Skip navigation

Integrity, Moral Courage and Innere Führung. By Peter Olsthoorn

In short by Cornelius Sturm

Defending a state includes safeguarding its fundamental values. Innere Führung means that members of the military should remain true to these values even under pressure. In Peter Olsthoorn’s view, the expression is better suited than similar-sounding terms such as integrity and civil courage to encouraging soldiers to act morally.

In many armies, integrity is considered an important military virtue. However, the term is relatively ambiguous and vague. Generally speaking, integrity means that a person remains true to their own principles. Yet armed forces, like businesses, frequently have their own definitions, in which the respective organization’s objectives provide guidance. According to Olsthoorn, it cannot be guaranteed that these principles and objectives will satisfy higher ethical standards.

Civil courage means defending moral principles against resistance. However, the term does not tell us which principles a soldier should follow if, for example, he or she is in doubt. For Olsthoorn, the concept of Innere Führung does precisely this. He concludes that it is the constitutionally guaranteed and socially accepted values of a state that make up the ethical guidelines for its armed forces.

Read the article