I read an article about “toxic leadership” on a blog I visit.
For those that don’t know “toxic leadership” has been the in vogue buzz word for leaders (mostly officers) that create command climates that drive people from the service and leave a trail of destruction behind them.
The article was chock full of solutions to “toxic leadership” like more counseling, telling subordinates about their flaws, evaluating how one achieves success not just failure and the teaching subordinate leaders “reflection”.
The comments were generally supportive with one suggestion being to ad subordinate evaluations of superiors as a potential solution. Now these are generally smart guys and people whose opinion, insight and views I respect which is why I go there because it’s a great blog but on this point everyone is ignoring the 800lb gorilla. They are not alone. Google “toxic leadership” and you’ll find much of the same.
This is what I wrote,
“Wow! Everyone missed the key factor that has created an environment where “toxic leadership” has supposedly flourished and because it’s incredibly hard to address. It is not necessary to like your boss. Interpersonal skills and communication while important are not THE fundamental factor. Tough to please, never say thank you commanders only alienate when one thing is missing. Integrity.
A martinet who is committed to his unit and his people can still be an effective leader. A micromanaging, never is good enough boss is still bearable when he fights, protects and advances the interests of the mission, unit and troops.
“Toxic leadership” (which is a overused buzz word) is just the manifestation of a system that in actuality places personal advancement over every other value the services espouse. It’s no small irony that our creeds say never to leave anyone behind but “toxic leaders” do it at the drop of a hat or the appearance of an opportunity to advance.
All of you can kick around “counseling”, “360 observations” and telling subordinates about their flaws till you’re blue in the face but it’s all a waste when integrity is in such short supply these days.
Need evidence? Open the newspaper. Command influence in the Marine urination case, along with nepotism for a former commandant’s son, the decision to not pursue an innocent CPT’s court martial and instead administratively separate him and send his lawyer for a psyche eval. The slap on the wrists of an Army BDE commander (Johnson) and the relief of COL Z are examples.
The shameless political pliability of our General officers are evidence of the lack of integrity readily present and yet rewarded with the highest levels of responsibility. These range from Gen Allen’s comment that Ramadan was contributing to green on blue attacks in Afghanistan to Gen Dempsey saying with a straight face that telling SF to “stay in Tripoli” wasn’t a “stand down”. Gen. Sacolick, director of force management and development for SOCOM said, “The days of Rambo are over, The defining characteristic of our operators [is] intellect.” in response to initiatives to facilitate women serving in our most demanding SOF. Not to be outdone Gen Dempsey actually implied that the rivalry between combat arms and support specialties is fueling some of our sexual harassment issues. Uh, how does that explain most of the assaults are being done by the support soldiers in those coed units?
Guys! INTEGRITY is the problem! You can’t counsel someone to not be a self serving prick. You just teach him to hide it better.“
Why is everyone ignoring the obvious issue infecting the service? I believe the focus on the symptoms vs. the cause is because in today’s society we are overly concerned with feel good PCism and teaching values is HARD. What do you think?