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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

Family Matters: A Call for Leadership Within Our Families

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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 XII: My Command Regrets

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This blog post is the conclusion 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 discloses my personal post-command regrets that I’ve reflected on since relinquishing command.

I feel it is appropriate to close out my (admittedly long) Company Command blog series with discussing my personal regrets since relinquishing company command. This post is not so much about the actual regrets themselves as much as it is about the importance to spend time and deliberately reflect, to be honest with yourself, understand you are not (and never will be) a perfect leader, and identify what you wish you were able to accomplish in your formal leadership role. My hope is to first, encourage leaders to be self-aware and willing to admit where they can improve, and second, prevent these below regrets from being on other leaders’ lists of regrets down the road. It’s not weak or unprofessional to assess your post-command regrets; it is a healthy and necessary step to continue your development as a leader. Continue reading → Company Command Series Part XII: My Command Regrets

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

What Ultra Running Has Taught Me About Military Leadership

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As a sophomore at West Point, my soon-to-be best friend handed me a copy of Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, by Dean Karnazes. I couldn’t put that book down, finishing it in less than 24 hours. That’s when I became hooked on ultramarathon running. Since then, over the last nine years, I’ve completed over two dozen trail races from the marathon to 100 mile distance. Many ask me why I do this and I tend to simply respond with, “why not?” I recently read a blog post that posed the seemingly perfect answer to that question. It stated, “perhaps the genius of ultra-running is the supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense…”

I couldn’t agree more.

Continue reading → What Ultra Running Has Taught Me About Military Leadership

A Christmas Reflection on Servant Leadership

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This year, I have the good fortune of celebrating Christmas with my family at my sister’s house in Bremerton, WA. She is a Navy Lieutenant (O-3) assigned to an aircraft carrier at Naval Base Kitsap. On this Christmas day, we joined her on her carrier to receive a full tour and eat lunch on her ship’s mess deck; it was the best military meal I’ve ever received in my seven-year career. We met many of her Sailors, peers, and superior officers. Characterizing the experience as impressive is an understatement.

Beyond the incredible machinery and systems on that massive vessel, one of the most impressive aspects of my visit was being served Christmas dinner by the ship’s Captain (O-6), his wife and children, and the Command Master Chief (CMC, the ship’s senior enlisted leader). I was humbled to see these leaders not only taking time to spend the holiday with their Sailors, but also include their families. Furthermore, I’ve read multiple accounts today of battalion command teams replacing their Soldiers on duty, company command teams delivering stockings to barracks, and multiple echelons of leaders checking on their formations this holiday. Continue reading → A Christmas Reflection on Servant Leadership

The First Post: Post-Command Reflection

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Prior to taking command, I read a comment by an unknown Army field grade officer which argued that military leaders are in the business of organizational improvement; he called it the business of MakeSh*tBetter.com. We come in, make the organization better, and then we move on. His message resonated significantly with me and has become the bedrock principle of my leader philosophy.

Continue reading → The First Post: Post-Command Reflection