Archive for morale

Empowerment (Not Just Another Buzzword)

Posted in Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Ronald Reagan once said, “The greatest leader is not the one who does the greatest things.  The greatest leader is the one who gets the people to do the greatest things.”[i]  He also said, “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority and don’t interfere…”[ii]

I wanted to use this post to discuss The process of empowerment, the guiding principles of workplace empowerment and empowerment in management.  Empowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices, and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.[iii]  In today’s workplace, people quite often endure the absence of empowerment and carry on like robots doing as they are told.  Empowerment unleashes an individual’s potential and enhances [their] ability to promote creativity and productivity in the organization.[iv]  Some might call empowerment a buzzword.  But, empowerment is being increasingly embraced by more and more managers and leaders in both the military and the corporate World.  And, quite honestly, people are hungry for empowerment.

Decision-making in many organizations and corporations is currently too top-heavy.  Decisions need to be pushed down to the lowest level possible.  But, in some instances, managers and executives are afraid to relinquish some of their authority.  They feel that doing so would be too risky, fearing that they would have less power, diminished control or might lose their job.  But, the true risk is to not embrace some form of an empowerment process.

Empowering others is essentially the process of turning followers into leaders.  Through empowerment, there are fewer levels of decision-making.   As a result, there are reduced levels of bureaucracy, and organizational pyramids are flattened.  Managers trust employees to make decisions, and the staff trust managers and feel supported in their decisions.  In some instances, procedures and guidelines are generated by the people who perform the work every day.  Through empowerment, good ideas and decisions are implemented faster.  Ultimately, empowerment creates confident and competent employees who are more productive because they are not waiting for approval to make decisions.

PattonGeneral George S. Patton saw empowerment this way:

“Never tell people how to do things.  Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

Patton believed in exploiting, encouraging, and rewarding individual initiative.  Patton saw leadership as mostly training and motivation.  The object of leadership is to create people who know their jobs and who can reliably supply the how to your what.[v]

But, empowerment is not something you just simply turn on like a light switch among your staff.  You don’t show up one day and say, “you, the people, are now empowered!”  For all involved (leaders, managers, employees, etc.), it is a process of education, knowledge and experience, where the staff is provided the criterion which directs them in making decisions in their respective jobs, areas of expertise and departments.  If the staff has the basic guidelines, they should be able to make educated and informed decisions without having to go to the next level.  As a result, the customer is served, or the mission is accomplished, more quickly and effectively, and managers are freed to make decisions that really require their level of expertise.

It is in this way that all staff has the information they need to be truly empowered to collaborate effectively.  A process is developed to continue the culture change so that there is true empowerment for informed decision-making.  Through this empowerment process, a new organizational culture is established; a culture where management encourages teamwork and risk taking, and employees can establish teams where they see the need.  From this teamwork, creativity and initiative are fostered.

As leaders, we should strive to cultivate leadership not only in ourselves, but in those we are responsible to lead.  As leaders, we shouldn’t think that we have all of the answers.  As leaders, we don’t know everything.  As leaders, we should be surrounding ourselves with capable, knowledgeable people who can take much of the decision-making burden off our shoulders; where employees own their work and are more accountable for outcomes.

As a result of employee empowerment:

  1. Micro-management is virtually eliminated
  2. Productivity in the workplace increases
  3. Creativity and innovation within the organization is cultivated
  4. Employee morale is improved, and there is greater job satisfaction
  5. The leader – follower (management – employee) relationship is strengthened
  6. There becomes an environment where future leaders are developed and nurtured for the future.

When people are empowered with the knowledge and tools to be successful doing their jobs, their confidence breaks down the intimidation of any task, and they are energized to do their jobs well.  When people know that the leash is off their neck, and their boss is not breathing down their neck, they become some of the strongest and happiest people.  Empowerment is about making sure that people are well-trained, they have the tools to do the job, and are given the autonomy to take risks and to think outside the box.  A truly empowered team can do great things, and as leaders we need to stand back and let them succeed.

Copyright © Dale R. Wilson

Footnotes –

[i] Interview with Mike Wallace, 60 Minutes, December 14, 1975

[ii] Ronald Reagan, September 15, 1986, in an interview with “Fortune” magazine, describing his management style – Cover Story: Reagan on Decision-Making, Planning, Gorbachev, and More

[iii] Empowerment – PovertyNet – http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/EXTEMPOWERMENT/0,,menuPK:486417~pagePK:149018~piPK:149093~theSitePK:486411,00.html – Accessed 2 May 2012 – The World Bank – http://web.worldbank.org/

[iv] Hungry for Empowerment – Posted May 4, 2012 – http://sidtuli.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/hungry-for-empowerment/ – Accessed 7 May 2012 – Sidtuli blog on WordPress – http://sidtuli.wordpress.com/

[v] Axelrod, Alan. Patton on Leadership: Strategic Lessons for Corporate Warfare. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1999. Page 165. Also, War As I Knew It (1947) by George S. Patton, “Reflections and Suggestions”

*Portions of this blog post were adapted from a presentation entitled, “Empowerment & Decision-Making – Building a Framework for the Future.”  This presentation can be found at the link http://www.maine.gov/labor/bendthecurve/minutes/empowerment.pdf, through the State of Maine’s Department of Labor website (http://www.maine.gov/labor/), and their Bend the Curve initiative.

