The Human Factors and Medicine (HFM) Panel of the NATO Science and Technology Organisation (STO) has awarded its “Excellence Award” to the Research Task Group (RTG) 286 for their report NATO HFM RTG 286 "Leader Development for NATO Multinational Military Operations".

Since June 2017, the working group, composed of contributors from 10 countries, the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (ACT) and the NATO School Oberammergau (NSO), has been working on this topic under the chairs of Dr Yvonne Masakowski, US Naval War College, and Brigadier General Matthew J. Petersen, Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. In doing so, RTG 286 should examine current and emerging challenges for leadership in multinational operations, as well as their implications for the ongoing formation of military leaders across the NATO Alliance.

NATO is facing “VUCA” operating environments - the military-derived acronym stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. However, the Alliance enables member nations and allies to respond to future operational challenges by building shared purpose and mutual assurance, by collaborating and sharing resources and risks. Yet, to realise these advantages, NATO will need leaders capable of crossing cultural as well as geographical boundaries to bring their organisations together. They will require highly developed social, cultural and ethical abilities to build the trust and understanding needed to succeed as an alliance. 

With its report, RTG 286 presents an integrated competency framework for NATO leader development that defines the key skills required for the effective leadership of multinational military operations. In addition to the framework, this report identifies and explores key areas for effective multinational leadership development. The RTG also examines the challenges that arise for managing and exploiting the situation, which is complex in every respect. It finally also contributes to aligning the leadership development programmes of the individual countries.

To sum up the 258-page report: Future NATO leaders must be prepared to lead effectively in VUCA-environments. NATO leaders of multinational operations must must feel confident when leading individuals from diverse backgrounds in uncertain and complex military environments. They must be comfortable with ambiguity, complexity and rapid change and see challenges as opportunities to grow rather than fail. Additionally, they must believe in the importance of the NATO core values and the benefit of partnering with others to meet operational objectives. Building and leveraging mutually beneficial relationships and networks to accomplish the mission will be a critical capability of future NATO multinational leaders.

Future NATO leaders must be able to foster an environment of cooperation, collaboration and coordinated action that successfully balance competing demands and needs. They must value the need for learning and innovation and see opportunity in adversity. Effective future NATO leaders will create systems to support experimentation, creativity and knowledge sharing.

The bar for future NATO leaders is indeed high, especially since some characteristics are more a matter of attitude than training.

For details see the STO Website.