Besides restoring the right value proposition, the military leadership can ensure that those in positions of command at all levels are trained and stress-tested to maintain a delicate balance — the balance between empowering Gen Y troops and providing them with direction, discipline, and cohesion. Indeed, balanced leadership is the only way to empower a millennial-dominated military to think and act creatively, responsibly, and with the right sense of mission.
Confronted with the reality of Gen Y’s unique characteristics, what’s a military leader to do? More research into the attitudes, aptitudes, and habits of young military officers and noncommissioned officers should help to clarify key issues; we already know that the answers are unlikely to lie in stifling this generation’s natural talents and predilections. Most generations have a way of challenging their elders’ fundamental assumptions and ways of doing things. Gen Y is poised to do the same — and in potentially constructive and original ways. The job of today’s captains, majors, and colonels is to encourage and guide millennials and protect them from the senior officers who may not appreciate their unique qualities. Let’s hope the military, and the corporations that hire the people who leave the military, can learn to make the most of this new generation’s distinctive talents and instincts.
Reprint No. 07401
Art Fritzson ([email protected]) is a vice president with Booz Allen Hamilton in McLean, Va. As a thought leader in the strategic application of emerging technology, he is currently focused on network-centric transformation for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).
Lloyd W. Howell Jr. ([email protected]) is a vice president with Booz Allen in McLean, Va. An organizational change specialist, he works with both private- and public- sector clients, including the U.S. Departments of the Treasury, Commerce, and Defense.
Dov S. Zakheim ([email protected]) is a vice president with Booz Allen based in McLean, Va. From 2001 to April 2004, he served as the under secretary of defense (comptroller) and chief financial officer for the DOD. He has also been U.S. deputy under secretary of defense for planning and resources and an adjunct professor at the National War College, Yeshiva University, Columbia University, and Trinity College.