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Related Articles and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Reading –

Hungry for Empowerment (sidtuli.wordpress.com)

6 Steps to Sustainable Leadership: Feedback Mechanisms (linked2leadership.com)

8 Ways to Find Freedom (leadershipfreak.wordpress.com)

10 Strategies for Building Confidence in Others (leadershipfreak.wordpress.com)

Believe in Empowerment? Then Just Do It! (km4meu.wordpress.com)

Delegation and Empowerment (prmarketingcommunication.com)

Enlightened Empowerment (myraqa.com/blog)

The Benefits of Employee Empowerment (cutimes.com)

Cover Story: Reagan on Decision-Making, Planning, Gorbachev, and More (money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune)

Need Some Advice? (managebetternow.com)

Creating A Culture Of Civility (managebetternow.com)

Dropping Keys? (m100group.wordpress.com)

Surround Yourself with High Quality Employees (cambridgeprofessionals.com)

13 Characteristics Of Bad Bosses

Posted in Toxic Leadership with tags , , , , , , on April 18, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Adapted from an article on Aol Jobs via http://jobs.aol.com/

By Matthew Carpenter-Arevalo – Posted April 16, 2012

If you’re a manager, you’ve probably experienced the sensation of people not liking you — but does that mean you are a bad boss? Not necessarily.

Your goal, after all, is to implement the company’s vision on the front-lines of the battle. If you’re going to be, as one famous manager once quipped, “The Decider,” people will resent you, no doubt. But as a boss you also have to do your job, and we all know that sometimes means doing things your subordinates don’t like.

So let us help you out. Here are 13 ways of knowing whether you’re a bad boss:

1. People are afraid of you

2. You micromanage

3. Stress controls you; you don’t control stress

4. You create real and perceived distance between yourself and your team

5. You’re unavailable

6. You don’t know your reports

7. You have no investment your reports’ futures

8. You manage down more than you manage up

9. You don’t deliver tough messages

10. You throw others under the bus

11. You don’t read about management

12. You genuinely seek feedback

13. You eschew vulnerability

The question now becomes what type of manager are you?

Continue reading 13 Characteristics of Bad Bosses

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Related Articles –

Learn from Your Boss, Even If You Do Not Like Your Boss (managebetternow.com)

How ‘Bad Bosses’ Drive Employees Mad [Infographic]

Bad Bosses Often Source of Unhappy, Unhealthy Workers, Study Finds

Bosses Across the Globe are Failing in the Basics of Leadership

Unhappy at Work?  The Boss or the Company May Be to Blame

The Impact of Bad Bosses

Bosses Have Big Impact on Workplace Well-Being

5 Ways to Make a Bad Boss Better

Poor Leadership in the Military and in Corporate America

Posted in Leadership, Toxic Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

An article written last year in Fast Company discussed the effects of poor leadership in the military causing more members to hang up their uniform and leave the military.  The article refers to results of a survey conducted among Army NCO’s and officers about their desire to remain in uniform after completing their service obligations.  The survey revealed that some members of the military are citing ‘poor leadership’ as a reason they are leaving the military.

More than the hardship and strain caused by repeated deployments to combat zones, poor leadership is the main factor in driving active-duty enlisted soldiers from the Army, according to [an] Army Times article, citing research results.  Poor leadership is the third-most popular reason for leaving the service among the active-duty officers surveyed, the article states.  Among noncommissioned officers, leadership concerns were a greater motivation to quit than the relentless pace of deployments.[i]  Although the survey is nearly a year old, I am sure the results would be quite similar, or maybe even higher, as a result of the stress and strains of military life over the past few years.

As we’ve discussed here at Command Performance Leadership, toxic leadership is a very real problem in our military.  Although I believe it is isolated and infrequent, it does still pose a harmful threat to the morale and effectiveness of our fighting men and women in uniform.  And, of course, this isn’t exclusive to the military ranks.  Corporate America is also fighting the battle of poor leadership.

