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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 → Leader Awareness Series Part II: Leader Assessment Instruments

Leader Awareness Series Part I: An Introduction to Self-Awareness

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Perception is reality. That is a phrase we all have all heard, and are familiar with. What is less emphasized in the implications of this phrase is the assumption that someone else’s perception (of you likely) is different than your own self-perception. Why is that important? Imagine that you list out what you determine to be your top leadership competencies (strengths) that you bring to your organization, as well as your biggest weaknesses. Then your peers, superiors, and subordinates all list out what they imagine your strengths and weaknesses to be as well (such as in 360-degree feedback). What if your list does not at all match with, or is even similar to, anyone else’s assessments of you? Can you imagine how this may be limiting your leadership impact on your organization? Maybe you’re not as strong of a leader as you thought you were.

The congruence of your self-rating and others’ rating of you is what is known as self-awareness. The more self-aware you are, the higher your performance is as a leader. Numerous organizational psychology research studies have proven this fact. Essentially, self-awareness is accurately knowing your own inner state (identity and personality) and accurately recognizing your impact on others. Continue reading → Leader Awareness Series Part I: An Introduction to Self-Awareness

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

Company Command Series Part X: Deployment Readiness

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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 how to validate your company’s combat readiness and deployability so it is not a surprise when you are called upon to accomplish your mission.

My brigade commander continuously reminded my fellow company commanders and me that, “commanders generate readiness.” He felt so passionate about readiness that he included my capacity to maintain readiness in his senior rater comments in my OER. Readiness really is that important. I believe that equipment and personnel readiness should always be the top priority of a commander (at any level); without sufficient deployability, what are you bringing to the fight?

I believe company commanders can easily establish methods at their level to test and validate their company’s readiness. I can’t think of many things worse than being called to conduct a deployment readiness exercise (DRE) by a higher headquarters (let alone a real world short-notice deployment) where you boast a 95% combat power deployability, but only 60% of your equipment and personnel can leave the motor pool. Commanders generate readiness and it all starts with the company commander. Below are ideas to create a company-level DRE program. Not every DRE requires extensive time and resources; vary your DRE methods up to support your training calendar.  Continue reading → Company Command Series Part X: Deployment Readiness

Company Command Series Part VIII: Closeout Formations

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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 how to improve your company closeout formations and weekend safety briefs. 

To any military service member, just the mention of a weekend safety brief and closeout formation can stir reactions of dread and loathing. I can think of few things that are less inspiring or effective in the military than a long brief where leaders regurgitate the same speech every Friday listing every “don’t” for the weekend. I argue that these closeout formations with the excessive safety briefs are no longer for the Soldiers, but “check-the-block” requirements to cover leaders when the weekend Serious Incident Report (SIR) event occurs, such as a DUI. These methods are ineffective and waste Soldiers’ and leaders’ time. Weekend closeout formations, like many other events, should be valuable and planned-out events that contribute to your company’s culture.

Early in my command, I read two blog posts (From the Green Notebook and The Military Leader) regarding this topic of improving unit closeout formations and safety briefs. They served as the catalyst to end my company’s current safety brief ways and update them with new focuses and methods. I cannot take credit for conceiving these ideas; I encourage readers to check out those posts for further ideas and inspiration.

Continue reading → Company Command Series Part VIII: Closeout Formations

Company Command Series Part IV: Unit Training Management Continued

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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 Unit Training Management focused on company-level planning and training week management.

