," more so than at any time in our history. "He must adapt to an environment that is constantly changing." This leadership "must be based on trust."

Lanza feels everything the military does should be analyzed and improved. Mistakes in leadership have been made over the last 10 or 15 years. "Sometimes competence has outweighed character," he said. "We are trying to change that."

Often battlefield leaders make decent decisions in combat situations but poor ethical decisions. Changes in this kind of attitude are needed for the new military role. "We must make decisions based on values.

"People come in with values that we must meld with out military values," he continued. The general feels that if new officers have decent values when they enlist, the military can then teach them to make effective battlefield decisions.

Of great importance in the new military is to "avoid conflict." In order to do this they must shape partnerships with other countries. This type of thinking requires time.

"It takes about 17 years to build a commander," Lanza said. Because the military is so unique, he cannot recruit leaders with prior skills. "They must be built from within."

>>> The Henry M. Jackson Foundation lecture attracted a wide audience, from military cadets to students to professors. Photo credit: Richard Baker

What Lanza feels are the strongest assets of the U.S. military are not just competent officers, but the quality of the NCOs. Other nations are officer centered. The United States is unique in the quality of its sergeants and their ability to assume responsibility and make decisions. Lanza feels competent in laying out a specific task or purpose, then letting those under him work out the problems all the way down to the NCOs. No other military does that. If something happens to their officers, they are simply stuck.

The amount of work the military does is almost overwhelming. The U.S. has a total of 10 divisions. Seven of those divisions are presently deployed around the world. He is worried about the budget cuts and if the military will be able to carry out the missions' congress demands.

One thing he knows for certain: "We will never again be able to fight alone. We must be able to work with other countries."

To this end we are presently training with other nations. British and Korean units, especially, have been working at JBLM, especially their officers.

Lanza says the study of complexity and complexity theory are something everyone considering a military career should master. The world continues to become more complex, and more confused. Changes are coming rapidly.

He completed his lecture by again stressing moral and ethical behavior. "We can build competence if we first start with character."

The Henry M. Jackson Foundation attempts to honor the late Sen. Henry M. Jackson, a UW graduate, through a series of lectures on leadership. Lanza exemplifies the quality of leadership the series attracts.

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