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Leader Development

Chapter 1:  Soldiers
Table of Contents
Chapter 3:  Training

The most important thing we can do today to improve our capabilities on tomorrow's battlefield is to focus on leader development. We must identify what skills, knowledge, and attributes we need in our Force XXI leaders:

  • First, it must be emphasized that the majority of the attributes we need in tomorrow's leaders are the same as those we have needed in yesterday's and today's leaders.
  • Leaders must be concerned, caring, and compassionate. They must truly care for soldiers and their families.
  • They must be technically and tactically proficient.
  • Leaders must also be able to communicate their thoughts and ideas effectively. Leaders also must be effective teachers, coaches, and mentors.
  • Most importantly, leaders must epitomize Army values. They must live by example the values of duty, honor, integrity, selfless service, respect, loyalty, and personal courage. They must "walk the walk, not just talk the talk." Everything they do, every day, must reflect positive personal commitment to Army values. In turn, they must ensure that their subordinates live Army values.

Given information age technology, there are certain traits that our leaders must have to truly capitalize on the capabilities resident in the technology. Leaders must clearly be comfortable with advanced technology--they cannot be intimidated by computers. They must be more than conversant in technical terms; they must master the technology.

Leaders on tomorrow's battlefields must be able to foresee options and impacts in a complex setting. They must be decisive. They must be comfortable in uncertain, ambiguous settings. They must be able to recognize the second- and third-order effects of decisions they make. They must be focused, quick learners.

In a setting where abundant amounts of information are available, leaders of the U.S. Army must be empowering and decentralized. As a commander of a digital brigade combat team, I had visibility on the location of each and every vehicle in the 1BCT. For example, I could focus in on the actions of D32--the wingman tank of the 3d platoon, Delta Company, 3-66 Armor. Then, if I chose to, I could tell D32 where to go and what to do--totally circumventing three layers of the chain of command. But I chose not to do that. I set the filters on my digital equipment to show me company-level icons. I, as a 1BCT Commander, fought companies. Battalion commanders fought platoons, company commanders fought individual platforms. This has not changed. However, there are individuals who, given the opportunity to micro-manage their units, will do so. This will have a disastrous effect on subordinate leadership.

One example of allowing technology to get in the way of effective leadership is the phenomenon of managing by e-mail. Some leaders, given the ability to communicate their thoughts and ideas electronically across wide formations, will do that via e-mail. When that happens, there are two results:

  • The subordinate leaders feel that they are being bypassed.
  • The recipient of the e-mail doesn't enjoy the sensation that the human dimension of face-to-face verbal communication gives us. We must ensure that we select and then develop leaders who emphasize the human dimension of what we do. Remember--high tech demands high touch. The selection of leaders is critical, especially at the more senior level. The most effective leader development program will only be as good as the basic qualities of those leaders we select.

At the Department of the Army level, we currently rely on input only from the superior in the selection process for senior leaders. Battalion and brigade commanders, and general officers are selected based solely on what their bosses wrote on their officer efficiency report (OER). Usually the bosses know that the mission was accomplished, but rarely do they know how the mission was accomplished. Was the subordinate leader abusive? Did he ride his subordinates to the point of breaking? Did he step on his peers to accomplish the mission? This current system doesn't give us a total look at the past performance and potential capabilities of future leaders. There must be a better way of selecting leaders.

In the 1BCT, we worked with Fort Leavenworth personnel to utilize a 360-degree assessment program. After the NTC rotation, peers and subordinates were surveyed as to what they thought of their boss, focusing on attributes we want in our leaders. For example, one question was "How do you think your boss did during the intense, stressful environment of the NTC?" This information was then given back to the soldier being evaluated, concentrating on identified strengths and weaknesses, for his own professional development. Throughout the 1BCT, leaders who were given 360-feedback found the program to be very useful. Eventually, we as an Army could carry that one step further, and design a system that allows selection boards and other mechanisms to take advantage of this information.

Operations on tomorrow's battlefield will be 10-percent planning and 90-percent execution, and will be very commander-centric. It will be up to commanders at all levels to make the right decision, at the right time, to truly take advantage of information technology and improve our lethality, survivability, and ability to manage the tempo of the battlefield.

