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Oct 10 2011

Army Implements Program to “Root Out Toxic Leaders”

The Army has known for a while that some of its leaders are terrible. The number one reason cited by junior officers and NCOs when leaving the Army continues to be, “Bad Leadership.” Now the Army is moving to make a little used voluntary evaluation mandatory.

The evaluation takes input from peers and subordinates into account, sifts through those results and weighs them against a unit’s overall opinion of the local command climate. Hopefully this will give leaders a better understanding on how our actions and attitudes affect the lives of our Soldiers and co-leaders.

During my run through various officer schools and training programs over the course of three years, each school I attended had at least one peer evaluation. I loved those evaluations, they enabled me to identify and correct flaws in my leadership style that my ego blinded me to. My first Armor School evaluation had me in relative poor standing; I was a bit of a dick and would micromanage any person who I felt was not capable of the job at hand. In my head, I was trying to ensure mission success by shoring up my platoon’s weak spots. Later I came to the understanding that by doing that, I was negatively impacting the self esteem of some and denying them the opportunity to improve their performance through experience. So, I swallowed my pride and changed how I led.

When the next round of peer evaluations came around, I was now rated 3rd overall in the class, a massive improvement that came from understanding the views of others and not just my biased self. I was still listed as being a dick, but since I modified how I applied my cruel dickish witticisms, this quality was now listed in the “sustain” column.

Later, when I went to my first unit peer evaluations suddenly disappeared and now I am rated solely by supervisors three levels of leadership above me. I still make it a habit of asking senior NCOs to evaluate me over a smoke, and continue to work to better conduct myself. But, that stems from my first encounter with a negative peer evaluation. I see many of my peers who continue to game the system by doing everything their commander wants but, end up breaking the backs of their Soldiers in order to do so.

I can’t wait for the new evaluation to take effect. However, I am concerned that many officers won’t have sufficient time in leadership positions to practice the art once they receive the new feedback. Currently even a stellar officer who gets selected for every command position during their career path will spend only about 3 years in direct command of Soldiers and units, the rest is staff work. But the 360 degree evaluations are a step in the right direction.

(Source: Army Times)

8 comments

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  1. 1
    Dave

    Yep, peer evals (or “spear” evals, as we called them in OCS) are the most effective tool in developing leaders. It’s interesting that the services recognize that in the academic environment, but then throw it away in the real world. You are spot on in recognizing that the root of bad leadership in the military is doing what your boss wants so you can get good FitReps. Everybody below such a leader recognizes that behavior, but is powerless to do anything about it. When it was time for me to write FitReps, I always tried to get feedback from the Marines working for the person I was writing on, so I had a better picture of them. That resulted in not a few complaints about me being “unfair” from those individuals, but I slept just fine at night.

  2. 2
    geocatherder

    I can’t wait for the new evaluation to take effect. However, I am concerned that many officers won’t have sufficient time in leadership positions to practice the art once they receive the new feedback. Currently even a stellar officer who gets selected for every command position during their career path will spend only about 3 years in direct command of Soldiers and units, the rest is staff work.

    I’m so sorry, I’m totally ignorant of what goes on in the military, but isn’t this a waste of training? Get people to where they do good leadership work and then sideline them? Or is the situation in the field so dire that to ask for more than three years of direct command is unreasonable?

    1. 2.1
      Assassin Actual

      Most officers do some form of Staff work, which is the higher level planning and analysis. there are realtivly few command spots. For example, my old troop had one officer who was in command (the CO) and two Platoon Leaders (PLs), they each directly led troops in combat operations. we also had an FSO (Fire support officer), COIST (intell), and XO. So 50% of officers in my troop did not lead combat troops. Support/Staff officers get a few Soldiers to help them with work but it is normally a small number.

      When you go up one level, the percentage of staff officers increases. Due to the flexability required in military missions, you need officers at every angle of warfighting (medical,intell, air support, supply, personnel, ect) who can figure out creative ways to solve logistical issues.

      Everyone is required to do staff time, but shitty officers find themselves unable to escape from staff after a company / troop level command. The rule is you get one shot as a PL leading 16-40 people as a learning experiance, then you get another go leading a troop / company (100ish people). If you do good, then you get selected / groomed for higher command. If not, then welcome to a desk son!

  3. 3
    Aliasalpha

    I initially misread the title as Army Implants Program and was getting some mad deus ex style brain controlling chip ideas until I re-read it.

    Peer review is always a good thing to see, we used it at uni a lot and it always seemed to accurately highlight the pros and cons of the students. I also liked it because it regularly showed that I was the best…

  4. 4
    BobApril

    Good to see this.

    “I see many of my peers who continue to game the system by doing everything their commander wants but, end up breaking the backs of their Soldiers in order to do so.” As an NCO I saw this over and over again. It’s an article of faith that your subordinates can make you or break you, but what actually seemed to happen was that the subordinates were too professional to do less than their best just because their boss was a dick.

    I do wonder, however, what happened to the OER of my MAJ who managed to push my SGM into a screaming fit in the middle of Ops. If you can do that to such a long-service senior NCO, you’ve got to be doing SOMETHING wrong…and I suspect and hope that my BN CDR recognized that.

  5. 5
    Timberwoof

    Cynical me thinks that this will get misused by Christian Dominionists to try to get rid of atheist officers. I can already hear them cranking up the whines that officers who do not instill Spiritual (Christian) Fitness in their subordinates are by definition toxic.

  6. 6
    Erk

    That’s the first thing I thought of when I started reading this Timberwoof. I suppose it’s from reading so much about the problems the air force academy has had (thought I realize this was about the army).

  7. 7
    letter from santa

    In this grand scheme of things you’ll secure an A with regard to hard work. For now I shall subscribe to your issue.

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