The Critical Leadership Problem
LTC (P) Osborne returned to the 56th HBCT after 2 ? years to serve in the deputy brigade commander (DCO) position. Three short years ago the 56th HBCT was considered among the best maneuver brigades in Forces Command. Several assessments and surveys were taken proving that the environment had changed and that there is a critical leadership problem in leader competencies. As the BCO, Col Axel was tasked to lead in the three competency areas. His primary responsibility was to lead others; secondly, to develop the environment, himself, and the profession as a whole; and finally to achieve organizational goals.
The use of Leader Competencies will provide a clear and consistent way of conveying expectations for the 56th HBCT and improve the organization. Leading others is our primary function and we do that by influence. Leadership is the process of influencing people. This is a fundamental concept found in ADP 6-22 and ADRP 6-22. While influence might be the essence of leadership, it is not the starting point. The unit Call Report indicated that there was a potential problem within the culture of the organization.
The Critical Leadership Problem Essay Example
The ability to communicate appropriately is an essential component for effective leadership. Inappropriate use of communication was one of the 56th HBCT’s major weaknesses. Too often leaders either didn’t communicate or communicated inappropriately. COL Axel either provided a lack of support or inappropriate support. He did not support, believe in, or champion the needs of the members of his unit and their families, ultimately destroying his leadership effectiveness. Leaders who ignore issues of infidelity, stress, anxiety and guilt will never succeed.
Long and recurring deployments cause stress and anxiety for families and soldiers. In every sense of the word the 56th HBCT’s organizational culture and climate can be described as toxic. The 56th HBCT was a good organization with a toxic leader operating in a culture that had become toxic. All three elements of the toxic leader syndrome were present in the unit. An apparent lack of concern for the well being of subordinates. A personality or interpersonal technique that negatively affected the organizational climate.
And finally, a conviction by subordinates that the leader is motivated primarily by self-interest. Organizational culture implies some level of structural stability in the group. Culture is hard to change but can be easily perverted. The most central issue for leaders is to understand the deeper levels of a culture, to assess the functionality of the assumptions made at that level, and to deal with the anxiety that is unleashed when those assumptions are challenged. Col Axel failed at every level. We all make mistakes. Col Axel failed to learn from them.
One source stated that the outgoing DCO’s negative attitude of the Afghan’s created a cancer among some within the brigade, and it’s still there. COL Axel only made things worse. The battalion CSM indicated that the situation within the unit had never been worse. The soldiers cannot catch a break on the ever-increasing extra duties and work details. When mentioned to the division CSM he dismissed it by replying live with it and quit complaining! The CSM stated that the 56th HBCT has done nothing but whine since returning from Afghanistan.
Comments like that can destroy a units morale if soldiers and their families are already struggling. Many degrading comments like, “you have to figure it out! ” and “Nothing is coming off the plate” and “Do not expect me or my Sergeant Major to plead your case with the Division,” “This is life” and “Meet the mission” can destroy not only a units morale but an Leaders Career. We must lead others from the front and lead by influence– experiencing and empathizing with those we lead at every level. There must be accountability in behavior and ethics in leadership
To develop the environment, self and the profession as a whole, leaders must examine, assess and take surveys to gauge the true climate within the command culture. Col Axel’s critical leadership problem was his lack of competency and concern in the creating and cultivating of a healthy environment of influence for himself and others. LTC(P) Osborne’s initial conversation with Col Axel and CSM Rose was positive. However, discussions with LTC (P) Lennon, the outgoing DCO, seemed out of synch and caused significant concerns about the current climate, the HBCT command structure and inconsistencies in survey reports.
Many soldiers within the HQ seem to like being a member of the BCT but report they are stressed by the deployment and the affect on their families. There is clearly disappointment with Leadership in the BCT as indicated by comments about COL Axel and how he tells soldiers in formations to take care of families but never gives time to do so. Comments about infidelity and inappropriate language from field grade officers is often rumored. Families are fed up. It is affecting performance, yet no action is taken by the senior leadership or Col Axel. Surveys for many are meaningless.
You cannot develop or improve the environment when there is corruption, threats and actions taken that ignore concerns and shorfalls. LTC Fogarty, the brigade S3 was accused by two battalion S3s of having a dictatorial side. They indicated Fogarty’s unwillingness to consider new ways of approaching the diverse training needs brought by the reconfiguration. Moreover, Fogarty indicated that if they took their concerns to their battalion commanders they would regret it. When this was mentioned to LTC(P) Lennon, he stated, “Hell, that’s just Fogarty flexing his muscle.
There’s no better brigade S3 in the division, and everyone knows it. Those battalion officers need to quit sniveling and get to work. ” Finally, the BCT Chaplain confirmed that there was an increase in divorces and that the reason appears to be marital unfaithfulness during the last deployment and a continued OPTEMPO that is causing the spouses at home to feel alone and without hope. He indicated that he believes most of the issues with infidelity are internal to the Brigade. Col Axel’s response to the Chaplain’s concern was simply, “Those are only rumors. Don’t bring me that stuff without proof!
