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NEWS | Jan. 19, 2021

Army leaders talk ethical leadership

By Jim Hoeft TRADOC Communication Directorate

Ethical leadership was the topic of discussion Jan. 13 as retired Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, president and CEO, Association of the United States Army, visited U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command during its monthly leader professional development webinar.

Ham and TRADOC Commanding General Paul E. Funk II took a hard look at how the Army builds trust in its leaders, develops its ethics, trains its personnel to make difficult decisions, and instills values in all its professionals.

“It’s important for Army professionals, uniformed and civilian, to every now and then take pause and think seriously about the profession of arms. Think about what it is you have committed yourself to. And have a serious conversation about what that Army ethic is,” Ham said about why he wanted to participate in the webinar.

Funk felt Ham was an ideal guest to bring clarity to the topic.

“Professionals study their profession. Ethical leadership is the bedrock of our Army Profession. There is no guy better to do that than Carter Ham,” Funk said.

He also said that the Army is based on values and trust. “We get the privilege to wear the cloth of our nation. Every day we have to lead. And this is the jersey of the greatest team on earth.”

With more than 1,400 people watching live, the generals shared how ethics has played a role in their careers as well as improving the Army, including developing organizational transparency, and highlighting the importance of diversity in creating an organizational ethic.

In explaining how a diverse force can have a common ethic, Funk said, “You have doctrine to start with. And then from there you do training and try to discuss some of these [ethical] dilemmas before you have them.” He also mentioned the importance of training exercises, simulations, and the after-action review.

“We have to build on these diverse experiences to show the richness and depth of the expertise we have in our force,” Funk said.

Ham added that there is an institutional recognition that “the backgrounds, experiences, cultures, beliefs, practices of a very diverse Army brings tremendous strength to that Army.”

But he also added that doctrine can only take the profession so far in terms of understanding Army values.

“It is important for Army professionals, uniformed and civilian, to understand doctrine; the doctrinal underpinning for what the Army does, what the Army is, and for particular aspects of Army operations. But that’s not enough. That’s the baseline of what each Army professional must possess,” he said.

“When you combine that doctrinal knowledge and understanding, which is facilitated by small group discussions, and then you combine it with the examples like [Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sergeant] David Bellavia…when you combine that doctrinal understanding with personal examples of the Army values, that’s when you really start to get something.”

Ham also added that creating a culture within units to have open and respectful conversations is important.

“The senior leader has to make it clear by actions and by words that it is ok to have this open and free dialogue,” he said.

The two also discussed several important initiatives changing the Army over the course of the webinar, including the “first 100 yards” at Basic Combat Training and the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army. They explained how each of those programs are intended to improve the development of Soldiers, which adds to the lethality and effectiveness of the Army.

Both generals also agreed that ethical leadership requires personal presence.

“If you don’t find time – if you don’t purposely make time to be with those that you lead – then the transparency isn’t there,” Ham said. “Leaders have to be engaged.”

“Leadership is a contact sport,” Funk added. “You’ve got to be there every day!

“And you’re not going to get it right every day, but you have to get in the game.”

As the conversation concluded, the generals reflected on their participation in Operation Desert Storm. The 30 year anniversary of the air (Jan. 17, 1991) and ground (Feb. 24, 1991) campaigns are being observed this year.

“I learned the value of allies and partners,” Ham said. “It was an extraordinary coalition effort that was put together.”

He added that as he has served with other nations in subsequent multinational operations that American Soldiers are held up in almost every country as the aspirational ideal of professionalism and ethical behavior.

“In almost every country they look to you for the model of what the behavior of a soldier should be,” he said. “Competence, to be sure. Courage? Absolutely. But a strong moral component to your behavior as well.”

The U.S. Army Center of Military History is commemorating Operation Desert Storm at

Gen. Funk remains committed to the LPD program and its ongoing mission to educate the Army workforce on driving cultural change, developing people of character, and promoting inclusion.

“Renewing and continuing our campaign of the study of the profession remains critically important,” Funk stated.

To watch the full webinar, all previous LPDs, and supplemental videos, visit

TRADOC’s next scheduled LPD is on resiliency – “Adapt and Overcome” – with J.P. Lane, Feb. 17, 11 a.m. EST. The LPD can be viewed through the TRADOC website, DVIDS, LinkedIn, or Facebook.