Leaders-In-Action: Military.mil

West Point


The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is renowned as an historic and distinguished military academy, and a leading, progressive institution of higher education. Made legendary in books and movies, the Academy's "Long Gray Line" includes some of the United States' most famous leaders: Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, George S. Patton, Omar Bradley, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, and Norman Schwarzkopf.

The frontline people on the ground in Bagram, Afghanistan or Sadr City, Iraq have vital intelligence that must make it to the top. Their local knowledge is at least as important as the knowledge at headquarters. The top brass need to shift from treating the frontline people as objects in their strategy to treating them as co-equal partners in strategy design. This is a fundamental shift in orientation. Traditional top-down leadership is bankrupt. Even the army, a bastion of organizational hierarchy, needs co-leadership.

A few days after 9/11, Col. Joe LeBoeuf, head of the leadership program at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, picked up the phone. The colonel said curtly, “Tom, we need you over here.” It turned out that the highest brass of the U.S. Army had realized that military officers needed to be trained not only as competent fighters, but also as skillful and empathetic diplomats. This was not a question of being nice to terrorists; it was a strategic question of decoding how they ticked in order to anticipate their moves. The Army knew what many companies don’t: empathy is not merely a nice-to-have HR skill—it is a strategic competence.

Communicate or DieCommunicate_or_Die_-_the_book.html
Leading Through Language.Communicate_or_Die_-_the_book.html
Culture ClashCulture_Clash_-_the_book.html
Manage Effectively Across Borders.Culture_Clash_-_the_book.html


Turning officers

into diplomats.

Col. Joe LeBoeuf is a wiry and wired man with nary an extra ounce of fat on his body. He speaks in a staccato voice and wastes no words. He is a man on purpose. When he picked up Thomas from the train station at Garrison, NY and drove him to West Point, the conversation turned to running, and Thomas boasted of having run six marathons, one of which under 3 hours (2:59.58, to be exact). Joe said, ¨That’s pretty good.¨ Thomas asked him what his personal best was, and Joe answered casually, ¨2:37.¨ Hmmm.

Prior to joining West Point’s faculty, Col. LeBoeuf held numerous command and staff assignments in Germany and the United States. He served as the senior aide to a Corps Commander in Europe during the Cold War. He spent six months working for the Chief of Staff, Gen. Shinseki, on a study of Army leadership.


Joe LeBoeuf and West Point’s Leadership Program invested in the cadets’ leadership with a keynote and the books Culture Clash and Communicate or Die. When Thomas helped West Point integrate intercultural skills into its curriculum, the assembled faculty asked him how the cadets could put themselves in the shoes of militant Islamists. Thomas pointed out that to truly know Al Qaeda, its culture and mindset, cadets needed to study things like the Koran and the history of Islam.


"The US Army has made it a top priority to train its cadets not only as competent soldiers, but also as skillful diplomats to represent our country around the world,¨ said Col. Joe LeBoeuf. ¨We use Culture Clash in our advanced leadership course. It is a great tool in building the skills the Army needs in the 21st century." Asked why he also used the Communicate or Die book, the colonel answered: "In the 21st century, perhaps more than ever before, US soldiers need not only technical and fighting capability, but also leadership skills. The chief medium of leaders is communication. Zweifel's powerful yet simple principles, practices and tools enable leaders to use a free commodity – language – to produce breakthrough results "

Culture Clash-In-ActionCulture_Clash-In-Action.html
Making Your People Cross-cultural Champions.Culture_Clash-In-Action.html

—Col. Joseph LeBoeuf,

Head, Leadership Program,

US Military Academy at West Point


Now all courses at West Point have a cross-cultural component. Fast forward to today: The U.S. Air Force Academy  in Colorado Springs used a keynote ¨Leading Through Language¨ at its National Character and Leadership Symposium attended by 4,000 cadets, officers, alumni and members of the community.

Service academies' cadet leadership meet at West Point

Service academies' cadet leadership meet at West Point

Service academies' cadet leadership meet at West Point

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