General Ann Dunwoody

April 28, 2015


We kick off our General Ann Dunwoody residency with an author-penned article titled, "Aspiring to a Higher Standard"

About General Ann Dunwoody

In November of 2008, General Dunwoody became the first woman in military history to achieve the rank of four-star general. She had already been the first woman to command a battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division, and Fort Bragg's first female general officer in 2000.

General Dunwoody is the former commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, which is one of the largest commands in the Army with more than 69,000 employees and presence in all 50 states and 145 countries.

In 2005, Dunwoody became the Army's top-ranking female when she received the promotion to lieutenant general (three stars) and became the Army's deputy chief of staff, G-4 (logistics) at the Pentagon. During her more than 30 years as a quartermaster corps officer she led many organizations at home and abroad, commanding at every level.

Dunwoody deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield/Operation Desert Storm in 1990. In 2001, as the 1st Corps support command commander, she deployed the logistics task force in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and stood up the Joint Logistics Command in Uzbekistan in support of the combined joint task force. Later, as commander of surface deployment and distribution command, she supported the largest deployment and redeployment of U.S. forces since WWII. She officially retired after 38 years of service in 2012.

A straight shooter who tells it like it is, she is uniquely qualified to teach, inspire, empower and entertain readers of all ages through her tried and true "Leadership Truths."

Aspiring to a Higher Standard

by General Ann Dunwoody

Dream big and find ways to make a difference—even in the face of obstacles, bad bosses, or traditions that have outlived their usefulness! This is the message that I hope resonates when people read A Higher Standard. During almost four decades in the Army, I witnessed many changes and the opening of previously closed doors. I learned principles along the way that made me a better leader and a better person.  

I wanted to share the leadership lessons and principles that worked for me, supported by stories and vignettes from my life, hoping that others might find them useful as well. I talk about things I learned as a kid, as an athlete, as a student, as a sibling, as a daughter, as a wife, as a soldier, as a businessperson, and as a leader. In A Higher Standard I tried to capture what I learned, how I learned, and how these things made me a better leader.

My journey was more about leadership than gender. Not just leadership for people in the Army but for people...period. I didn't just skip along the yellow brick road in the Land of Oz and find myself at the end of the rainbow as a four star General. There were bumps in the road, there were obstacles in the road, but there were also people who were willing to help along the way. I think that these bumps, these obstacles, and the people who are willing to help can be found in all walks of life and in any profession.  

I chose leadership lessons that were not only fundamental to my success but had the broadest application to all leaders and all organizations, large or small, in boardrooms or on battlefields. Whether you are in elementary school and just beginning to dream about the future, in high school with your whole adult life out in front of you, or a successful person in your own business, this book is about a life-long leadership journey with lessons for people who never want to stop trying to be better leaders.

It doesn't matter if you're a CEO, COO, shop manager, coach, or dreaming of starting your own business—the leadership challenges are similar. How do you diversify your workforce—not just in race and gender but in diversity of thought? How do you build your bench and develop leaders? How do you create a positive work climate? How do you execute succession planning? How do you create a vision for the organization and its future? How do you develop your enterprise into a high-performing organization? Regardless of your mission, I hope this book will assist you in accomplishing it.

I never sought to be the first female anything—I only sought to serve my Nation and the Army the best way I could. My leadership skills initially came from my family, my education, and from fitness—and when I say fitness, I mean mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual fitness. These were the cornerstones in my life that allowed me to achieve things I never thought possible.

My journey was not without confrontation. Not everyone was delighted to see me when I reported to Airborne school at Fort Benning Georgia, home of the Infantry back in 1976, or when I reported to Jumpmaster school with the 10th Special Forces in 1984. It would have been easy to turn and run away in the face of adversity. But I believed by staying on the moral high ground, by not lowering my own standards or stooping to counterproductive tactics like name calling, gossip, or innuendo that I would prevail.

I truly believe, whether you are male or female, if you let others unduly influence or make decisions for you, they win. If you let others drive you away from your passion or something you believe in, they win.  

The book is called A Higher Standard because less than 1% of the American population will ever serve in the military and most citizens never realize that the men and women in uniform are held to a higher standard. In our profession we take an oath to "protect and defend the Constitution." We are held to a strict code of conduct that governs our behavior in and out of uniform, and we have to meet certain standards for everything we do. These standards run from adherence to a stringent Code of Ethics, and adherence to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and respect for authority and the chain of command to how fast you run, how many pushups you can do, how you wear your uniform, including how you wear your hair, and how many times you can hit a distant target with a variety of weapons.  

As a woman coming into the Army back in 1975, I just assumed I was going to have to prove myself and exceed those standards in order to be accepted, and I strove to do just that. What I realized during my journey is that all of the good leaders held themselves to a higher standard and consistently applied leadership principles meant to improve and not degrade or debase. It's kind of like the difference between being an A student and a C student—except, in the Army, lives depend on our performance and leadership. The leader who is satisfied with just meeting the standard—with never striving to live to a higher standard—will never lead a high performing organization.


Come back tomorrow for our Q&A with General Dunwoody about her book A Higher Standard.

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