Milley’s Apology

Author’s note: For the indefinite future, all my digital articles will be short and shorter. Why? Because I have gotten myself ensnared in writing another book – a book that will appear after the next one. My next book – to be published in September by Cambridge University Press – is co-authored with Todd Pittinsky. It is titled, Leaders Who Lust: Power, Money, Sex, Success, Legitimacy, Legacy. 

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In 2006 I had an article published in the Harvard Business Review titled, “When Should a Leader Apologize – and When Not.”  https://hbr.org/2006/04/when-should-a-leader-apologize-and-when-not

My longstanding interest in the question led me to pay particular attention yesterday when the nation’s highest ranking military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, issued, well, it was not precisely an apology, rather it was an expression of deep regret. He said he was wrong to have walked alongside President Donald Trump during his controversial visit to a damaged church near the White House. “I should not have been there,” admitted Milley. “As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from.”  

It was a supremely important gesture – the willingness of a man so highly placed publicly to acknowledge that what he did was wrong.

I have written before that the American military does the best job, by far the best job, of any American institution or organization educating leaders, training leaders, and developing leaders. The parade in recent weeks of top military brass saying out loud what they really think and feel about the president of the United States, who in some cases remains still their boss, is heartening. It would seem also to confirm what I wrote in my book, Professionalizing Leadership. “The evidence suggests that the military does a demonstrably better job of teaching people how to lead than its countless civilian counterparts.”     

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