Tactical Decision Exercises 2.0: Additional Resources

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Back in February, I published a “Leader Development” mini-series oriented around military small unit leader development programs. The final part of that series addressed a development tool called Tactical Decision Exercises (TDEs). Though not a new concept in the military at all, revitalizing this tool brought a unique, low cost and resource, and effective leader development method to my company and Soldiers. Since sharing that post, it is evident that this tool has resonated with many readers. You can check out that blog post here. Continue reading

There Is A Science to Motivation

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Several months ago, I created and shared the above photo on my blog social media platforms. It was shared enough to be viewed by over 20,000 people (big numbers for my humble blog!) and received varying feedback. Since sharing that photo, one particular comment has resonated with me. A very well-intentioned gentleman stated: “Mumbo Jumbo! Don’t waste time on learning ‘motivational theories.’ Spend time learning who your people are.” This comment has stuck with me because I believe that’s exactly the point to my photo and the purpose in understanding researched motivational theories.

Like all things in leadership, there is an art and a science to subordinate motivation in an organizational setting. For this post, I define motivation as the psychological processes that arouse and direct voluntary goal-oriented behavior. Subordinate performance is a function of ability, motivation, and environment.

Motivation is highly individual and requires leaders to know their people. Certain motivational techniques may be unique to only one of your subordinates, where a different motivational focus and style applies better to another. By better understanding your people on an individual level, you can more effectively invest into them to both achieve their personal professional goals AND improve their contribution (performance) to organizational goals. This is why knowing the science of motivation is important. Continue reading

Leadership Communication: “Here is the Most Important Place for Me to Be”

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Inherent to leadership is communication. Whether it is an organizational vision, leader priorities and areas of emphasis, or showing genuine interest and concern for your people – all leaders have much to communicate in order to be effective.

Communication is both verbal and nonverbal. It is also formal and informal. As a leader, you communicate by speaking in formal meetings, talking to someone one-on-one in passing, and even when / where you choose to be present or not. Leader presence is one of the most critical methods of communication to your people and organization. When and where you choose to be at any moment as a leader sends a message. Moreover, how you act in those times sends the most salient message of all. Continue reading

Lessons Learned in the Science & Art of (Engineer) Support to Army Maneuver Forces

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This post is not only for engineers; it is about fulfilling your organizational role to support the “main effort” when you are not that main effort or are in a defined supporting position. It is about providing the best customer service through the capabilities you deliver. I apply the below concepts through the lens of being an Army combat engineer, which has been my professional experience. However, these concepts can relate to ANY position, both in and out of the military. Consider how these ideas can apply to your branch or current position. For Army maneuver readers (Infantry & Armor), this post can serve as a guide in what you should expect from a supporting enabler; demand these from those that support you…but also, help bring them onto the team and have them feel like a valued member in your organization.

Engineers exist for one reason at the Army tactical level: to support maneuver forces. Every capability we provide is to enable a maneuver unit to get to the objective and accomplish its mission. As Army engineers, we are required to be a “Swiss Army Knife” of capabilities, by enabling mobility, countermobility, and survivability; providing necessary general engineering support; and being able to lead our formations to fight as Infantry if required. Continue reading

The Lost Art of Giving (Negative) Feedback

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Earlier in my military career, a respected mentor of mine commented that “the Army has lost the art of giving negative feedback.” That statement resonated with me and has stuck with me for years since then. From my experience, Army leaders either fail to provide quality feedback to their subordinates intended to improve them, or do so in an ineffective and destructive manner (which undermines the ultimate purpose). We either are too afraid to have the hard conversations, fail to make time to provide feedback, or (worst case) we out right don’t value developing members of our team or organization with feedback. No matter the reason, it is our subordinates who suffer because a critical aspect of their leader development is missing.

I want to provide some in-depth reflection on the topic of “feedback,” based on both my professional experience as well as recent formal education. Below are my thoughts on effective feedback, which include lessons to consider and tips to incorporate into your own feedback methods. Continue reading

Followership: A Missing Consideration That Is Limiting Your Leadership Ability

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By Zachary Mierva

It’s time to outright admit: leaders in the Army struggle with a crucial and fundamental aspect of our profession: following. More importantly, leaders in the Army generally fail at facilitating good followers to improve their organizations. That’s how we end up with situations like Dr. Wong’s alarming report about the Army “lying to ourselves” and leaders feeling forced to be dishonest in their reporting. This is an important topic that few people are willing to discuss and a lot of leaders fail to leverage. However, this is a necessary conversation that needs to be addressed.

