Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Eight ways to keep young officers from running away from an Army career

This seems to me not to be not quite part of our recent Auftragstaktik discussion, but it sure is related to it, because both are about the issue of how senior leaders handle their subordinates. By Col. Michael Shaler, USA (Ret.) Best Defense guest personnel issues columnist Leaders at all levels in the Army play ...

The U.S. Army/Flickr
The U.S. Army/Flickr
The U.S. Army/Flickr

This seems to me not to be not quite part of our recent Auftragstaktik discussion, but it sure is related to it, because both are about the issue of how senior leaders handle their subordinates.

By Col. Michael Shaler, USA (Ret.)
Best Defense guest personnel issues columnist

Leaders at all levels in the Army play a crucial role in the retention of high potential junior leaders -- but leaders at the battalion level and above, because of their experience and 'reach' in the institution -- play an absolutely crucial role.

This seems to me not to be not quite part of our recent Auftragstaktik discussion, but it sure is related to it, because both are about the issue of how senior leaders handle their subordinates.

By Col. Michael Shaler, USA (Ret.)
Best Defense guest personnel issues columnist

Leaders at all levels in the Army play a crucial role in the retention of high potential junior leaders — but leaders at the battalion level and above, because of their experience and ‘reach’ in the institution — play an absolutely crucial role.

The Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels and Majors; DA Civilians at Grade GS-12 and above; Chief Warrant Officers 4 and 5; Command Sergeants Major and First Sergeants have the opportunity and the duty of identifying those with above average potential and taking part in their further development. This does not in any way diminish the responsibilities of all these leaders for the development of all the Soldiers and leaders entrusted to their care – but the focus on retention of high-potential junior leader is the subject of this discussion.

Some suggestions for leaders include:

1. Understand the leadership climate in your organization.

Develop methods for assessing (and re-assessing periodically) the leadership climate existent in your organization. Be alert for ‘toxic leaders’ and take necessary action.

2. Engage your subordinate leaders.

Understand the decision process that these junior leaders are involved in, provide advice where appropriate, and timely encouragement. Listen carefully and use your deeper set of experiences to clarify the situation. Understand how your position in the organization will affect the perceptions of ‘approachability.’

3. Make timely decisions and communicate them clearly.

4. Demand ethical behavior and honest reporting.

5. Build and maintain the TEAM.

6. Clearly articulate the standards of the organization.

7. Maintain full involvement in the Senior Rating process.

Assessing performance, identifying talent, and ensuring the institution fully understands the situation are essential to the long-term health of the Army. The performance counseling and feedback associated with the appraisal process are key components of the leader development process.

8. Focus on the Future. The task of ‘Creating the Future’ of the U.S. Army is a task that is widely shared — and it begins with ensuring that the available talent pool for selecting future leaders is composed of the very best junior leaders we can retain.

Mike Shaler served 30 years as an Armor Officer and established the Steamboat Leadership Institute in 1993. This column is excerpted from a longer essay, reachable here.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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