Preparing the military leader for war and peacePreparing the military leader for war and peace

Division General R1 Joarez Alves Pereira Junior

The main mission of the military is the defense of the Homeland. To this end, their diverse training should prepare them for the worst case scenario – the conduct of war – during which an exceptional regime is in place, with significant changes when compared to peacetime, and there is even a modification of legislation for application in this period of extreme crisis.

The professional life of the military in peacetime focuses on preparation for war through studies and military exercises. Besides this, these professionals conduct the Force’s administrative activities; participate in activities in support of the population, in the so-called subsidiary actions and in support of national development; guarantee the state’s presence in remote areas; exercise surveillance of our borders; and, sometimes, participate in more intense operations, in actions to ensure law and order or in peace missions. But all this is very different from the reality of warfare.

The purpose of this article is to present some ideas about what would be the main conditions to prepare this military to exercise leadership in such diverse situations and environments, in times of peace and war.

Initially, we emphasize that the foundations of leadership are knowledge, virtue, and vision. Knowledge refers to the training and knowledge acquired, which is necessary for the good performance of a function in which leadership will be exercised. Virtue portrays the internalized values and attitudes to be practiced by the military for the effective exercise of leadership. The vision refers to the leader’s ability to see what is still invisible to most, and is obtained through professional and life experience, whether one’s own or that of others, from learning from mistakes and successes, and particularly from the wisdom extracted from “meditating” on these experiences.

To train and develop the military leader it is therefore necessary to work on building these foundations that support leadership. It is noticeable, however, that the knowledge, virtues, and vision necessary for times of war and times of peace differ in some respects as to the degree of importance and necessity, which poses challenges to the formation of the military leader, unlike what happens in other professional fields.

We will therefore briefly discuss some aspects related to these three pillars of leadership and their differences for war and peace.


In preparing the military leader for war, the first fundamental step is training in military techniques and tactics. The knowledge to be acquired is most directly related to the employment of military units, from small fractions to higher divisions, to maneuverability and the conduct of combat operations. The employment of the military apparatus is the most relevant knowledge to be acquired in its different specialties in the combat, logistics and support line.

It is also necessary to study the enemy and get to know him. As Sun Tzu said, “if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the outcome of a hundred battles. To do this, one must work on knowledge in the realm of “military intelligence,” where part of it is focused on studying the enemy one will encounter in war.

As a result of the pragmatism and objectivity that governs combat, the general knowledge to be obtained is more focused on the exact sciences and on numerical and statistical calculations.

Even when it comes to the human sciences, the focus should be on knowledge applied to wartime, such as, for example, International Law of Armed Conflict and International Humanitarian Law.

The field of intelligence to be worked on most in the preparation of the leader for war concerns emotional intelligence, both in aspects related to interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence. In this sense, the leader must be trained in aspects related to self-knowledge, that is, in the knowledge of his own emotions that, once worked on, will enable him to exercise self-control, that is, the ability to lead himself before leading others. He must also be able to recognize emotion in people, developing empathy, facilitating the ability to motivate and influence the group, and getting others to share his vision.

As far as the peacetime military leader is concerned, the main knowledge to be acquired relates to other areas. The knowledge to be applied in daily activities will be very much related to administrative and managerial aspects, particularly those about military public administration, which regulates the actions of this public servant. Military history studies sometimes do not overlap with the interests of general history knowledge. Pragmatism and objectivity do not have the same weight, and in peacetime the human sciences grow in importance, particularly in aspects related to social coexistence and peaceful group interaction. The study of law itself, in wartime focused on exceptions and rights applied to conflicts, turns to civil law and the vast legislation and norms of peacetime. Emotional intelligence remains relevant for the exercise of leadership and for guiding people, but not with the same focus and importance as the capacity for encouragement required in wartime, where the risk of death is constant and motivation is a determining factor to counter the natural instinct for survival.

This diversity of knowledge to be acquired by the military, who, prepared to exercise leadership in time of war, will possibly exercise it more in time of peace, imposes a challenge to the composition of the curriculum of military schools, both in their training and throughout the entire formative itinerary.

But the differences in the preparation of a leader for war and for peace do not remain only in the acquisition of knowledge. Let’s look at the internalization of values and the practice of attitudes.


The possession of values and the practice of certain attitudes constitute a solid basis for the exercise of leadership, whether in times of war or in times of peace. The intention is not to show that they apply only to war or peace, but that their importance is more expressive in a specific period.

For example, patriotism is a core value of the military, both in peacetime and in wartime. However, in war it grows in importance, since it serves as a motivating factor for facing the hardships of combat. Therefore, it is more required in times of war than in times of peace. It is in this sense that some values and attitudes that are more demanded in one period than in another are listed.