Followership has a strangely negative connotation in the Army, primarily because everything we do is predicated on the notion that “you’re a leader 24/7.” David Berg discusses in his chapter, Resurrecting the Muse: Followership in Organizations (which is part of The Psychodynamics of Leadership), that executives devalue the follower role, despite the fact that nearly everyone who is a leader is ALSO a follower in varying capacities. For example, a company commander leads a unit of roughly 100 Soldiers. He or she is the leader with 100 followers. However, that leader is also a follower falling subordinate to a battalion commander, brigade commander, division commander, the list goes on. The problem we face is that we fail to understand what a good follower should do, and how we can nurture followers in our organizations to strengthen, empower, and provide authority to them. Continue reading

Which Leadership is Most Effective: Analyzing Transformational & Servant Leadership

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By Jonathan Silk

Organizational structures have a shelf life and have to be redesigned to meet new objectives for the organization to stay relevant and competitive in the environment it is operating. But as organizations have to change their structure to be able to adapt and be successful in their operating environments, so do leaders need to change how they lead and develop others. From an organizational leadership perspective, leaders can best serve their organizations by implementing leader development models that support the structural design of the organization and enable the leadership to achieve goals and objectives.   In this post, I will compare the Servant Leadership model with the Transformational Leadership model. The focus of the leader is different for each model. The purpose is to give a high-level overview of the two models and serve as a catalyst to get leaders to thinking deliberately about the organizational leadership model they select that supports their organizational structure and mission and empowers leaders to achieve outcomes. Continue reading

Leader Awareness Series Part IV: Other Helpful Assessments

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This is the conclusion of the Leader Awareness Series, which addresses the need for leaders to be self-aware. Research proves that the more a leader is self-aware, the higher their performance. Bottom line: the more self-aware you are, the better leader you are. This post addresses some additional self-assessments (these ones not necessarily tied to a studied leadership theory) to help educate leaders about their natural leadership styles and preferences in order to become more self-aware. You can start the series with Part I here.

In the previous two posts, I covered eight leadership theories and associated self-assessments. In this post, I continue by presenting four more assessments that are based on more current research, highly applicable to contemporary leadership, and/or are not directly related to the study of leadership but can help explain your leadership style. Continue reading

Leader Awareness Series Part III: Leader Assessment Instruments Continued

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This is a continuation of the Leader Awareness Series, which addresses the need for leaders to be self-aware. Research proves that the more a leader is self-aware, the higher their performance. Bottom line: the more self-aware you are, the better leader you are. This post addresses the remaining four (of eight) self-assessments to help educate leaders about their natural leadership styles and preferences in order to become more self-aware. Check out the beginning of this series here, and the first four leadership theories and assessments here.

In the previous post, I covered four leadership theories and associated self-assessments. In this post, I continue by presenting the remaining four theories and assessments, and conclude the post with some questions to consider during subsequent reflection. Continue reading

Leader Awareness Series Part II: Leader Assessment Instruments

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This is a continuation of the Leader Awareness Series, which addresses the need for leaders to be self-aware. Research proves that the more a leader is self-aware, the higher their performance. Bottom line: the more self-aware you are, the better leader you are. This post addresses four (of eight) self-assessments to help educate leaders about their natural leadership styles and preferences in order to become more self-aware.

As stated in Part I, the academic study of leadership is about a century old. To this point, there are around 15 major leadership theories, each theory having several proprietary models to explain and enact that theory. Below are eight assessments that are based on eight of those theories that best aid in leaders becoming more self-aware.

With each assessment, I outline what it aims to measure and how to interpret scores. I also introduce the theory that the assessment stems from and if that assessment can be used to obtain 360-degree feedback. If I claim the assessment can be used as 360-degree feedback, I recommend readers print out up to five additional copies of that particular assessment and have available superiors, peers, and/or subordinates complete the assessment ON YOU as well. That way, you can compare the results of your self-test to their responses. I know mention of 360-degree feedback may trigger anxiety from Army readers due to the MSAF-360 tool. 360-degree tools mentioned throughout this series are considerably shorter. Most important to stress though, is the value of receiving this type of feedback. I encourage readers interested in this series to be willing to commit to receiving external feedback as part of it in order to achieve the most value possible. Continue reading