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Podcast    H2'ed 2/24/15

Exclusive: The Military's Culture of Lying- A Top-down Problem? Intvw With Army War College Expert

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Broadcast 2/24/2015 at 16:35:42 (70 Listens, 32 Downloads, 2179 Itunes)
The Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show Podcast

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I was astonished to discover that this was the first interview Dr. Leonard Wong had given since his report on lying in the military had gone viral, after being reported by the Washington Post and CNN.

After reading the 51 page report and producing a condensed version-- US Army's War College Report on Lying in the Military-- I realized that the big problem is based on the extreme top-down, hierarchical nature of the military. So I called the first author and was pleased and surprised to receive his assent to do an interview.
Leonard Wong
Leonard Wong
(Image by Army War College)
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Here's a bit of info about Dr. Wong:
Leonard Wong is a research professor in the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College. He focuses on the human and organizational dimensions of the military. He is a retired Army officer whose career includes teaching leadership at West Point and serving as an analyst for the Chief of Staff of the Army. His research has led him to locations such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia, and Vietnam. He has testified before Congress. Dr. Wong is a professional engineer and holds a B.S. from the U.S. Military Academy and an M.S. and Ph.D. from Texas Tech University.
Dr. Wong agreed to discuss top-down and bottom-up aspects of the military.
Rough Interview Notes: (very rough, mostly my questions)
I started out citing a few quotes from the report:
You wrote: "army officers have become ethically numb."
Dr. Wong: When I say officers have become ethically numb, that's because of an avalanche of regulations

"rampant duplicity",

"Rear Admiral John Kirby, Chuck Hagel, told a news conference, "I think he's generally concerned that there could be, at least at some level, a breakdown in ethical behavior and in the demonstration of moral courage."

Rob: The people above have come to expect lying in the reports.

Dr. Wong: What we have is a facade ... starts being briefed and starts being accepted. It masks what's really going on"

...All these layers of well intentioned higher-ups add work that it ends up can't be done.

Rob: What affect does that have on the culture, that all levels are lying.

Rob: Corporations are beginning to take bottom-up, systemic approaches. Is there any of that happening in the army?

Dr. Wong: Three solutions:

Acknowledge the problem, exercise restraint-- in piling on requirements, lead truthfully.

Rob: You cite:

'a major described "It's getting to the point where you're almost rewarded for being somebody you're not. That's a dangerous situation especially now as we downsize. We're creating an environment where everything is too rosy because everyone is afraid to paint the true picture. You just wonder where it will break, when it will fall apart."'

Dr. Wong: We're teaching young officers how to be hypocrites.

Rob: You say in your report, "the Army must take some rather drastic measures in order to correct the current deleterious culture," and that there is a "culture of dishonesty plaguing the Army."

(regarding the three elements of the solutions proposed in the report) Are these three solutions drastic enough?

Dr. Wong: The army is both an organism and organization. " people have to do things that could cost them their lives"

...What happens is you need trust-- from the lowest levels to the top levels

...There's a big push in the army to allow mission command.

Rob: Talk a bit more about mission command. A commander expresses what he's trying to do, the outcome-- through trust" they empower subordinates to"

Dr. Wong: We need a leader to be able to...

...But it still retains the hierarchy needed in a lethal...

...We need to pull the culture back to line up with this notion of mission command...

...We create all these "substitutes for leadership"...

Rob: These are centralized algorithms.

Dr. Wong: Exactly...

...The army should be an effective organization it doesn't need to be an efficient organization...

Rob: Has there been any analysis of the cost of this culture of lying in the military?

Dr. Wong: ...My study was based on discussions with officers and you can only push them so far...

Rob: Has it affected strategic decisions?

We talked more about the bottom-up aspects of mission command.

Dr. Wong: The military needs to develop adaptive leaders.

Rob: Are they doing anything to create those kinds of leaders?

Dr. Wong: The war did it. (iraq and Afghanistan)

The wars are coming down, so we have to...

Rob: Where do the upper echelons come in developing adaptive leaders?

Dr. Wong: ...The top-down approach worked well when we were going against the Soviets". The top still has a function...

Rob: How does this bottom approach affect the culture and the people at the top...?

Dr. Wong: A successful bottom-up approach develops a trust between the top and the bottom.

Rob: If war critics look at this, they're going to say, "How can we trust the military about anything?"

Dr. Wong: I think a lot of people are saying 'why are they discussing this? It goes on in all organizations.'

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Rob Kall Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media. 

Check out his platform at

He is the author of The Bottom-up Revolution; Mastering the Emerging World of Connectivity  

He's given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites,

more detailed bio: 

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization (more...)

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