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Army worries about ‘toxic leaders’ in ranks
Old 06-26-2011, 05:13   #1
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Army worries about ‘toxic leaders’ in ranks

http://www.washingtonpost.com/nation...c=nl_headlines


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Old 06-26-2011, 22:38   #2
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This is an interesting article. We were given a writing assignment using this article in the Warrant Officer course. Our papers made for some good conversations among the students.
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Old 06-27-2011, 03:58   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brush Okie View Post
Seems to have started under Klinton and the way he downsized the military.
Common sense and the historical record tell us otherwise.

Richard
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Old 06-27-2011, 06:32   #4
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I had a long diatribe written about this but that fact is no one who can do anything about it really cares...

If a commander wants to know how one of his subordinates are doing ask those under that guys charge to write his leadership evaluation. Not sure why everyone is afraid to say what needs to be said...

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Last edited by Surgicalcric; 06-27-2011 at 06:36.
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Old 06-27-2011, 07:06   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Surgicalcric View Post
I had a long diatribe written about this but that fact is no one who can do anything about it really cares...
Quote:
“We are looking at the command selection process asking how can we introduce 360-degree evaluations,” Dempsey said in a meeting with reporters this spring.
Might change if GEN Dempsey is serious about the idea of implementing "360 degree evaluations."

As a private school, we used to do them for staff and faculty, and they were used to both evaluate your effectiveness and potential, as well as identifying weaknesses and developing individual professional development plans.

For example, in my case, I received survey evaluations from both the Head of School and Board of Directors, as well as several randomly chosen board members, staff and faculty members, recent alumni, parents, and students.

As the Head of the Upper School (high school), the Head of the Lower/Middle School and I also did survey evaluations of the Head of School, Board Chairman, and every staff and faculty member. For some, it was a scary change to implement, but once we started it and everyone saw us using it to honestly evaluate our effectiveness and implement viable changes, it proved to be a very useful program and worth the effort it took to use.

However - all that changed with the hiring of the current Head of School, a text book toxic leader type, and...well...

And so it goes...

Richard
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Old 06-27-2011, 07:19   #6
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I think this dichotomy is an intricate part of the process of selecting leaders..

Type "A" (read ego trip) leadership traits do shine in some eyes. Typically the ones that have these traits are also the ones that do the selecting.

Hence the dichotomy. How do you tell someone that the traits they admire in themselves are not what they should select in their future replacements??

There are many more MacArthur's than there are Bradley's..

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Old 06-27-2011, 07:55   #7
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The problem isnt always toxic leadership...
...some folks are just poor followers.


Leaders make poor choices. Sometimes in self-interest sometomes because they are human. Sometimes what "looks" like a bad choice only looks bad because it is unpleasant.
Not everyone is in charge; I see a shit-ton of younger generation soldiers that seem to think they are smarter than everyone else and as such dont need to follow instructions but the minute they see a counseling staement, or get a poor NCOER, they are quick to point out how fucked up everyone else is.

I have seen SF NCOs bitch and whine like infantry privates because the company SGM told folks they could not wear civilian hiking shoes around BAF when they were in ACU's.
"The company SGM sucks!"
"All that M-Fer cares about is bullshit"
"Why cant we wear our shit"
"That guy is a backstabbing SOB"

Is that SGM really a toxic leader?
If so, I may need to rethink my career and start looking at retirement.

I had guys flip out when we had a mandatory class A inspection a few years ago...
...the first one in over a year.
I had a few guys complain like the CDR was asking them to come in on a saturday morning and GI the team room in Class-A's
It was actually because there was a dining out just around the corner and the boss wanted to make sure everyone 'remembered' what dress uniforms looked like so folks wouldn't show up at a formal event looking like they hadn't worn dress clothes in 2 years.

Was that a toxic leader?

The survey bold prints that we have a problem with toxic leaders, but they only gave a few words to the statistic that 97 percent of those queried stated they have had "exceptional leadership" in the last year.


smoke and mirrors....
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Old 06-27-2011, 09:19   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Billy L-bach View Post
The problem isnt always toxic leadership...
...some folks are just poor followers.


Leaders make poor choices. Sometimes in self-interest sometomes because they are human. Sometimes what "looks" like a bad choice only looks bad because it is unpleasant.
Not everyone is in charge; I see a shit-ton of younger generation soldiers that seem to think they are smarter than everyone else and as such dont need to follow instructions but the minute they see a counseling staement, or get a poor NCOER, they are quick to point out how fucked up everyone else is.

