Trust in Senior Leaders: Implications for Mission Command and Professionalism

  • Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey A. Merenkov

Senior leader misconduct in the U.S. Army erodes trust critical to inculcation of Mission Command and endangers its ability to act as a profession. I assert that the U.S. Army underestimates the impact of leader misconduct on internal trust in the force and external trust of the institution. In light of these challenges, the U.S. Army should conduct a psychological assessment and counseling at the Pre-Command Course for lieutenant colonels and colonels, to identify leaders at risk for future misconduct, including toxic leader behaviors. Leaders identified without prejudice, as “at risk,” would be counseled and assisted by an U.S. Army psychologist to identify mitigating measures to reduce chances of future misconduct. Reducing levels of leader misconduct would strengthen trust internally, within the U.S. Army, and externally, with civilian leaders, and the American public. As the U.S. Army navigates an era characterized by reduced budgets and evolving roles, the foundation of trust will be vital to the implementation of Mission Command and maintaining the U.S. Army as a profession. The U.S. Army would be able to do so only if it restores the confidence and trust within the force, with civilian leadership, and the American public.