Here is the article, with some follow-up opinions to follow:

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Poor Leadership In Companies Goes Straight To The Bottom Line

By Roberta Chinsky Matuson – July 27, 2011

It’s no wonder that the movie Horrible Bosses is playing to full theaters all across America. Everyone has either had a terrible boss at some point in his or her career or they know someone who has been in this situation. Poor leadership is an epidemic that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

The problem of poor leadership isn’t just reserved for the private sector. In a recent survey by the Army Research Institute, 26 % of sergeants and staff sergeants and 23 % of lieutenants and captains surveyed planned to leave the Army after completing their current service obligations. Of those, 35 % of enlisted and 26 % of officers cited the quality of leadership at their duty stations as a reason for leaving. Among noncommissioned officers, leadership concerns were a greater motivation to quit than the relentless pace of deployments.

Here is how this is playing out in organizations around the world.

Employees are being placed in positions of authority based on seniority, rather than results. Sgt. Kevin Doyle, a two-tour veteran of Afghanistan recently wrote the following on the Army Times website. “Instead of promoting those who create results, we keep in dinosaurs that meet an easy standard and continue to slide under the radar.” The same thing happens in Corporate America, where seniority and internal politics often trumps employee performance and results.

People are promoted into management positions before they are ready. In an effort to save money, organizations are turning towards internal promotions or relying on inexperienced leaders to train new managers. The results can be disastrous if the promotion doesn’t come with training or coaching from a more senior person.

I recently learned of a situation where my 19-year-old nephew is training the boss’s son to take on a newly created management role. Now don’t get me wrong. I love my nephew dearly, but at age 19, how much can he really know about management? My heart goes out to the son of the owner, who will be expected to fly high the moment he is set free in the organization. And then we wonder why most family businesses don’t make it to the third generation.

Lack of role models. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have a good boss then you are usually one of the lucky ones. Getting two or more of these is equivalent to winning the lottery.

We model our behavior on what we observe. If most of what we see is poor leadership then it’s unlikely we will be much better without an intervention.

It’s no secret that people leave their bosses. We also know that employee turnover has a direct impact on the bottom line of organizations. Many people believe that leadership is a trait we all possess. That may be true for some, but for others leadership is something that can be taught. Isn’t it time that we put our knowledge to good use to resolve this problem?

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Louis Johnsick, one of the members of my LinkedIn group, Command Performance: Military and Corporate Leadership, posted a comment soon after I posted this article last year in the group’s discussion board.  He said:

“There is poor leadership everywhere for sure. For the most part, the corporations and military are shooting themselves in the foot by placing the wrong people in charge and for all the wrong reasons.

I think this happens for a few different reasons. The top two that I can think of would be: 1) “It’s how we’ve always done it.” 2) “Their a good person and they deserve a chance.” If these folks aren’t ready for a leadership role, then they aren’t ready for a leadership role. I have known some great people, but their leadership ability and management style were sub-standard, but they were still put in charge or recommended for promotion. It would be much better for the individual and the organization to continue grooming them and get them to a higher level, rather than see them flounder and fail; just because we like them or we don’t want to hurt their feelings. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

As a military retiree and working in the civilian sector, I have seen these scenarios play out in the military and corporate worlds. In order to ensure organizational success, performance has to be a prerequisite for promotion; not just seniority. That was always one of the great things about the military, if you worked for a bad boss, just wait 18 months or officer rotation or 3 years for senior NCO’s to rotate. No such thing is the corporate world.

So what’s the bottom line? Agree with the article, in that, we need to get real and take a hard look at how things are being done and do some serious internal analyses and find a new starting point and develop some measurable metrics for success. Ensure we identify the key performers and train and coach them for future leadership roles. Maybe adopt the mantra, “It’s nothing personal, just business.”

Louis’ comment is echoed by General Martin Dempsey (at the time, Army Chief of Staff) in the May 2011 Army Times article.  In the article, Dempsey blasted the pace of promotions, suggesting that it puts people in leadership positions before they are ready.  “We’re promoting 95 to 98 percent of captains to major, 93 or 95 percent of majors to lieutenant colonel. We shouldn’t be satisfied … because 98 percent of captains don’t deserve to be promoted to major. Statistically, that’s an infeasible percentage. And we’ve got to do the same thing on the noncommissioned officer side.”  Too many soldiers are promoted based on seniority instead of merit.

So, is toxic leadership the new fog of war for our senior military leaders?  Do most not see that this is a poison among our military ranks?  What will the Pentagon do to eradicate toxic leaders from the military?  Is it a matter of eradication, or is it a need to have remedial counseling and training among leaders who possess traits of a toxic leader; to train them to be more empathetic towards their subordinates?

