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 → Followership: A Missing Consideration That Is Limiting Your Leadership Ability

The McDonaldization of Our Army: Efficiency Trumping Adaptability

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This post pulls from academic literature regarding how principles of the famous fast-food restaurant, McDonalds, are coming to dominate more and more aspects of American society, and thus the US Army.

George Ritzer authored the book, The McDonaldization of Society, in 1995, which has been updated and republished several times since. His thesis claims that five major principles of the fast-food chain have come to dominate increasing sectors of American society (and the world): efficiency, calculability, predictability, control, and ultimately the irrationality of hyper-rationality.1

Following this line of thought, two USMA professors, LTC (Dr.) Remi Hajjar and Dr. Morten Ender, applied the McDonaldization concept to the Army. They argued in their article, “McDonaldization in the U.S. Army: A Threat to the Profession,” which appeared in the 2005 book, The Future of the Army Profession, that McDonaldization severely threatens the Army as a profession by causing it to act more like a bureaucracy than a profession.2 Continue reading → The McDonaldization of Our Army: Efficiency Trumping Adaptability

Family Matters: A Call for Leadership Within Our Families

Family Matters

The military profession is demanding. With deployments, continuous field exercises, readiness exercises, and last minute emergencies, the military tends to occupy a gross amount of any Soldier’s time. It’s easy to let hobbies, and more importantly, our families, take a back seat to these demands.  Eventually though, the military will replace weary Soldiers with younger, more energized versions. When that happens, the fatigued must acquiesce the investment they have or have not made in their families over the years.

We should strive to not let the Army (or a particular profession) define us and potentially undermine the value of our families. In short, we must remember to prioritize family throughout our winding careers.

I don’t have sage wisdom from decades of marriage. I don’t even have kids yet. However, while pursuing my wife and preparing for a future with her, I want to ensure I do this right and do right by her. Similar to the initiative required for my own leader development, I aim to be deliberate in preparing to be a good husband and eventual father. So far, I’ve learned several important lessons from examples like our parents, close friends, and mentors at church. I also learn from research such as from Andy Stanley’s leadership podcast and phenomenal books like Sacred Marriage, by Gary L. Thomas (links to both below). My lessons learned so far are not revolutionary; they are simple concepts. The challenge is committing to them, and to one’s family, every day, no matter the circumstances. Below are my humble takeaways regarding family, thus far, while serving in the military profession. Continue reading → Family Matters: A Call for Leadership Within Our Families

Company Command Series Part XI: Unit Pride & Recognition Programs

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This blog post is a continuation of the multi-part Company Command Series covering key aspects of my command experience that I feel other commanders (current and future) can benefit from. This post discusses methods to enhance unit pride and ideas for a formal unit recognition program.

It is undeniable that a positive organizational culture is critical to your success as the commander, and the success of your company.  What I’ve found, though, is that little content exists addressing how exactly to advance your unit’s culture with specific, tangible actions. There are necessary methods such as Leadership by Wandering Around, as I wrote about in an earlier blog post. However, what are other influence methods that can build a healthy culture focused on your priorities as the commander? I argue two major components are: being deliberate in establishing a robust sense of unit pride, and creating an extensive recognition program. For both lines of effort, below, I address ways I advanced my company’s pride and a supporting recognition program. Continue reading → Company Command Series Part XI: Unit Pride & Recognition Programs

What Army Soldiers Can Learn From Navy Sailors

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We are halfway through the Company Command Series and are taking a quick intermission this week from the series. We continue discussing company command next week with policy letters.

Army-Navy football; working with peers or bosses during joint service time as a field grade officer; popular Hollywood films like The Hunt for Red October, Master and Commander, and Top Gun. I can think of few other times the Navy really ever comes to my mind as an Army officer and leader. Especially for junior officers or enlisted Soldiers, we don’t tend to consider our Navy brothers and sisters in arms during our daily professional routines or even throughout most of our careers. It should be expected though; when was the last time any of us (outside of SOF) participated in a training or real-world mission with Navy personnel? Our branches serve two different purposes for our nation: an army brigade combat team of 4,000 Soldiers generally operates at the low tactical level of war during land operations, where a 135-man Navy submarine exists to achieve strategic level influence ensuring the freedom of the high seas. As the Department of Defense appears to be steering more towards ‘jointness’ or a joint team, the mission of the Army and the Navy illustrate the inevitable challenges that lie ahead.  The Army’s relationship with the Air Force, for example, illustrates how easy this transition may be with joint basing; however, the Navy has been less than motivated to share its property with anyone else.  I don’t need to concern myself with the Navy except the one day a year that we beat the hell out of Navy, right? Not quite.   Continue reading → What Army Soldiers Can Learn From Navy Sailors

The Legion of Boom: A Case Study in Culture

lob-post-imageOne of the most successful groups in the NFL is a tribe called the “Legion of Boom (LOB).” The LOB is the self-named Seattle Seahawks defensive secondary. Its most well-known members are cornerback Richard Sherman, strong safety Kam Chancellor, and free safety Earl Thomas III. Despite your personal opinions on their attitudes on or off the field, their success and results are undeniable. The LOB was indispensable in the Seahawks’ Super Bowl XLVIII victory. Sherman, Chancellor, and Thomas alone have 12 Pro Bowl selections between them, and Sherman was the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2014. Now, the defense and LOB are well on their way to being the league’s best defense for the third year in a row.

What makes this group so successful? Skill is certainly a factor, but that is a natural requirement to play in the NFL. What sets this group apart from the other 31 defensive units in the league? The answer is an established culture, unmatched across the league that serves as the foundation of this team’s success. The LOB built a culture through several deliberate steps that can easily apply to your team to improve your professional culture, to elevate your success, and take your organization to the next level: Continue reading → The Legion of Boom: A Case Study in Culture