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Innere Führung and Global Integral Competence

Innere Führung and globalization: intercultural competence in the German armed forces

Particularly in today’s globalized environment, it is important to have an awareness about one’s own heritage and about different society-specific leadership cultures. Deployments no longer only take place under the command of a single nation. Working together requires cooperation between nations and mutual understanding.

Resolute Support has a multinational environment. The mentor team of the 209th Corps comprises around 60 NCOs and officers from 12 nations who have to bridge their cultural differences in order to fulfill a common mission. Among them are “only” five German soldiers. This heterogeneous group, spanning different ranks and country borders, has one task: to advise the Afghan National Army in northern Afghanistan.

From the German perspective, intercultural competence (ICC) requires an understanding of Innere Führung and putting it into practice. In terms of human dignity, the core philosophy of Innere Führung (leadership development and civic education) was devised in such a way that, even today, it can form an essential part of the intercultural competence of the German armed forces (Bundes­wehr). Back then, albeit unconsciously, the conditions were created for ICC. Mutual tolerance and accepting as well as respecting the other’s culture are the basis for communication and a guarantee of success. One does not need to be on an overseas deployment to apply intercultural competence. Respect and tolerance are required in Germany, too. Superiors in particular are called upon to permit and promote pluralism. Military leaders are “leaders, educators, and trainers” who have a high level of competence in soft skills such as tolerance, empathy, and the ability to communicate, and they should be able to foster these skills. These requirements are not limited to leaders – they apply to all members of the armed forces.

To assist superiors in the promotion of ICC, a wide variety of courses are available at the Center for Innere Führung (Zentrum Innere Führung, ZInFü) and at the German Federal Armed Forces Command and Staff College (Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr). In day-to-day military life, however, other areas of training are dealt with more urgently. Innere Führung or ICC is usually of secondary importance.

ICC is a mandatory part of training and planning for deployments. This training includes courses in regional studies and more general information, but is limited to the practical rules of conduct for the respective country and culture. Yet this is not the same thing as intercultural competence. ICC is not simply a list of dos and don’ts!

The German Armed Forces should adapt themselves to a more multinational context with the associated intercultural competencies. ICC is and will be the everyday tool kit of every soldier, especially superiors, during deployments.

Innere Führung and postmodernity: diversity competence among leaders

The Bundeswehr’s system of values, like that of society, is subject to constant change, and therefore should always be discussed in the current spirit of the times. Thus, Innere Führung is also constantly changing. Particularly as a result of deployments in recent years, and especially since the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission, Innere Führung has been a topic of discussion. The question has to be asked of whether it is still in keeping with the times, and whether, in an unchanged form, it measures up to present-day requirements. The internationalization of missions, the multinational nature of staffs, and the placing of other nations’ troops under German command in their home country are causing the military world to grow together, while compelling an adaptation of Innere Führung.

Despite all discussions in society and in the military, Innere Führung still remains the basis for action  because values such as human dignity, freedom, peace, justice, equality, solidarity, and democracy are timeless. At the same time, a balancing act needs to be performed between maintaining the core values of Innere Führung and adapting to society’s current needs.

This changing of needs should also be reflected in the corresponding regulations. Dörfler-Dier­ken and Kramer (2013) highlight a discrepancy in the distribution of and knowledge about Innere Führung in the armed forces. There is a clear difference between the rank groups which shows the importance of Innere Führung with regard to the understanding of military service in day-to-day life and during deployments. This different understanding and interpretation of Innere Führung may lead to misconceptions in leadership behavior. At the same time, one runs the risk of losing the beneficial effects of successful cooperation, or rather of not being able to generate such effects in the first place.

It is precisely the diversity of the armed ­forces, the wealth of all kinds of different aspects, which gives the Bundeswehr the decisive advantage in future deployments. This diversity is characterized particularly by Innere Führung in practice and by ICC that is not directed solely at one’s own self. A global view of the problems should be the goal.

