The US military is good at many things, but conspicuously bad at management. Its most recent survey found that the Army’s leadership skills are abominably low, marked by poor communication skills, little vision for the future, and discouragement of risk-taking.

More than half of active duty junior officers reported they’d love to hop the army after 20 years of service. So morale scrapes bottom, with the Air Force — short 2,000 pilots — suffering the most. On top of that, soaring levels of stress from personnel and resource shortages and shoddy training or instructions contribute to high turnover and disillusionment.

On the plus side, soldiers trusted their supervisors (92%), valued their jobs (92%) and proudly identified with their units (89%).

The 2016 Center for Army Leadership Annual Survey of Army Leadership (CASAL) found only 5% of Army leaders toxic in that their influences were counterproductive. Though leaders are generally well-meaning and dedicated, the military environment engenders conformity and discourages wild, creative, out-of-the-box thinking.

May 2018, one Air Force officer penned an anonymous op-ed where he criticized the system for stifling creativity and talent. Under the current system, officers must slog the given track for promotion, or they’re discarded after 20 years. Those who finish early are called “high-potential officers” and shouldered with a power that’s beyond their capacity. The system mistakes docile troops for warriors, discourages risk-taking and constructive feedback, and rejects iconoclasts who could profit the military with their creativity.

Describing himself as someone who “[has] a deep love for our Air Force and a concern about its future and that is exactly why I am writing this”, pseudonymous Col. “Ned Stark” ended, “I hold out hope the system can change to enable the Air Force to promote the best leadership as the rule instead of the exception.”


Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein offered “Col. Stark” a job on his staff. After all, General Mark Milley, CSA, claimed, “Self-starting initiative, disdain of boundaries and rules, nonlinear critical thinking… and an independence of action… is hard-wired in the national DNA of an American soldier.”

Seems like our 39th and current Chief of Staff of the Army could use all of Stark’s suggestions.