Military Review English Edition September-October 2014 - Page 68

Could a loyal subordinate have convinced Icarus to heed his father’s warning and fly at a safe level? Subordinates must try to prevent their leaders from making wrong or unethical decisions that will cause them to fail. Effective and courageous followers will use professional dissent to challenge their leaders’ poor decisions. By understanding dynamic followership, military organizations can treat followership like a discipline and improve leader-follower culture. U.S. Air Force photo Army Senior Leader Issues Icarus statue at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. D anny Miller coined the phrase Icarus paradox to describe how having a competitive advantage and superiority status can lead to an unforeseen failure of organizations and individuals that do not maintain situational awareness.1 Miller argues that people and organizations get caught in a vicious circle whereby “their victories and strengths so often seduce them into the excesses that cause their downfall.”2 Miller describes how Icarus, according to Greek mythology, flew with a great pair of artificial wings made from wax and feathers by his father. Ignoring his father’s warning, he tried to fly close to the sun. As he neared the sun, his wings melted, causing him to fall to his death. The story of Icarus demonstrates that power and an overinflated sense of self-importance can blind people and organizations to their weaknesses and ultimately lead to their downfall. 66 Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 6-22, Army Leadership, describes a leadership and followership framework by saying that, “Effective organizations depend on the competence of respectful leaders and loyal followers. … Learning to be a good leader also needs to be associated with learning to be a good follower—learning loyalty, subordination, respect for superiors, and even when and how to lodge candid disagreement.”3 This statement emphasizes that everyone serves on a team as either a leader or a subordinate, and effective teams develop mutual trust and respect, recognize existing talents, and willingly contribute for the common good of the organization. Unfortunately, several senior-level Army officers who were on the fast-track to the top organizational jobs have violated the Army’s and the Nation’s trust. They failed in their careers by engaging in unethical or immoral behavior such as gross abuse of power, bigamy, extreme toxic leadership, and criminal acts. These officers serve as fitting examples of the Icarus paradox: their successes as military officers led them to believe they were above reproach—a weakness that led to their downfall. The challenge for our Army is correcting our moral compass and eliminating this type of behavior to maintain the trust of the American people. Army leadership cannot allow moral decrepitude to impair the profession. Senior leaders are exploring new methods and strategies to help all Army leaders recognize vulnerabilities and prevent missteps in order to maintain public respect and trust.4 The U.S. Army achieves credibility and legitimacy as a profession through trust from our society. Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 1, The Army Profession, states, “Professions earn and maintain their clients’ trust through effective and ethical application of expertise on behalf of the society they serve. Society determines whether the profession has earned the status of a noble September-October 2014  MILITARY REVIEW