"If America is to meet the multiple challenges of the 21st century, it is crucial that we develop a system that places the right people in the right places in government at the right moment."[footnoteRef:1] But just as critical as being the 'right' type of leader is avoiding making some of the most typical mistakes of poor leaders of the past. Incompetence and disorganization; fighting the last war rather than the current conflict (i.e., living in the past); selfishness and a focus on the personal ego rather than the actual needs of the nation are the three worst faults a leader can exhibit. [1: J. McCausland, "Developing strategic leaders for the 21st century," Strategic Studies Institute, 2008. Available: http://www.StrategicStudiesInstitute.army.mil / (26 Sept 2013), xi]
On a very basic level, military leaders must have basic organizational skills. "In the entry on the Spanish-American War, 1898-99…the word most frequently chosen to describe the mobilization for and the conduct of this conflict is 'chaotic'"[footnoteRef:2] Even though the United States actually won this conflict, it is considered an 'unsuccessful' military campaign because of the fact that it could have been less costly both in men and in terms of money saved to the American government. Great leaders study previous and current military strategy; have a good awareness of their troops' capacity to fight; and understand the enemy. There have been great leaders on both losing and winning sides of all wars. In contrast, poor leaders do not exhibit such basic competency and understanding of military tactics and reality. They squander rather than capitalize upon their advantages. While it is true that sometimes natural gifts such as larger forces or better technology may give an army an edge, a leader should not be assessed in a black-and-white, win-loss fashion. Competent leaders seek to control their environment, not the other way around. "Leaders who believe that they can influence what happens in the world are generally more interested and active in the policy-making process. Those who are high in this trait will want to maintain control over decision making and implementation to insure that things, indeed, do happen"[footnoteRef:3] When circumstances are not optimal, they acknowledge this fact and still strive to persevere. This is why General Robert E. Lee is considered to be a great general, despite the fact that he was on the losing side of the Civil War. Although his campaign was not flawless, given the South's many disadvantages, he still exhibited admirable tactical prowess. In contrast, the heavily favored Union forces have been faulted by historians for their early actions in battle, until the leadership of Ulysses S. Grant made more intelligent use of the ability of the North to economically as well as militarily deplete the South of men and critical resources. [2: McCausland, 72] [3: Hermann, Margaret, "Assessing leadership style: A trait analysis." Social Science Automation, 1999, 14]
Another vital component of leadership is not fighting the last war. This accusation has been laid time and time again at the feet of leaders, both civilian and military. At the beginning of World War I, the European armies adapted poorly to the demands of trench warfare and countless lives of men were senselessly lost, given that their strategists were still mired in the old, non-technological approach to waging battle favored during more staid 19th century campaigns. The idea that Hitler could be negotiated with and appeased prolonged the beginnings of World War II and ended up strengthening the German army. However, the apparent evidence that noxious ideology could permeate Europe like a contagion was later responsible for the 'Domino Theory' of communism. The Domino Theory held that if one nation fell to communism, the next nation would do so caused military leaders to take an insufficiently nuanced view of the Vietnam conflict, which was perceived more as an ideological struggle by the North Vietnamese than a war in favor of a particular ideology.
More recently, accusations of 'fighting the last war' can be seen in the response of the U.S. To the war on terror. As awful as the deadlock of the Cold War may have been, it offered a certain degree of predictability…