FM 7-0 states that companies must maintain training calendars and plan five months in advance. I personally preferred to plan six to seven months out to secure training area land before other units on the installation. So how do you determine what to plan five to seven months in advance? Every unit has their means of training planning, I acknowledge that. I leveraged company-level quarterly planning conferences (QPC). Continue reading → Company Command Series Part IV: Unit Training Management Continued

Counseling the 33%: An Approach to One-on-One Development

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By Jeffrey Meinders

All of our subordinates fall into one of three categories: top-third, middle-third, and bottom-third; few people will dispute that simple math.  The problem exists when the middle-third think they are in the top group, and the bottom thinks they are in the middle, creating 66% of your subordinates who believe they are among the best.  This confusion is understandable; we encode our current evaluations with very specific language which is hard for junior officers to decipher. This confusion leads to almost half of your best receiving OERs they think are unfair and unwarranted.  Today’s digital age compounds the problem; where less and less face-to-face interaction occurs.  This may complicate closed door conversations for leaders and their subordinates.

I received my first real counseling after nine years of military service.  The counseling was thorough and straightforward; I since modeled all my future counseling and this article after it.  It is disappointing our profession struggles with this basic of leader development.  My battalion commander once told me “I don’t need to counsel you, we talk every day.” They do this because it is peaceful, they don’t want to upset you. Most leaders prefer the easier development, like group book reviews with junior officers, or brown bag lunches with the commander. Not only do we fail at individual counseling, we also fib on the front of our evaluations with made up counseling dates.

To give junior officers a recipe for success, I discuss the four types of counseling every Soldier deserves: initial, quarterly, performance, and evaluation.  This method will save you time and help you separate the ‘wheat from the chaff.’  I also acknowledge while this is method simple, it is not easy.  There are ten other things every day that will take time away from your plan, but I argue there are none more important than one-on-one time with your rated subordinates. Continue reading → Counseling the 33%: An Approach to One-on-One Development

Leader Development Part III: Tactical Decision Exercises

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In the last post, I expanded on how I materialized my leader development program as a company commander. Now, I am outlining one of those program methods, the Tactical Decision Exercise (TDE). These exercises became a favorite among the officers and NCOs in my company.

Tactical-level units today face overwhelming demands, many of which distract them from their primary mission and training focus. It is not always feasible to achieve every organizational goal during robust field training exercises that require extensive resources and time. The TDE is a low-resource, low-threat event aimed to challenge your subordinate leaders in tactical scenarios; despite the exercise’s simple design, they can achieve significant results for your organization. You can conduct these exercises over a map or a terrain model and they take little effort to prepare. TDE success is based on a well-defined purpose and an effective implementation method, or exercise structure. Continue reading → Leader Development Part III: Tactical Decision Exercises

Leader Development Part II: Materialize Your Educational Program

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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. Continue reading → Leader Development Part II: Materialize Your Educational Program

Leader Development Part I: Where to Start

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During my company command, my brigade commander routinely emphasized that a leader’s legacy is the time they invest in their subordinates’ development and future. There is a considerable amount of professional content beyond my simple blog that focus on leader development. Is leader development that important? ADRP 6-22 states that, “Army leader development creates competent and confident leaders capable of leading trained and ready units. The concept acknowledges an important interaction that trains Soldiers now and develops leaders for the future.” Developing your subordinate leaders increases their professional maturity, capacity, and understanding. That ultimately improves your entire organization’s capabilities, but more importantly, prepares your leaders to be successful in future positions of increased responsibility.  By investing time and effort in developing your subordinates and team, you directly help in making the Army better.

If not familiar with the Army’s leader development concept, they structure it into three domains: institutional, operational, and self-development. Institutional domain development occurs at key military courses such as Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC) and Captains Career Course (CCC) for officers, and Advanced or Senior Leaders Course (ALC, SLC) for NCOs. Self-development includes the methods leaders personally pursue to learn and mature; they are not part of any formal program imposed on them. This often includes a personal reading program; reading this blog can even contribute to your self-development program. Leaders don’t direct self-development for their subordinates, but have a responsibility to emphasize to their subordinates why it is important, and encourage them to structure their own self-development program (addressed in a future post). Finally, the operational domain encompasses the learning that leaders achieve in their assigned operational units; it is what I address in this blog series. Continue reading → Leader Development Part I: Where to Start