I have seen SF NCOs bitch and whine like infantry privates because the company SGM told folks they could not wear civilian hiking shoes around BAF when they were in ACU's.
"The company SGM sucks!"
"All that M-Fer cares about is bullshit"
"Why cant we wear our shit"
"That guy is a backstabbing SOB"

Is that SGM really a toxic leader?
If so, I may need to rethink my career and start looking at retirement.

I had guys flip out when we had a mandatory class A inspection a few years ago...
...the first one in over a year.
I had a few guys complain like the CDR was asking them to come in on a saturday morning and GI the team room in Class-A's
It was actually because there was a dining out just around the corner and the boss wanted to make sure everyone 'remembered' what dress uniforms looked like so folks wouldn't show up at a formal event looking like they hadn't worn dress clothes in 2 years.

Was that a toxic leader?

The survey bold prints that we have a problem with toxic leaders, but they only gave a few words to the statistic that 97 percent of those queried stated they have had "exceptional leadership" in the last year.


smoke and mirrors....
Good points.

While in the Army I served under some Officers and senior NCOs who would have been described as 'toxic' but they were actually good leaders. It's the people who are in positions of leadership that are poor leaders and who are also 'toxic' that cause morale problems.

Last edited by mojaveman; 07-03-2011 at 10:32.
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Old 06-27-2011, 12:19   #9
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I was just introduced to the term "toxic leader" a few months ago. I asked a bud of mine for some references, and he sent me a couple articles from the BN PCC he just attended. It was interesting. Of course there is a ton of other stuff out there.

Attached for your reading pleasure:

Toxic1.pdf

Toxic2.pdf

This isn't really about that one time event, a couple of ass chewings, or displaying one of the "symptoms". This is a multi-symptom, chronic disease.
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Old 06-27-2011, 16:34   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brush Okie View Post
Please tell us more.
To think there have not always been "toxic leader" issues is naive at best - it just didn't start "under Klinton and the way he downsized the military" (which was a choice his administraton made to continue the reorganization begun by the previous administration).

I would argue the records of the likes of a North, Burnside, Hooker, McClellan, MacArthur, and Custer would certainly fit one or more of the traits of 'bad leadership' described by Barbara Kellerman - incompetence, rigidity, intemperance, callousness, corruption, insularity, evil - as would many others at all levels of command back through the annals of US military history.

A problem I think many reformers struggle with when discussing such a topic is what I think BLB was talking about in his post - the difference between leadership and command. As experienced soldiers know, they are not the same thing, for not all commanders are good leaders, and not all leaders are good commanders. George McClellan, for example, was a truly inspirational leader who won the total devotion of his troops, yet consistently failed to achieve decisive victory in battle and politically challenged his CinC (a career ending move if there ever was one). On the other hand, U.S. Grant was an excellent combat commander to whom few in his command showed any great affection.

Here's my last boss in the Army before I retired - I was his WHNS SPOC for the BW (TKN and TKS) and Luxembourg - he walked the walk, and his staff meetings were < 30 mins and ended with a short Three Stooges episode for those who could stay the extra 15-20 mins:

http://www.*******.com/watch?v=F40d3...embedded#at=44

We had a running joke - he used to refer to me as a "leaf eater" (I'm tall and he's short) and I used to tell him it was easier to see what was going on from up there.

I think 'toxic leadership' is an issue which has plagued the military throughout History and always will.

"Now...everyone not committed to any other details go report to the Group CSM NLT 0900 for area beautification."

And so it goes...

Richard
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“Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.” - Robert Heinlein
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Old 06-27-2011, 16:51   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brush Okie View Post
Please tell us more.
Although I was not familiar with the term "toxic leader(ship)" until a few months ago, after careful consideration I was personally exposed to this type of leader (read the articles I linked for how I defined it) in 1987 (Reagan), 1988 (Reagan), 1990 (Bush), 2003-4 (Bush Jr.), and currently 2009-2011 (O-Ba-Ma). Noticeably absent was most of my time in Group (save for COL Parker). The president doesn't have anything to do with it. The principles and ethics of of the organizational leadership do.