My personal opinion, as stated in other posts, is that fundamental leadership training, and the awareness of what toxic leadership is, and how to avoid being a toxic leader, should start early and often in a person’s career in the military.  Because the military is unique, in that it requires people at all levels to take on certain forms and levels of leadership, I think that what we are seeing in the results of the survey is a lack of training and, dare I say, prevention, early in one’s career.  As important as the training on sexual harassment, I think toxic leadership awareness should be an integral developmental focus of our future leaders, both in the military and in corporate America.  And, I think the results of this survey, and the subsequent departure of some very fine soldiers (and sailors, airmen and Marines), is ultimately the result of our senior leaders either ignoring the facts about toxic leadership, or not knowing how to recognize the signs that toxic leadership is affecting their ranks.  So, the training should be both how to avoid being a toxic leader, and how to recognize one.

I know what you are thinking…more training about things unrelated to killing our enemy.  But, topics like sexual harassment, hazing and toxic leadership, among other things, do have a tangible and lethal effect on the esprit de corps of our teams, and ultimately has an effect on our fitness to fight our Country’s wars.  It all ties together.

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Related Articles –

Survey: Bad Leadership Drives Soldiers to Leave (armytimes.com)

Bad Leaders are Destroying our Military (militarygear.com)

Antecedents and Consequences of Toxic Leadership in the U.S. Army: A Two Year Review and Recommended Solutions (usacac.army.mil)

Leadership Effects (A Guest Blog Post from the Front Lines) (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

(Hard) Lessons Learned About Leadership (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

Authoritarian Leadership vs. Democratic Leadership ~ The Officer Corps Explained (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

Toxic Leadership (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

Schofield’s Definition of Discipline (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

What Inspirational Leaders Do – Conclusion (cedricj.wordpress.com)

Footnote –

[i] “Survey: Bad Leadership Drives Soldiers to Leave” – Published: May 21, 2011 – http://www.stripes.com/news/army/survey-bad-leadership-drives-soldiers-to-leave-1.144230 – Accessed 8 March 2012 – Stars and Stipes – http://www.stripes.com/

Schofield’s Definition of Discipline

Posted in Leadership, Toxic Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

“The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and to give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or the other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.”

Major General John M. Schofield
Address to the Corps of Cadets, U.S. Military Academy
August 11, 1879

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Major General John M. Schofield’s quote is required knowledge, and to be memorized and recited verbatim, among Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) students, Officer Candidate School (OCS) candidates, Cadets at West Point and at the United States Air Force Academy, and other military leadership institutions.  I thought I would bring to you some background about General Schofield, and a little history about his quote on discipline.  Ultimately, the purpose of this post is to use the quote as a backdrop to the topic of toxic leadership that we’ve been discussing here at Command Performance Leadership.

First, I will provide a biography of Major General John M. Schofield.  For those of you who only know of his quote will be fascinated at his military experience and success.  Then, I will put into context General Schofield’s definition of discipline.

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John M. Schofield, US Army

John McAllister Schofield (September 29, 1831 – March 4, 1906) graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1853, ranking seventh in his class of 52 graduates, and was commissioned a brevet[i] second lieutenant in the artillery.  Schofield served for two years in the artillery, was assistant professor of natural and experimental philosophy at West Point from 1855 to 1860, and while on leave (1860–1861) was professor of physics at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.[ii]

When the Civil War broke out, Schofield became a major in the 1st Missouri Infantry, and served as chief-of-staff under Major General Nathaniel Lyon.  During the Battle of Wilson’s Creek (Missouri), Schofield acted with “conspicuous gallantry” during the battle, and received the Medal of Honor for that action in 1892.[iii-a][iv-a][v]

On November 21, 1861, Schofield was promoted to Brigadier General, and placed in charge of all the Union militia in Missouri.  He was again promoted to Major General on November 29, 1862, though the Senate did not confirm the appointment until May 12, 1863.  From 1861 to 1863, he held various commands in the Trans-Mississippi Theater, most of the time in command of the Army of the Frontier.[iii-b][iv-b]

On April 17, 1863, he took command of the 3rd Division in the XIV Corps of the Army of the Cumberland in Tennessee, but returned to Missouri in May of 1863 to command the Department of the Missouri.  In January of 1864, Schofield led the Army of the Ohio during the Atlanta Campaign under Major General William T. Sherman.[iii-c][iv-c]

After the fall of Atlanta, took the majority of his forces on his infamous “March to the Sea” through Georgia.  Schofield’s Army of the Ohio was detached to join Major General George H. Thomas to stop the invasion of Tennessee led by Confederate General John B. Hood.  On November 30, 1864, Hood managed to attack Schofield’s Army of the Ohio in the Battle of Franklin.  Schofield successfully repulsed Hood, effectively crippled Hood’s army, and joined his forces with Thomas.  Two weeks later, on December 15 and 16, during the Battle of Nashville, General Thomas used Schofield and his XXIII Corps to effectively destroy what was left of Hood’s army.  For his service at Franklin, Schofield received a promotion to Brigadier General in the regular army on November 30, 1864.[iii-d][iv-d]

