Last month, Pallas Foundation hosted a conversation with LTC Keith Benedict. As part of the Foundation's aim to foster the education and professional development of emerging leaders, he discussed his career, his outlook on the shifting international landscape and priorities within the Department of Defense, and advice for those at the outset of their careers in national security.
Colonel Benedict’s rigorous academic background at West Point and Oxford University combined with his extensive military experience have given him a unique vantage point from which to discuss a range of topics and varying questions. His past roles include serving as a leader in the 82nd Airborne Division, deploying to Iraq during the “Surge” in 2007 and to Haiti following the earthquake in 2010, and as a Strategic Advisor and Strategic Analyst on the personal staffs of General David Petraeus in Afghanistan in 2010 and General James Mattis at United States Central Command in 2011.
Colonel Benedict discussed the tension created by the return to near-peer competition and the importance of “training for certainty while educating for uncertainty” to ensure readiness for any unexpected event. In this way, he argued, one can build organizational resilience that can help the US thrive in an unpredictable environment. He also spoke of the opportunity for the Department of Defense to exercise its leadership through revised decision-making processes to address novel challenges that warrant a new approach.
Lastly, LTC Benedict spent some time speaking about leadership and sharing his advice for emerging leaders. He emphasized the importance of humility that undergirds all other attributes that make a great leader. By being humble and acknowledging what one doesn't know, he maintained, one can ask questions and give others space to be heard. Underpromise and overdeliver, he told the young leaders on the call – “I like being surrounded by young men and women that do not yet know how great they can be.”