In addition to patriotism, in wartime they are also required
– physical courage: the ability to overcome physical fear in the performance of a task;
– honor: the principle of virtuous conduct, which makes the soldier maintain his own esteem and become worthy of the esteem of others;
– to be an example: to be the reference to be followed by others;
– enthusiasm: having faith in the mission and being motivated and truly passionate about what you do, even in the face of many adversities;
– self-confidence: confidence in oneself, which is a fundamental attribute to inspire confidence in others;
– Loyalty: translated into the truth when speaking, sincerity when acting, and acting according to the precepts that govern honor. It is a fundamental attitude for group cohesion;
– ability to motivate: having the ability to influence people in order to bring out the best in them and motivate them, if necessary, to sacrifice their own lives;
– confidence: looking at situations from the positive side, hoping for a favorable outcome despite the difficulties
– sense of justice: to judge with neutrality in times of crisis and stress, punishing and rewarding in the right measure;
– discipline: acting correctly when no one is watching;
– determination: to persist even in the face of critical and difficult situations, keeping a firm resolve not to give up without a fight;
– esprit de corps: to be developed as a basis for strengthening and motivating the group for combat, particularly in adverse situations; and
– non-verbal communication skills: when gestures and postures are more eloquent than words.

As already mentioned, the related values and attitudes are important for peacetime, but become indispensable for the exercise of leadership in wartime. Others, although important for wartime, are indispensable for peacetime:
– honesty: a value of one who displays probity, that is, one who does not allow himself to be corrupted;
– Integrity: Linked to completeness, that is, being whole, presenting a flawless character;
– sense of justice of peace: judging according to “civilian” rules and laws, punishing and rewarding according to the guidelines applied in a period without the stress of combat;
– moral courage: acting according to moral principles, respecting ideals and values, and placing them above one’s personal interests
– coherence: to present harmony and connection between words and actions;
– verbal communication skills: to express oneself efficiently in order to transmit ideas and, in this way, help in the performance and cohesion of the group; and
– flexibility: to adapt to the external changes of a world that is increasingly dynamic and with greater technological innovation.

It is clear that there is a large list of values and behavioral attitudes to be worked on to train a military leader for times of war and peace. It is not exhausted in the list above, which tries to highlight only the indispensable ones for each situation and does not add the desirable ones.

The third pillar of leadership is vision. How can it be worked out in war and peace environments?


Vision is recognized as one of the supporting pillars of leadership, considering that with the leader, simplistically speaking, the group would go further than if it were alone. And, for this, the leader develops the ability to see what is still invisible to most.

And this is a quality to be worked on and developed. It comes from the sum of knowledge and learning from the experiences lived by oneself and others. Based on this, to develop his vision, the leader must reflect on this sum and draw the lessons that will serve as a basis for projecting the future, creating his vision to make the right decision.

And what are the aspects that differentiate the vision obtained by the leader for times of war and times of peace? In war, the main purpose is to win battles and, ultimately, to win the war, which is often achieved by destroying or incapacitating the enemy’s actions.

One of the great focuses of the leader’s vision, therefore, will be in obtaining surprise, which will provide a great advantage over the enemy. He will seek to learn from the study of other conflicts, wars, and military history, which will be of great value in acquiring the wisdom necessary to develop vision.

Of great importance, too, is his combat experience. However, the world is experiencing, although it may not seem so, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, period of peace in its history. Even for professional military personnel, their participation in real combat actions is not routine, a condition that is even more expressive in the South American context, where the last major field warfare event occurred in the 19th century, on the occasion of the so-called Paraguayan War. To compensate for this fact, the leader’s participation in military maneuvers and exercises, simulation exercises, and other events that imitate real combat is of utmost importance.

In peacetime, the vision will be directed toward the search for better results, seeking to be efficient and effective in the performance of administrative actions, subject to the regulatory constraints of public service, sometimes very limiting.

The experience necessary for the development of the vision will not come from combat actions, but from administrative and bureaucratic life. The evolution of administrative techniques and support means is faster, and the leader should be careful not to try to reproduce a past truth as a full vision of the future.

Finally, it is considered that, although the military’s main preparation is related to acting in combat, it is possible, and even probable, that it will live most of the time in peacetime. The preparation of the leader is a basic condition of military training and should be practiced in all military schools. However, as we have tried to highlight in this article, it must be developed to meet the needs of the leader during times of war and peace, which imposes a range of activities to be developed in order to work with the military on the pillars that support leadership: knowledge, virtue, and vision.

This is the great challenge of military schools throughout the entire educational process, from the initial training schools to the high schools. They must be prepared to form and polish leaders capable of acting in times of war and peace, as well as at different levels of leadership, according to the professional development of the military throughout their careers.

About the author:

Division General R1 Joarez Alves Pereira Junior – Graduated from the Academia Militar das Agulhas Negras (AMAN) in 1982. Attended Command and General Staff School (ECEME) in 1997/98. Abroad, he took the Basic Intelligence Course at Fort Huachuca, the War School Course at the War College, and the Politics and Strategy Course at the National Defense University, all in the United States of America. He was an instructor at AMAN and ECEME, and commanded the Army Administration School and Military College of Salvador.

He was Adjunct to the Army Attaché at the Brazilian Embassy in Washington. He commanded the 3rd Mechanized Cavalry Brigade, in Bagé-RS and the 6th Military Region, in Salvador-BA. He was Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army for International Affairs. His last active duty position was Deputy Head of the Army Department of Education and Culture. He is currently the Executive Coordinator of the Working Group that will carry out the planning for the implementation of a New School for the Formation and Graduation of Career Sergeants of the Brazilian Army.

*** Translated by the DEFCONPress FYI Team ***

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