During future Bundeswehr deployments, there will be a greater need for diversity management skills, especially if the Bundeswehr expands its mandate to train foreign armed forces or in the case of training missions that are based on a “postwar conflict.” Effective peace consolidation is only possible in cooperation with the host country or partner nations. This requires systematic thinking as a world citizen.

Global integral competence – a possible contribution to the evolution of Innere Führung

The November 2015 terror attacks in Paris were viewed by society’s conservative wing as a confirmation of the “Clash of Civilizations” hypothesis that was put forward in 1996 by US political scientist Samuel Huntington. Many academic writers have warned against his reductionist definition of culture, which is also still dominant in the theory and practice of intercultural training (e.g. cultural standard and cultural dimension), and they have criticized the illusion of the singularity of identity. A person should be regarded as an individual with many affiliations or as a member of many different groups. In intercultural interaction, one should recognize one’s own multiple identity, and at the same time recognize and acknowledge the identity of others so as to avoid ascribing and further entrenching a single cultural identity.

A postmodern concept of ICC should enable leaders in the Bundeswehr to recognize their multiple social identity and furthermore to discover their personal identity. The learning process in any such formation of identity is a transformative learning process, in which “learning as change” takes place as described by Gregory Bateson (1972).

His multilevel model of learning provides a theoretical foundation for the new concept of intercultural training which postulates that the reconstruction of identity is possible through “awareness transformation” at a higher level of learning. This “awareness transformation” takes place consciously and unconsciously in the intercultural context. However, it can still be fostered more efficiently via intercultural training prior to soldiers’ overseas deployment by suspending cultural factors in behavior, skills, beliefs, and identities. The role of science is to develop specific training approaches to promote “diversity management competence,” i.e. the ability to perceive one’s own and others’ diversity of identities as integral parts of the system as a whole and to establish a solid foundation for peace consolidation in postwar regions.

Future training in Innere Führung, in particular, should seek to further enhance the capabilities of the armed forces, especially of leaders, for successful peace consolidation. The concept of Innere Führung focuses on the person and their ability to exert influence on conflicts and peace. Members of the armed forces need to influence people on different levels of society in order to contribute to peace consolidation and ultimately initiate a transformation of the system.

To state this theory in more detail, the concept of Innere Führung can be combined or expanded with Wilber’s “Integral Theory” (2007). In particular, the quadrant model of his integral theory will be considered here as it can serve as an important addition to the concept of Innere Führung. The quadrant model makes it possible to understand interpersonal events in an integrated and comprehensive manner and therefore multiplies the possibilities for action. It presents us with a basic model for considering both the paradigms and the specific learning fields and learning levels. The meaning of the individual quadrants is explained briefly below.

According to Wilber (2007), events can be experienced individually and collectively, while phenomena can be perceived subjectively (interior perspective) and objectively (exterior perspective). Using these dimensions, Wilber defines the quadrant model as depicted in figure 1:

Upper-left quadrant – Interior individual perspective – “I”

This quadrant contains individual and subjective perceptions, that is, the individual’s own awareness. These are one’s own feelings, intentions, and sensations which are perceived consciously or unconsciously. In dialog and exchange with other people, we obtain new knowledge about ourselves. In particular, identity, self-reflection, and personality development are part of this quadrant.

Lower-left quadrant – Interior collective perspective – “We”

This quadrant consists of a consensus of politics, family, school, and work. It comprises values, norms, role models, and cultural conventions that influence the individual and society – sometimes consciously, but mainly unconsciously. The awareness of the community and the impact of collective conventions can be found here. From the educational perspective, ethic-moral education is located in this quadrant. The interior collective perspective determines social and intercultural competence and is therefore crucial in intercultural dialog.

Upper-right quadrant – Exterior individual perspective – “It”

In this quadrant, people’s opinions and behaviors are objectively viewed from the outside. What the individual feels or thinks is not relevant here. It is about creating objectivity and comparability. Scientific measurement methods make this possible. Measurable values would be, for example, information about a conflict, understanding of the law, school education, and negotiation and analysis skills. “It” therefore represents the scientific field.