Schofield was ordered to operate under Sherman in North Carolina, and moved his corps by rail and sea to Fort Fisher, North Carolina.  He captured Wilmington on February 22, 1865, and fought at the Battle of Kinston on March 10, before meeting up with Sherman on March 23 in Goldsboro.  Working together with Sherman, Schofield led the Department of North Carolina until the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston at Durham Station.  For his service, he was brevetted to Major General in the regular army.[iii-e][iv-e]

After the war, Schofield went on to become the Secretary of War under President Andrew Johnson; June 1868 to March 1869.  In 1873, he was tasked by Secretary of War William Belknap to investigate the strategic potential of a United States presence in the Hawaiian Islands.  Schofield’s report recommended that the United States establish a naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.[iii-f][iv-f]

From 1876 to 1881, Schofield was superintendent of the United States Military Academy.  From 1888 until his retirement in 1895, Schofield was commanding general of the United States Army. He had become a major general on March 4, 1869, and on February 5, 1895, he was commissioned a lieutenant general. Schofield retired on September 29, 1895, upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 64.[iii-g]

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Schofield’s Definition of Discipline

The foundations of leadership are taught in every military institution, from ROTC students, to OCS candidates and those who attend each of the service academies.  The demonstration of moral and ethical attributes are essential for effective leadership as a commission officer in the United States military.  Leaders of character are defined as one who “seeks to discover the truth, decides what is right, and demonstrates the courage to act accordingly – always.”  Officers in the military are to epitomize humility, self-effacement, and selfless service.  So, at the basic and academic level, before the bars are pinned onto a newly commissioned officer, candidates are taught the importance of equality, dignity and respect.[vi]  Therefore, General Schofield’s quote encapsulates the philosophy to develop relationships that promote mutual respect and trust.  So, there is good reason for an officer candidate to learn Schofield’s Definition of Discipline to the letter.

Schofield’s quote comes from a much longer address on the venerable vice of hazing, and the treatment of new cadets by their seniors in the Corps, that existed at West Point while he was Superintendent there between 1876 to 1881.  Schofield said, “The practice of hazing is both injurious and humiliating to its victims and degrading to those who engage in it.  Your constant associates after you leave the Academy must be the members of higher and lower classes.  The memory of ill-treatment will remain with its victim as long as he lives.  You can never be a ‘brother officer’ to him whom you once degraded.  The stern discipline of a commanding officer will soon be forgotten when it can be remembered that he always treated his subordinates with justice and due respect.  But wanton injustice and contumely can never be forgotten, except by a spirit too mean to feel its sting…The very foundation of civil society is mutual respect for individual rights.  And nowhere is such mutual respect more strictly enjoined and rigidly enforced than in military organizations.  Without it, tyranny on the one hand and disaffection and mutiny on the other must destroy the efficiency of an army…A veteran soldier sees but little difference between the different grades, from his own down to that of a junior cadet, and treats them all with nearly equal respect.  It would be well for young soldiers to profit by such examples.  The road to military honor will be guarded all the way by the hearts of those who may be your subordinates.  You cannot travel that road unless you can command those hearts.”[vii]

The Army defines respect as treating people as they should be treated.  It is the “Golden Rule” principle — do unto others as you would have them do to you.  Attitudes about the worth of people, concepts, and personal belief systems are expressions of their values.  Respect means recognizing and appreciating the inherent dignity and worth of all people.  This concept goes well beyond issues of discrimination and harassment; respect includes the broader issue of civility, the way people treat each other.  Respect involves being sensitive to diversity and the impact of one’s own behaviors on others — behaviors that others may perceive as being insensitive, offensive, or abusive.  Ultimately, the Army fosters a commitment to ethical excellence essential to leaders of character for our military and our Nation.[viii]

Too often in the Army, leaders want unqualified loyalty.  Schofield knew that such loyalty had to be earned. He knew that harsh treatment– the kind too frequently mistaken for authoritative expertise– comes at the expense of performance.  He knew that hard-earned respect– the kind that comes from compassion, empathy, and a commander’s genuine interest in his subordinates– makes men reliable in battle.[ix]  General [Schofield] was trying to tell us that we’d succeed in gaining the discipline necessary for any future overwhelming fight, if we treated our people with respect and in a manner and tone of voice appropriate for American warfighters.[x]

The foundation of discipline is not accountability or punishment, but respect.  A leader must establish trust and credibility, communicate effectively, employ empathy, intimately know their people’s capabilities, and move their people into positions to be most successful.  Nobody should be the ‘bad guy’ when leading people.  No leader should be a bad guy intentionally, or go out of their way to be one.  If a leader is working to perfect his ‘bad guy’ image, he is dishonoring his responsibility as a leader, and is creating a hostile environment for his followers.  If a leader has successfully become a ‘bad guy,’ shame on them.  Their subordinates deserve better than that; and, so does the service they represent and the Command (organization) they are responsible for.[xi]  Ultimately, a good leader will lead through respect instead of leading through fear.  When you treat people right, word gets around.