I will concede the point, however, that troop draw-down periods "could" (possibly/theoretically) result in short term goal oriented personalities surviving the cut in less than ethical organizations. Because that environment is the only way a less than ethical personality can survive in a position of authority. Generally speaking, a dick is a dick...and everyone knows it.

Last edited by Don; 06-27-2011 at 17:38. Reason: as Richard was typing...so was I. He sent his out first....Dammit.
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Old 06-27-2011, 17:25   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard View Post
To think there have not always been "toxic leader" issues is naive at best - it just didn't start "under Klinton and the way he downsized the military" (which was a choice his administration made to continue the reorganization begun by the previous administration).
I'd be interested to learn how the argument that downsizing the armed forces in the post Cold War era turned into bad leadership works. (Such an argument would be more convincing were it applied to the Carter administration.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard View Post
I would argue the records of the likes of a North, Burnside, Hooker, McClellan, MacArthur, and Custer would certainly fit one or more of the traits of 'bad leadership' described by Barbara Kellerman - incompetence, rigidity, intemperance, callousness, corruption, insularity, evil - as would many others at all levels of command back through the annals of US military history.
MOO, I would add GEN W.T. Sherman to this list for his post-Civil War career. His cynicism towards politicians and his belief that military policy should be determined by warriors alone have played a deleterious impact on civil military relations to this day.
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Leadership
Old 06-28-2011, 02:43   #13
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Leadership

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard View Post
A problem I think many reformers struggle with when discussing such a topic is what I think BLB was talking about in his post - the difference between leadership and command. As experienced soldiers know, they are not the same thing, for not all commanders are good leaders, and not all leaders are good commanders. George McClellan, for example, was a truly inspirational leader who won the total devotion of his troops, yet consistently failed to achieve decisive victory in battle and politically challenged his CinC (a career ending move if there ever was one). On the other hand, U.S. Grant was an excellent combat commander to whom few in his command showed any great affection.
I agree with Richard...There is no greater honor than to lead, in my opinion. Leaders have to be both accountable and responsible…some leaders are not comfortable with these concepts…and focus on their own survival in lieu of concentrating on their people and the mission, exhibiting these “toxic” traits. We don’t always select the right folks to advance and/or lead our people…I have seen plenty of Commanders here that could not lead someone out of a brown paper bag…folks that would be considered my peers. There are only a hand-full of leaders in my career that I have worked for that I look up to…what made them great was what they left behind and their impression they made on their people; they were accessible and approachable. I think where we are weak as an Army is in our mentorship program, or lack thereof. Most of you know and served with my mentor and I was fortunate to have many years of his advice/knowledge…a couple of good beatings from the Bulldog definitely gets you on the right path. But most Officers I know, if you ask them, have very few positive role models/influences in their career. Not sure how to fix the problem of mentorship…other than 1 Soldier at a time. Most of you on this site are extraordinary mentors, whether you realize it or not…
As a current Commander, I often wonder why I was selected to lead over others. I am leading a rather large unit (2,220+) in a mission I have very little experience with and that is definitely outside my comfort zone. (Sometimes the Army does have a sense of humor.) One of my biggest concerns was the “how”…how was I going to lead this large group in unfamiliar territory. But I quickly realized it all comes down to taking care of people… If you take care of your people, the mission takes care of itself. Make decisions, trust your team, allow you people to latitude/flexibility to do the job, defend them at all costs, and don’t ask them to do anything you haven’t done or are not willing to do right alongside them…take point. Really rather simple…

Dan
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Old 07-02-2011, 07:39   #14
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A very interesting, on-going discussion of the topic over on the Small Wars Journal blog.

"...if you sit around in a circle of people who were chosen to lead under a system that is producing toxic leaders, you are not likely to find many who think it is directed at them. Kind of like holding an AA meeting at a bar."

Army Worries about ‘Toxic Leaders’ in Ranks
SWJ Blog

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/201...t-toxic-leade/

Richard
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Old 07-02-2011, 15:32   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brush Okie View Post
From Richards link this is my view in many ways.
A question that follows is: To what extent was the dynamic in the 1990s a direct result of Clinton's leadership as commander in chief or did it also reflect other contemporary factors (e.g., the end of the Cold War and the armed forces collective search for a mission) and historical issues (e.g. Americans' ambivalence towards professional warriors and a reliance on a tradition of wartime mobilization)?
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