” Leaders must be able to cultivate and develop the environment, themselves and others. It appeared the HBCT staff was able to manage day-to-day operations, but struggled with their ability to be effective in developing others. Another issue that was never addressed occurred approximately five months into the brigade’s fifteen month deployment. A suicide vehicle-borne IED (SVBIED) attacked a patrol. The attack killed the brigade commander, the brigade command sergeant major, one of the battalion commanders as well as wounded several soldiers and Afghan Security Forces.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, LTC (P) Lennon assumed command of the brigade until the arrival of COL Axel and CSM Rose. A sensing and debriefing meeting may have helped many members of the unit. However, the culture was not amenable. A 360-degree commander and staff assessment from the Center for Army Leadership’s (CAL) Leadership Assessment and Feedback Program was done. A summary of trends from the assessment indicated that the staff had the trust and confidence of subordinate units. It revealed that NCOs display confidence in their abilities and have a good tactical and technical knowledge.
On the other hand, the assessment revealed that commanders share a lack of willingness to include subordinates in decision-making, and they fell short of expectations on developing subordinates, coaching, and counseling. This apparently being driven by a seeming lack of concern for Leader-Development from the brigade commander, Col Axel. The report indicates that company commanders are not routinely counseled on their performance and receive little to no developmental guidance from either their rater or senior rater. Leaders must strive to achieve organizational goals and influence within their organizational culture.
No organization, be it formal or casual, will get far if its workers are not motivated to achieve, regardless to the competing requirements. Workers who lack focus or are uninterested in the end state or goal are not usually very productive, and can often undermine a leader’s efforts and authority. Organizational goals cannot be achieved without creating team unity and cultivating leadership opportunities for growth. Teamwork makes the dream work. Where there is no vision the people perish. There is chaos, confusion and often anarchy where there is no vision.
Vision defines end state or expected conclusion, it provides the leader a source of effectiveness, provides focus and guidance and it also provides the capability to organize. Trust enables influence and mission command. When high levels of trust exist, people are more willing and naturally accepting of influence and influence is more likely to occur in multiple directions. Failure to cultivate a climate of trust or a willingness to tolerate discrimination or harassment on any level erodes unit cohesion and breaks the trust subordinates have for their leaders.
Unethical behavior, favoritism, personal biases, and poor communication skills erode trust. All these elements were present in the 56th HBCT. In the book, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, he talks about Level 5 Leadership. The Level 3 leader is defined as one who “organizes people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of pre-determined objectives. ” What is our goal? What is our end-state? The team must become stakeholders. Jim Collins says, “Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company.
It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious–but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves. ” 1 It seemed as if Col Axel was not a very good organizer and was unable to achieve any significant organizational goals for his unit. There was poor performance from many of the staff sections during the last deployment. There were complaints from the battalion commanders of a lack of support when it came to critical supply efforts and support operations. Soldiers in some sections seemed unmotivated and had a general lack of discipline.
Even those that seemed least likely to complain commented on the stressful environment and workload. The general consensus was that the unit jumps from one crisis to another with no apparent vision. This could be expected in theater but when the unit returned from Afghanistan the pace should have improved while soldiers were allowed to reset and reintegrate; but it had been far from that. Many expressed that they would rather be back in Afghanistan given the divisions 24/7 mentality and helter-skelter attitude. No one knows what will happen next. In theater you don’t have families
wondering why daddy isn’t home. Many soldiers and families are ready to throw in the towel. Commanders should never try to achieve organizational goals at the expense of the family or the unit. The commander and command sergeant major of one of the brigade’s combined arms battalions provided COL Axel and CSM Rose a detailed review of the effect of the installation’s “red cycle” on their unit training plans, receipt of equipment and execution of the reset of personnel and equipment, reestablish garrison systems, and leader and incoming soldier training to address shortfalls identified in Afghanistan.
1 Jim Collins, Good to Great, New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. , 2001, 20-21. A very necessary process for readiness. The battalion commander stated, “We’re caught between a rock and a hard place because we tell Soldiers to reconnect with their families after being away for fifteen months, then pile so many competing requirements on the plate that they have to work until 1900 each night to meet suspenses. When you add on red-cycle taskings, the problem increases because you have fewer soldiers to do the same amount of work.
When I have to defer equipment turn-in for two weeks or keep soldiers late telling them it’s more important to guard motor pools and ranges than recover our equipment from war, we all lose credibility. Soldiers know the difference between activity to keep them alive, and make-work. ” Leaders must strive to achieve organizational goals and influence within their organizational culture without destroying families, es spirit de corp and morale. My vision for the brigade and how I will measure effectiveness in achieving that vision is in measuring these same three competencies.
Leaders communicate effectively by clearly expressing ideas and actively listening to others. Leaders should never elevate policy over the plan. By understanding the nature and importance of communication and practicing effective communication techniques, leaders relate better to others and are able to translate goals into actions. Communication is essential to all other leadership competencies. We must listen actively, create shared understanding, employ engaging communication techniques and be sensitive to cultural facts in communication.
Army leadership establishes the fundamental principles by which Army leaders accomplish their missions and care for their people. It describes the enduring concepts of leadership through the core leader competencies and attributes required of contemporary leaders of all organizations, regardless of mission or setting. These principles reflect decades of experience and the best scientific knowledge available. Leadership fundamentally remains a process of influence; how and when influence is applied determines the eventual mission success and the capabilities of Army organizations.
Success can be measured by using some of the same instruments used by Col Axel. As battalion commander, Col Axel was tasked to lead in the three competency areas. My responsibility is the same. First, I will lead others. Secondly, I will develop the environment, myself, and the profession as a whole. And finally, I will achieve organizational goals. The use of Leader Competencies will provide a clear and consistent way of conveying expectations and achieving the desired end-state and goals.