The poisoning results of harsh and tyrannical treatment can be detrimental to people, teams and organizations.  A leader’s job, along with guiding individuals and groups towards victory and success, is to be a mentor.  All eyes are on the leader; everyone looks up to them.  However, the wrong tone of voice or form of ridicule, no matter how isolated or common, can have a negative impact on individuals and teams.  The results of such toxic leadership can have destabilizing effects on command and control, as well as destroy esprit de corps.

Good leaders seek to develop and nurture relationships that lead to growth and fulfillment.  They:

  • Understand their needs and goals for relationships
  • Are able to take the perspective of another in relationships
  • Are able to transcend or step-out of their own self-interests to serve the good of the relationship
  • Work to establish cooperative relationships so all benefit
  • Seek relationships where they are respected and valued
  • Respect and value others in relationships
  • Seek healthy relationships that provide autonomy and support for growth
  • Meet their responsibilities in relationships
  • Treat others in relationships fairly and honestly
  • Effectively communicate with others in relationships
  • Build relationships based on trust
  • Understand the impact of military service on relationships[xii]

General Schofield’s quote is not very long, but it certainly says a lot.  For the Army, and any organization for that matter, to work properly there must be a bond between the leader and those being led; a bond that rests not on authority alone – but on professionalism, good will, and above all MUTUAL RESPECT.  As I said earlier in this post, there is good reason for an officer candidate to learn Schofield’s Definition of Discipline to the letter.  The knowledge and execution of its very meaning will serve officers well when they are in a position to lead people in the military and in life.

Copyright © Dale R. Wilson

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Related Articles –

Schofield’s Definition of Discipline – West Point Association of Graduates – Gray Matter (westpointaog.org)

Bugle Notes: Learn This! (west-point.org)

Why You Should Treat Your People Like it’s 1879 (thoughtleadersllc.com)

Leadership and the Golden Rule (courageouslearning.wordpress.com)

Leadership as Influence (weareallleadersnow.wordpress.com)

Toxic Leadership (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

Authoritarian Leadership vs. Democratic Leadership ~ The Officer Corps Explained (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

(Hard) Lessons Learned About Leadership (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)

Respect for Others: A Bedrock of Leadership (digital-library.usma.edu)

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Footnotes –

[i] The Articles of War adopted by the United States Army in 1776 and slightly revised in 1806 established the use and significance of brevet ranks or awards in the U.S. Army. When first used, a brevet commission in the U.S. Army entitled the officer to be identified by a higher rank but the award had limited effect on the right to higher command or pay. A brevet rank had no effect within the officer’s current unit, but when assigned duty at the brevet rank by the U.S. President such an officer would command with the brevet rank and be paid at the higher rank. This higher command and pay would last only for the duration of that assignment. The brevet promotion would not affect the officer’s seniority and actual permanent rank in the army (“Brevet Brigadier Generals in Blue” by Roger D. Hunt and Jack R. Brown. Gaithersburg, MD: Olde Soldier Books, 1997. “Introduction”, p.v.).  Beginning on April 16, 1818, brevet commissions also required confirmation by the United States Senate, just as all other varieties of officer commissions did (“Civil War High Commands” by John H. Eicher and David J. Eicher. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. p. 34.).  Brevet promotions were quite common because the army had many frontier forts to garrison and other missions to perform but could not always appoint appropriately ranked officers to command these forts or missions. The U.S. Congress permitted only a limited number of each rank of officer. Thus, an officer of lower rank might receive a brevet commission to a rank more appropriate for his assignment. Also, newly commissioned officers often received brevet rank until authorized positions became available. For example an officer might graduate from West Point and be appointed a brevet second lieutenant until a permanent posting opened up (“Brevet [military]” – Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brevet_(military)– Accessed 19 February 2012)

[ii] “Civil War High Commands” by John H. Eicher and David J. Eicher. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. p. 472-73.

[iii-a,b,c,d,e,f,g] “John Schofield” – Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Schofield – Accessed 19 February 2012

[iv-a,b,c,d,e,f] “John M. Schofield” – Civil War Trust (Saving America’s Civil War Battlefields) – http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/biographies/john-schofield.html – Accessed 21 February 2012

[v] “Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas” by Benson Bobrick. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2009. p. 288, states “Much later, as secretary of war (1868-1869), he would award himself the Congressional Medal of Honor (actual award was in 1892) for Undocumented valor at Wilson’s Creek.”

[vi] “The Cadet Leader Development System (CLDS) – Moral Ethical Domain”– United States Military Academy Office of Policy, Planning, and Assessment – http://www.usma.edu/opa/clds/moral_ethical_domain.html – Accessed 22 February 2012 – United States Military Academy – http://www.usma.edu/

[vii] “Schofield’s Definition of Discipline” – West Point Association of Graduates – Gray Matter – Posted 4 November 2010 – http://www.westpointaog.org/page.aspx?pid=4329 – Accessed 19 February 2012 – http://www.westpointaog.org/

[viii] “Cadet Leader Development System” – USMA Circular: 1-101 (page 49) – 3 June 2002 – United States Military Academy – West Point, New York – http://www.dami.army.pentagon.mil/pub/dami-fl/Cr1-101.pdf – Accessed 21 February 2012 – Deputy Chief of Staff, G-2 (Army Intelligence) – http://www.dami.army.pentagon.mil/

[ix] “The Discipline Which Makes Men Reliable” – By Rich Stowell – Posted 29 March 2011 – http://my-public-affairs.blogspot.com/2011/03/discipline-which-makes-men-reliable.html – Accessed 21 February 2012 – My Public Affairs (A Teacher’s Education in the Army) – http://my-public-affairs.blogspot.com/

[x] “Year of Leadership: American-Made Discipline” – Commentary by Lt. Col. Mark Allen, 341st Operations Support Squadron – Posted 10/16/2008 ~ Updated 10/17/2008 – Malmstrom Air Force Base – News/Commentary – http://www.malmstrom.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123119911 – Accessed 21 February 2012 – Malmstrom Air Force Base – http://www.malmstrom.af.mil/

[xi] “(Hard) Lessons Learned About Leadership” – By Dale R. Wilson – Posted 01/24/2012 – https://commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/hard-lessons-learned-about-leadership/ – Accessed 23 February 2012 – Command Performance Leadership – https://commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com/

[xii] “The Cadet Leader Development System (CLDS) – Human Spirit Domain”– United States Military Academy Office of Policy, Planning, and Assessment – http://www.usma.edu/opa/clds/domain_of_the_human_spirit.html – Accessed 22 February 2012 – United States Military Academy – http://www.usma.edu/

Toxic Leadership

Posted in Leadership, Toxic Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

One of my blog posts, Authoritarian Leadership vs. Democratic Leadership ~ The Officer Corps Explained, discusses the contrasts between being an autocratic leader and a participative leader.  At the very end of that post, I offered some additional resources that discuss toxic leadership and its effect on individual and team productivity and morale.  As many of you know, from day-to-day, a blogger can check to see who’s visiting their blog, where those people found the blog, what posts they are reading, among other interesting statistics.  One of the statistics is the number of page clicks people have made to internal links that appear within particular posts.  I must admit to you that I am addicted to blogging, and I am fascinated who and how many visit my blog.  I keep an eye on my statistics page too much often.  I noticed that nobody has clicked on any of the articles related to toxic leadership; articles that offer a wide-ranging view of traits that can be destructive to people and organizations.  I find these articles to be very good references to the topic of toxic leadership, and I encourage you to read each of them.  Not only are they informative, but they are also enlightening.  Again, at the end of this post, under Additional Resources, I offer those four article links for you.

Beyond ethical leadership, there must be effective leadership that inspires individuals and teams to perform at a high level; mentor and servant-oriented leadership.  As important as it is for a leader to learn and apply themselves to the principles of leadership, core values and the qualities that lead to success, it is also important for leaders to know how to avoid being a toxic leader; an ego-driven leader who thinks they can use fear and intimidation to get results.  As I said in last week’s post, toxic leaders damage the morale and effectiveness (esprit de corps) of their people and organization.  Employing the wrong approach to followers can be quite damaging.

What is a Toxic Leader?

Toxic leaders have very poor interpersonal skills, and all of their actions are dictated by self-interest.  This causes them to be very ineffective, and they are hard to like.  Toxic leaders are also self-promoting.  They will promote themselves over the interests of the organization, mission, profession, and worst of all, their subordinates.  The way they treat others is appalling.  They act aggressive toward them, are critical of them, blame them, and will even try to intimidate them.  They dole out information, resources and tasks to their subordinates in a restrictive manner in order to maintain tight control.  Toxic leaders avoid their followers, if possible.  At every opportunity, they will denigrate them, and they will always act as if the subordinate is disposable; nothing more than a tool for them to use.  Ultimately, the toxic leader is self-destructive.

