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Video Above: How The Pentagon & CIA Align Efforts Improve Innovation, Train Leaders for Future War

By Kris Osborn, President - Center for Military Modernization

The World War II-era Office of Strategic Services did some pioneering research years ago which quite interestingly continues to inform current thinking on leadership.

The OSS, the intelligence-entity which preceded the CIA, sought out decades ago to try to find some way to quantify, assess or best understand the mix of attributes necessary to becoming a great leader

Zelensky Leadership

“Are leaders born or made? I believe the answer is both,” Mike Mears, a now retired senior member of the intelligence community who specifically evaluated and trained leaders for decades. As the former Director of Human Capital for the CIA, Mears has studied, cultivated and supported those in large leadership roles with massive responsibility.

While some of the nuances or specifics which went into the analysis may not be available for security reasons, the effort did prove quite successful in the realm of predicting future behavior of those tasked with major leadership positions.

“It's not perfect but they can, with some precision, filter out if the person has certain attributes. Do the leadership candidates have drive? Is that balanced by empathy? Are they optimists? Are they learners? There is a cluster of measurable traits that you can measure to predict future behavior. That was a great discovery actually in the OSS in ‘43,” Mears said.

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Sure enough, there is a desired blend of variables and qualities essential to great leadership, including guidance, empathy, organizational and managerial skill and, perhaps of greatest importance, an ability to inspire. As a student of great leaders throughout human history and a close observer of the situation in Ukraine, Mears told Warrior he thinks Ukrainian President Zelensky would fare quite well in the kinds of analyses embarked upon by the OSS.

“If you gave those assessments to Zelinsky, I'm absolutely convinced, he wouldn't come out in the top 8%, which are people with super strong leadership attributes, he would come out in the top 1%,” Mears said. “He has shown himself that he's not a comedian. This guy is a highly competent manager, administrator, and leader.”

Zelenskly

Zelenskly

For example, Mears pointed to Zelensky’s ability to consistently inspire Ukrainians and maintain a strong emotional connection to the country of Ukraine and its people.

“There was a great opportunity for me in May, I slipped in and got permission to slip in on a zoom call with Zelensky. I mean to tell you the guy is a one percenter when it comes to leadership,” Mears said.

This measure of emotion or spirit, if even somewhat ineffable or more difficult to describe, is precisely the kind of thing which can motivate a inspire a population.

“We are talking about the man for the times, get on YouTube and look at any of his videos every night speaking to the people. He's not just going after that logical brain, he's going after that automatic brain, which is full of instincts and emotions and fears and all that. He covers it all in his talks. It's the most inspirational message I've ever seen. I just think it's a miracle that it all came together and the right guy was in the right place at the right time,” Mears said. 

Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization