Leadership Principles Of A Loyal Heretic
by U.S. Army Patrick Bray
The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center
April 16, 2018
Col. Wiley Barnes, the assistant commandant of the Defense
Language Institute Foreign Language Center and commander of the U.S.
Air Force 517th Training Group, spoke at an institute leadership
forum to staff and faculty January 25, 2018.
his talk “Leadership principles of a loyal heretic” and made several
book recommendations to support the subject of leadership.
Col. Wiley Barnes, the assistant
commandant of the Defense Language Institute Foreign
Language Center and commander of the U.S. Air Force 517th
Training Group, gave a talk titled “Leadership principles of
a loyal heretic” at an institute leadership forum to staff
and faculty Jan. 25. (U.S. Army photo by Patrick Bray, The
Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center)
“A loyal heretic is a person loyal to the Nation, his service and
mission while challenging the status quo in a constructive way,”
said Barnes, who uses the Webster Dictionary definition of heretic
as “one who differs in opinion from an accepted belief or doctrine.”
Barnes did not coin the phrase himself, but attributes it to Lt.
Gen. Paul K. Carlton, Jr., the 17th Surgeon General of the Air
Force. Carlton had spoken to a class of officer candidates at the
Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, while
Barnes was serving as an instructor there from 2002-2003.
loyal heretic is a way of thinking, according to Barnes, who then
challenged the staff and faculty to “not just do what you’re told,
but be informed of the situation or mission and make positive
change.” He said they must adhere to five leadership characteristics
or principle and five disciplines to do so.
characteristics or principles are experience, education, natural
talent or intellect, vision, and courage.
The disciplines are
mutual respect for others, doing the right thing for the right
reason, leading by example, continuously improving and adapting
Barnes offered a book recommendation with
respect to the principle of vision.
“In the 'Opposable Mind'
by Roger Martin, he proposes that an opposable mind can take two
separate and distinct ideas or approaches, find the best
characteristics of those two for the situation or the mission and
integrate those to create a third approach,” said Barnes.
Barnes then spoke about cultivating that vision at DLIFLC. It will
require courage, which he more plainly described as accepting risk.
“Accepting risk is part of what we do. If we didn’t, we would
never leave our house. There would be no risk in personal
relationships or driving down the highway,” said Barnes.
“Life is fraught with peril,” continued Barnes, but he said “we have
to embrace it and understand how to manage risk.”
continuously improving, Barnes introduced the OODA loop, which
refers to the decision cycle of observe, orient, decide and act, and
then repeat the cycle.
“And that’s where the heresy comes in.
People will get stuck, whether they realize it or not, in the way
things have always been. That does not constitute a positive,
innovative, adaptive or productive way of doing things,” said
Barnes. Loyal heretics will keep the constant cycle going.
The OODA loop was developed by Col. John Boyd, who is considered the
greatest U.S. fighter pilot in history, and Barnes recommended
another book: "Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War"
by Robert Coram. Not only could Boyd fly fighter jets but he knew
the inner workings of aircraft and was constantly improving them. As
a pilot, his theories of lightweight aircraft led to the F-16
fighter jet still used today.
“As we look at getting to the
goals we set for ourselves, such as getting to 2+/2+/2, it will also
require systems thinking,” said Barnes, speaking of the fifth of the
five disciplines he previously mentioned. “Everything we do is a
system of systems, a process interlinked with processes.”
Barnes then recommended reading the "Fifth Discipline: The Art and
Practice of the Learning Organization" by Peter Senge, which focuses
on using systems thinking to develop learning organizations.
The final book recommendation focuses on examining the decision
making process. "Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile
Crisis" by Graham T. Allison provides a case study of the rationale
behind government decision making during one of the most dangerous
events in U.S. history and how this decision-making process can be
applied in the future.
“The last characteristic is personal
courage reinforced by your conviction and adhering to those values
of your oath of office,” said Barnes, who added that “you can have
courage because you’ve developed yourself through education and
“It is not easy sometimes being a loyal
heretic,” Barnes said in summary. The journey to leadership has to
begin on day one when staff and faculty as federal servants take
their oath of office and standards and expectations are established,
according to Barnes. Therefore, as a learning organization, DLIFLC
has established the Center for Leadership Development to grow its
leadership capacity. It develops current and future leaders on their
journey to leadership who are committed to promoting a highly
engaged and positive workforce.
Barnes has a Master of Arts
in Organizational Management from George Washington University in
Washington, D.C. He also graduated numerous Air Force training
schools, the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia, and,
from July 2014 to June 2015, he served as a National Defense Fellow
at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., a think tank that
encourages cooperation between North America and Europe.