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Changes in the world over the past two decades have created a dynamic situation — volatile, unpredictable, and novel in many respects — making the conduct of military operations more complex and varied than in the past. This report examines the nature of demands on Army officers in the contemporary operating environment and their implications for leader development. This research arose from concerns about both the current operational environment and a closely related development, the Army’s ongoing transformation of its structure, technologies, and operating techniques. How will the Army prepare its future leaders for the new demands that will inevitably be placed on them? The report describes analysis and findings on three major topics: the general attributes and intellectual qualities required by leaders in the modern environment; specific operational skills and depth the new environment requires; and the extent to which career paths can provide a foundation of operational experience while still meeting other demands on the officer corps. Although the report concentrates on changes in leader skills needed to keep pace with the evolving operating environment, it also re-emphasizes that the Army should continue to acquire and develop leaders with the character traits and values that have always been the underpinning of effective leadership. Beyond that essential base of leadership, the findings imply that considerably more needs to be done to prepare leaders to meet the challenges of the contemporary environment and to continually learn and adapt to new circumstances.

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The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.

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