Lower-right quadrant – Exterior collective perspective – “Its”

This perspective consists of the exterior, visible behavior of systems of all kinds. This implies educational, state, and economic systems as well as the global ecological system. Other factors such as infrastructure also play a role. How does a system behave outwardly and what do the communication processes look like?

These four quadrants are four different perspectives from which one can gain a comprehensive and integrated view of people, society, and the world. In the global perspective, this approach of multiple perspectives is called “global integral competence.” The term describes the attribute of a subject capable of acting and shaping their own personality and the global environment. Global integral competence results from bringing these four perspectives into balance, and recognizing the self and others in a causal relationship within a big system.

“It”: Becoming aware of our neuronal perception of the world and our attribution of meaning, with the goal of pushing the boundaries and developing new meaning and possibilities for action.

“I”: Recognizing one’s own complex system of plural identity, developing a coherent identity, and expanding options and scope for action.

“We”: Recognizing individual potentials for developing a new culture by suspending prejudices/assumptions and developing competence for dialogical communication, i.e. listening.

“Its”: Recognizing that we stick together by means of an implicit system and differentiate ourselves from each other by means of an explicit system.

For example, a mentor in the German armed forces in Afghanistan should perceive their Afghan trainees without prejudice via the “It” and “I” perspective. Via the “We” perspective, they should be capable of developing a trusting relationship with their trainee, in which a new, appropriate leadership culture emerges. Beyond the differentiated institutional functions such as trainer–trainee, they should recognize that they and their trainees are integral parts of a global system.

Global integral competence is a broad term that comprises a bundle of self, social, and system competencies that are vital for modern human resources development in the armed forces. The theoretical development of this concept can be tied in with the contemporary evolution of Innere Führung, as it needs to adapt in the context of globalization and integration to international structures.


Bateson, Gregory (1972): Step to an ecology of mind, Chicago.

Dörfler-Dieken, Angelika and Kramer, Robert (2014): Innere Führung in Zahlen: Streitkräftebefragung 2013, Berlin.

Huntington, Samuel (1996): The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New York.

Wilber, Ken (2007): Integrale Vision, Munich.


Kazuma Matoba

Kazuma Matoba studied and gained his doctorate in communication science in Tokyo and Duisburg. Following his habilitation at Witten/Herdecke University, he worked as a lecturer at various German and international universities. Alongside his academic activities, he is active around the world as a coach in intercultural communication and peace consolidation. He has been teaching and undertaking research at the Faculty of Human Sciences at Universität der Bundeswehr München since 2014.

Bernd Küstner

Bernd Küstner joined the German armed forces in 2000 as an officer candidate in the former armored reconnaissance corps (Panzeraufklä­rungstruppe). Following his training as an officer, and after studying educational science at Universität der Bundeswehr München, he served as a platoon leader, Kompanieeinsatzoffizier, and staff officer. Küstner currently works as a team leader in military training support. His three overseas deployments to date – in 2011, 2013, and 2015 – have taken him to Afghanistan.

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All articles in this issue

Professional Soldiers and Citizens in Uniform
Donald Abenheim, Carolyn C. Halladay
Bundeswehr Without Cohesion. Negative Developments in Innere Führung
Elmar Wiesendahl
What’s the Matter with Innere Führung?
Uwe Hartmann
Innere Führung and Global Integral Competence
Kazuma Matoba, Bernd Küstner
Innere Führung and Civil Protection – Keyword "Mission-Type Tactics"
Dirk Freudenberg
Leadership in Multinational Military Organizations – the Example of SHAPE
Gregor Richter
Integrity, Moral Courage and Innere Führung
Peter Olsthoorn
Ethics Versus Efficiency – What Military Leadership Can Learn from Business
Detlef Aufderheide
Innere Führung – Leadership Culture in Camouflage
Zentrum Innere Führung
Voluntary Instead of Military Service – Young People Working for the Common Good
Angelika Dörfler-Dierken


Thomas von Buttlar Hans-Peter Bartels Peter Wendl Rabea Haß Gerhard Kümmel