Five questions for Brig. Gen. Darlene M. Goff, assistant adjutant general, S.C. Army National Guard
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
When Brig. Gen. Darlene M. Goff became the first female general-officer in the S.C. Military Dept., this year, she not only made history; she earned the accolades of the state's highest-ranking chief executive – Gov. Nikki Haley (the state's first female governor) – who referred to Goff as "a woman of great strength, dignity, and service."
Goff's star comes with tremendous responsibility. As assistant adjutant general of the S.C. Army National Guard (one of several elements in the broader S.C. Military Dept., which includes – in addition to the Army Guard – the S.C. Air National Guard, the Emergency Management Division, the S.C. State Guard, and the Joint Services Det., among others) she is tasked with – in her words – "Leadership development [for the S.C. National Guard] as well as the care of our soldiers, airmen, and their families."
Goff is also the full-time vice chief of the military dept.'s Joint Staff, which essentially merges the elements of both the S.C. Army National Guard and the S.C. Air National Guard.
A native of the historic town of Ninety Six (in Greenwood County), Goff is a graduate of Lander University, the Palmetto Military Academy, Webster University, and the Army War College.
Recently, Goff discussed with MidlandsBiz.com the differences between military and business leadership, what one leader might learn from the other, and the future of the S.C. Military Dept.
What do you believe to be the biggest differences between military and business leadership?
Brig. Gen. Darlene M. Goff:
There are three main differences between military and business leadership.
The first and perhaps biggest difference is that getting it wrong in the military jeopardizes both personal and national security. The national security environment is global and very complex. It requires leaders who are well-trained and highly educated; able to articulate the complexity of the security environment and make the right decisions at the lowest levels. They must engage successfully with different people inside-and-outside of their normal environment. And they must grasp and utilize advanced technology. Their lives, the lives of those they lead, and ultimately the lives of our citizens are at stake.
Second, with military leadership, there is the willingness to give up one's own life to serve and defend others, which is not the case with corporate leadership.
Although immediate loss of life is not at stake with poor business leadership, it is imperative that we also succeed at business leadership. Because the enemy is determined to defeat us economically as well as on the battlefield, we must use all of our national power to include diplomatic, information, military, and economic. In this sense, the stakes are high for business leadership as well. We also need smart, well-trained and ethical business leaders. But business leaders do not take an oath to give their life to protect the United States.
Also, in the military, the leader-follower relationship is supported by law and tradition, and the age that a person leads a group of people is usually much younger. Lieutenants in the military will lead a group of soldiers much older and more seasoned than themselves.
What might business leaders learn from military leaders and vice versa?
Brig. Gen. Goff:
Business leaders could learn from the strong values of the military.
Actions of military service members are based on the enduring values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal sacrifice. There is also the Warrior's Creed with the Warrior Ethos incorporated into it:
"I am an American Soldier.
"I am a Warrior and a member of a team.
"I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.
[Warrior Ethos follows]
"I will always place the mission first.
"I will never accept defeat.
"I will never quit.
"I will never leave a fallen comrade.
[Warrior Ethos ends]
"I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
"I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
"I am an expert and I am a professional.
"I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
"I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
"I am an American Soldier."
The other services' creeds are similar. There has been an erosion of values among business leaders in the past 10 to 20 years. It would make our country stronger if business leaders adopt and internalize some of the military values. This lends itself to not just a whole of government approach but a whole of America approach to national security threats.
The military could learn how to develop a strong mentorship practice like businesses. Especially large corporations have a much stronger mentorship program than the military. A CEO is groomed for years under the same mentor. In the military, your replacement is not necessarily someone you've personally groomed for a long period of time. It causes gaps and huge learning curves.
Under your leadership and with your responsibilities – as both the first female general officer in the S.C. Military Dept. (having clearly set a precedent) and as vice chief of the Joint Staff for the Military Dept. – where do you see the Military Dept. in the next 10 years? What changes do you foresee, and how will your post better be able to serve the Military Dept. mission?
Brig. Gen. Goff:
The mission of the National Guard is to plan, train and mobilize to execute federal and state missions. In the next 10 years, I expect to see the force structure of the S.C. National Guard relevant to the needs of our federal and state missions, and each position in the force structure of the National Guard filled with a mission-ready soldier or airman.
I expect to see well-educated and trained soldiers and airmen who can analyze, maintain and articulate situational awareness at the lowest level to make decisions that enhance the successful execution of the mission. I expect to see the S.C. National Guard partnering with state agencies to enhance the lives of National Guard soldiers and airmen, whether for higher education or the health and wellness of the servicemember and their families. I expect to see an increase in the use of technology at all levels to enhance communication and prepare warriors for the complex nature of the future national security environment.
Intellect and cognitive effort will be extremely important in the future. Humans, not technology determine success. But it is imperative to understand and articulate technology as well as the cultural differences in people.
I expect to take the lead putting systems in place to insure that our military members, 10-years- from-now, possess the following: Servicemembers develop cognitive intellect. Servicemembers are highly educated and trained, Servicemembers' talents are put to use; and systems are in place to continuously analyze and adjust to the needs of the future security environment.
Ten years from now, leaders will fully articulate, engage and achieve success as individuals and as part of a team. In addition to being well-educated, highly-trained, and technologically-savvy, it is also important to have personal characteristics that facilitate teamwork and use of diverse skills that allow people to speak their mind without fear of retribution. This can only happen in an environment that fosters trust and confidence.
I see myself as a mentor to both males and females. But I think that it is important to determine the level of diversity you want and/or need in an organization. If you set your goals to mirror the demographics in the state by a certain percentage based on determined analysis of your needs, then you've set conditions for success in recruiting and retention. Having knowledge of where you need to be and striving to achieve that goal also allows a basis for answering sensitive questions concerning race, gender, and ethnicity in the organization.
As vice chief of the Joint Staff, I get to work with both the Army and Air Guard to create a vision and develop programs for S.C. National Guard servicemembers. Earlier in my career, I worked in human resources, and – immediately prior to my promotion – I was the human resource officer. In these positions, I was fortunate to have worked with and established relationships at all levels in both the Air and Army Guard.
What are some of the little-know activities of - and initiatives being furthered - by the S.C. Military Dept., that South Carolinians would be surprised and pleased to know?
Brig. Gen. Goff:
Two initiatives being furthered by the S.C. National Guard pertain to the care of our soldiers, airmen, and their families. We are seeking avenues to partner with employers to train and secure jobs for our service members. One example of this is that very soon we will meet with contacts to discuss the Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces to see how this program might benefit us. Another is that we are seeking an avenue to get VA services to our rural areas. It is a program used by the U.S. Army Reserve that may also benefit us.
What special or unique skills and strengths do you personally bring to the S.C. Military Dept.?
Brig. Gen. Goff:
I'm very good at communication and change. I like to set the stage for analytical discussion. Also I care for people on a personal level. I want to enhance the lives of our servicemembers and their families as much as possible. And I want to see them succeed.