The last post introduced the leader development concept and why it is important to be deliberate in it with your subordinates. Knowing its importance is the first step, but now what? How do you materialize your leader development program in your organization?
No Army manual or official publication, to include ADRP 6-22, tells you how to structure your specific program. Common program methods include a professional reading curriculum, studying history, and celebrating unit tradition. A specific plan that works for Commander A may not work for Commander B. Develop a program that fits your experience and personality. Leverage methods that work for your personal leadership style, organization’s structure, and training calendar.
There are numerous quality resources written by leaders that share their leader development experiences. Some examples include the Maneuver Self Study website that provides numerous options, and From the Green Notebook outlining several approaches and ideas in a leader development blog series. Below are the leader development program components from my company command that I utilized. All components may not work for you, but I share them to add options to select from for your own program.
- Development sessions focused on our METs. I had a responsibility as a commander to develop my subordinates’ competency in our Engineer Mission Essential Tasks (METs) such as combined arms breaching and engagement area development. Beyond company field training exercises, I held monthly LPD sessions covering such topics and the doctrine that drives them for all Squad Leaders and above. I shared instruction responsibility with the platoons to increase subordinates’ mastery of the topics and develop their public speaking abilities.
- Professional lunches with Squad Leaders. My Squad Leaders were one of the two audiences I focused on for my leader development program. We met monthly for lunch. Topics included Mission Command, organizational culture, and training management below the company level. I met with them at a restaurant off-post to eliminate distractions. I ended the sessions by asking the Squad Leaders how the company and their platoon’s were doing, what they recommend to improve the company, and if they have any topics they want to discuss in upcoming lunches.
- Beer calls with Lieutenants. The second audience I focused on was my Lieutenants. I structured these sessions the same as the Squad Leader lunches, but over beer at the end of the day. I aimed for more “graduate” level discussions such as leader organization methods, reading for professional development, organizational culture, and toxic leadership. Often, I used some of the same topics as the Squad Leaders if applicable on certain months (Platoon-level training management, Mission Command, etc.).
- Counseling. Unfortunately, counseling often becomes a check-the-block event for many leaders. With busy schedules, these events are thrown together last minute with little to no preparation and become a wasted event. I challenge leaders to prioritize counseling, both routine and event driven. Put the sessions on your training calendar and spend time preparing for them days in advance. With preparation and dedicated session time, you are more likely to provide honest, quality feedback.
- Tactical Decision Exercise. This was my favorite component of my leader development program. There are numerous directions you can go with these exercises. I will go into detail of the purpose, exercise methods, and how I leveraged some in my program in the final part of this leader development series.
Ensure your leader development program events are on your organization’s calendar. My company used an outlook calendar as our short range calendar, so I personally added these sessions on the calendar to prevent other events from overtaking them. Putting them on the calendar shows your subordinates that these events are important to you and can prevent higher headquarters conflicting with them, too.
I encourage you to comment and share methods that worked for you and your organization. I would love to learn of new and innovative ideas to personally incorporate in the future.
Closing topic notes: Though I am passionate about reading for professional development, I chose not to include it in my company’s leader development program. I felt that would be too hefty a task to facilitate at the company level. I employed a method discussed in From the Green Notebook instead. Finally, ensure your leader development program does not strictly become a task training program, but addresses leadership holistically. The Military Leader wrote a great post on that topic, ensuring we don’t remove leadership from leader development.
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