Personal Characteristics of a Toxic Leader –

– Incompetence                                   – Egotism

– Malfunctioning                                   – Arrogance

– Maladjusted                                      – Selfish values

– Sense of inadequacy                        – Avarice and greed

– Malcontent                                        – Lack of integrity

– Irresponsible                                    – Deception

– Amoral                                              – Malevolent

– Cowardice                                        – Malicious

– Insatiable ambition                          – Malfeasance

– Rigid                                                 – Callous

– Self-serving                                     – Unethical

– Corrupt                                             – Evil

Additionally, Toxic Leaders:

– Do not allow a free and frank flow of open thinking and ideas

– Destroy trust

– Promote themselves at the expense of their subordinates

– Criticize subordinates without considering long-term ramifications

– Cripple the confidence of subordinates; thus derailing other potential leaders

– Cause retention to suffer among the brightest and most talented personnel

– Negatively impede efficiency and effectiveness throughout the workplace[i]

If you have ever been exposed to a leader with one or more of these negative, demoralizing leadership traits, you have first-hand knowledge of what a toxic leader is and how they can affect an organization.  A good and skilled leader will avoid being seen possessing any of these characteristics, and will employ the appropriate leadership style according to the individual, team, task, and goal/objective.  To know how to deal with people is an acquired skill; one that should have been developed from a very young age in grade school.

On his blog, Ovation Leadership, Steve Riege discusses the Integrity of Character, where values, experience, knowledge and wisdom complete the dimensions of the individual.  He writes, “The combination of morality, values and ethics create a strength [of] your Character consistent of being true to values, and doing the right thing because it is the right thing.  This inner strength enables Teams and organizations to trust their leader, whose Character embodies this knowledge, comfort, and trust of their own personal core.”  In his short e-pamphlet, The Rare Leader, Steve calls this Integrity of Character.  Integrity of Character embodies the Golden Rule, because it represents every gift of morality, value, and ethics we would hope to receive from others.  Integrity of Character is the true measure of how you bring the core of your life to the surface for you, and those who choose to follow you.[ii]

Integrity of character is the foundation of a great leader.  To use a metaphor, it is what you build your very being up from, if you so choose.  The building blocks of leadership are built upon the value of integrity and trust.  Each block represents the values, virtues and principles that will house your team.  It will be built with duty, honor, courage, commitment, selfless service, respect, justice, judgment, dependability, initiative, decisiveness, tact, enthusiasm, bearing, unselfishness, knowledge, loyalty, and endurance.  It will be a strong structure if you build with these traits properly and effectively.  You need to make sure the leadership “structure” your team works in is built with these things.  Within that strong structure, under the strong roof of your leadership, your team will be safe and secure.

Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent.[iii]  A leader’s ability to be situationally aware of the environment they are encountering is obviously developed over time, experience, trial and error.  But, once a leader can master the ‘push button’ ability to adapt their style to the circumstances, that leader’s successes will increase and team morale will improve.  And, they will never become a toxic leader.

Copyright © Dale R. Wilson

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Additional Resources –

“Toxic Leaders” – By Colonel George E. Reed, U.S Army – Military Review – July – August 2004 (pages 67 thru 71) – http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/milreview/reed.pdf – Accessed 1 February 2012 – Maxwell Air Force Base (Montgomery, Alabama), United States Air Force Air War College, Gateway to the Internet Home Page – http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/

“Toxic Leadership in the U.S. Army” – By Colonel Denise F. Williams, U.S. Army – Thesis – U.S. Army War College – Report Date 18 Mar 2005 – http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA431785 – Accessed 1 February 2012 – The Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) – http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/

“Toxic Leadership: Part Deux” – By Colonel George E. Reed, Ph.D., U.S. Army, Retired and Lieutenant Colonel Richard A. Olsen, D.Min., U.S. Army, Retired – Military Review – November – December 2010 (pages 58 thru 64) – http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20101231_art011.pdf – Accessed 1 February 2012 – http://usacac.army.mil/ – United States Army Combined Arms Center

“Antecedents and Consequences of Toxic Leadership in the U.S. Army: A Two Year Review and Recommended Solutions” – By John P. Steele – Technical Report (2011-3) – Center for Army Leadership – Report Date 30 June 2011 – http://info.publicintelligence.net/USArmy-ToxicLeaders.pdf – Accessed 8 February 2012 – Public Intelligence – http://publicintelligence.net/

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Footnotes –

[i] “Toxic Leadership” – John Evans CSP – Accessed 08 February 2012 – http://businesssurvivalstrategist.com/ToxicLeadership.aspx

[ii] “Integrity of Character” | Ovation Leadership | Steve Riege | Accessed 08 February 2012 – http://ovationleadership.com/integrity-of-character/

[iii] “Toxic Boss”indaba – network toolbox – Accessed 08 February 2012 – http://indabanetwork.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/toxic_boss.pdf (a link from the source page http://publicintelligence.net/u-s-army-has-a-problem-with-toxic-leadership/) – In “Organizations and Networks”http://indaba-network.net/resources/in-organizations-and-networks/ – indaba – network – http://indaba-network.net/

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