A commander must be decisive. He must be able to make decisions in situations where he may not have all necessary information. He must define for himself, early on, what decisions he will have to make and when. The commander must be able to personally craft and then carefully articulate those pieces of information he must have to make decisions. These information requirements still take the form of Essential Elements of Friendly Information (EEFI) and Priority Information Requirements (PIRs). Given the insertion of information technology, these information requirements have become very important. At the same time, it is extremely easy to become overwhelmed by information. Information requirements, dictated by the commander, help us refine information to those discrete pieces of what the commander needs to know.

Information requirements are dynamic and constantly changing. The commander must be able to continuously evaluate his information requirements to ensure he is asking the right questions. The staff must also monitor the situation and tell the commander, almost continuously, which of the information requirements have been answered, and which are still unknown. They must also routinely make recommendations for changing information requirements (adding a new one, modifying an existing one, or deleting one) to the commander.

A commander must have a vision. Based on his own mission analysis, he must be able to see, in his mind's eye, what is the desired outcome of the battle. Then he must be able to formulate, in conjunction with his staff, a concept of the operation that might work. He personally must craft and articulate his intent for the operation. This isn't a new concept peculiar to tomorrow's battlefield. Currently, we don't do this very well. In a recent study performed at the U.S. Army's NTC, data indicates that subordinates only truly understand their higher commander's intent 34 percent of the time.

The commander must be able to think like the enemy:

  • What are the enemy's options?
  • What decisions must he make and when?
  • What are his vulnerabilities?
  • What are his capabilities?

Now that I have defined what a leader must be able to do, how, when, and where, should we, as an Army, develop these attributes? In accordance with our training doctrine, leader development occurs at many places: at the institutional level (e.g., advanced courses, Command and General Staff College), at the unit level, and by self-development.

Leader Development at the Institutional Level

At the institution level, we must empower our leaders with the skills necessary to perform rudimentary operations on the equipment that will be present in their unit when they arrive. We have always expected our leaders to be technically proficient. This is even more pronounced in those units that have high technology equipment. We do our leaders a disservice by assigning them to units in which the young privates know more about the equipment than they do.

Above and beyond rudimentary knowledge of the equipment, we must teach our leaders at the institution how to utilize all of the equipment in an integrated fashion. We must focus on the issue of information sharing and integration.

We must develop a system to teach leaders the art and science of battle command. The idea of being flexible, adaptive, able to "think on your feet" is something that can be matured in a institutional training environment before the leader reports to his unit.

Leader Development at the Organizational Level

At the organizational level, there are several in-house techniques that units can use to truly focus on leader development. Most importantly, monthly written counseling of every single individual in the organization is critical. The counseling must focus on strengths, weaknesses, and objectives for the following month. This is truly the essence of leader development. The most important thing that anyone does in a peacetime Army is training his immediate subordinate. As we all know, a critical part of that training is evaluation. We must tell our subordinates how they are doing as leaders, and recommend ways they can improve. This is done through repetitive counseling session in which the good, the bad, and the ugly are discussed.

At the end of each counseling session, ask the question "How am I doing?" This will be an excellent venue for feedback from subordinates.

As with training of muscles, training of leaders must be exhaustive. That is the only way the leader is going to grow, to develop into a better leader. The leader must be continually placed in a stressful, demanding situation, and then evaluated on his response. Training events must focus on placing leaders at all levels in stressful, complex situations. They must routinely be forced to deal with uncertainty.

Time is the most critical resource when it comes to leader development. To free up time for leader development, we must permit our NCOs to do their job. Let sergeants do the sergeant's business; this will free up the officers to concentrate on leader development training.

And we must make time for the NCOs to train the junior NCOs. A technique that we used in the 1BCT was to release all of the junior enlisted (SP4 and below) at 1600 daily. This accomplished a variety of things--all good. It got the young enlisted home at a reasonable hour every day. This was much appreciated by the youngsters and their families. They had a predictable duty day. They knew that they had to come to PT (physical training) at 0630 every morning, and they knew that they were going to be released at 1600 every day.

More importantly, the time from 1600-1800 every day gave the Command Sergeant Major (CSMs) and 1SGs time to train their junior NCOs. They could use that time for daily NCO Professional Development to rehearse classes, or to give the young NCOs time to prepare for the next day's events.

Chapter 1:  Soldiers
Table of Contents
Chapter 3:  Training

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias