Tag Archives: Leadership

HRC refines Army’s leadership mold of the future

NCO Journal

In this era of Army transition, noncommissioned officers at U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Ky., are on the front lines in determining the right Soldier for the right unit at the right time. With new career tools and processes on the way, Soldiers will be better prepared for what lies ahead by taking ownership of their records now, said Sgt. Maj. Jonathan A. Uribe-Huitron, chief of the Enlisted Promotions Branch at Human Resources Command. That means noncommissioned officers must take responsibility for ensuring that their records are correct and current.

The Army’s promotion system is the Army’s way to shape its future leaders, Uribe-Huitron said. “By following the leader development strategy, the U.S. Army Human Resources Command wants to guarantee that leaders have a certain level of knowledge, experience and training for their skill set,” he said.

Sgt. Maj. Felix RamosRosario (left), HRC’s Command Management Branch sergeant major, urges the senior enlisted population of the Army to remain flexible when competing for promotion. Sgt. Maj. Rodney Allen, former senior NCO at HRC’s Enlisted Personnel Management Directorate, says programs such as Centralized Selection Lists, the Qualitative Management Program and the Qualitative Service Program are going to have a significant impact on Soldiers. (Photo by Martha C. Koester)

However, if Soldiers are wondering what they need to do in order to improve their chances for promotion, Uribe-Huitron said it’s all outlined in DA Pamphlet 600-25, the NCO Professional Development Guide. “[It tells the Soldier] that they should have completed X, Y and Z in military education; in civilian education, they should be doing this; as far as key positions, they should have done that; and so on, and so on,” he said.

Soldiers in competition

Because vacancies may be limited in some career management fields within the evolving Army, flexibility is important for Soldiers at any level, said Sgt. Maj. Felix RamosRosario, sergeant major of the Command Management Branch at HRC.

In fiscal year 2015, which begins Oct. 1, the Army is due to begin an initiative in which sergeants major wishing to serve at the command sergeant major level will have one opportunity to serve at the battalion level and one opportunity to serve at the brigade level. As an exception, there are additional opportunities to serve at the command sergeants major level, but only at installations where the mission is to train battalion command sergeants major and to set the conditions for units to deploy successfully. Such positions are located at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.; Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.; Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Grafenwöhr, Germany; and 1st ArmyDivision East and Division West. Some NCO academies also require this second-time exception.

After filling the brigade and battalion positions at the command sergeant major level, sergeants major are then eligible to compete for nominative positions, may be assigned in other broadening type assignments or may elect to retire. In years past, command sergeants major were selected for up to a third or fourth battalion or up to a second or third brigade.

“The [one battalion, one brigade] concept promotes competition,” RamosRosario said. “The limited vacancies make it a lot harder for individuals to get an opportunity to serve at the command sergeant major level.”

Though the Army is downsizing, opportunities still exist and the Army leadership strives to put the right person in the right place at the right time, said Command Sgt. Maj. Charles E. Smith, command sergeant major of Human Resources Command. Competition counts, and “that’s why Soldiers always have to stay a little bit ahead of their peers,” Smith said.

NCOs wishing to compete at the senior-most level should know that remaining flexible regarding their career options will go a long way, officials said.

“The best advice I can give is to remain flexible when competing because the No. 1 message is that serving as a command sergeant major or a sergeant major in a key billet, at any level, any location, in any unit across the Army is an extraordinary privilege and honor,” RamosRosario said.

Maintaining updated records

The biggest issue affecting NCO promotions that regularly challenges HRC branches such as the Enlisted Promotions Branch is that NCOs are not doing their due diligence to update their records, Uribe-Huitron said.

Sgt. Maj. Lon Culbreath, chief of the Sergeants Major Branch at U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Ky., describes the assignment process for sergeants major and command sergeants major. (Photo by Martha C. Koester)
Sgt. Maj. Ron Culbreath, chief of the Sergeants Major Branch at U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Ky., describes the assignment process for sergeants major and command sergeants major. (Photo by Martha C. Koester)

“NCOs seemingly wait until the last minute to update their records, and there’s a specific calendar [for semi-centralized promotions to sergeant and staff sergeant] that we have to follow,” Uribe-Huitron said. “Everything has to be updated by the eighth of the month because we pull an order of merit list. … We’re not looking on the ninth, the 10th, the 11th. [We have a certain amount of time] to do the various processes so we can meet the Army requirements.”

Soldiers must update their records thoroughly and not at the last minute, Enlisted Promotions Branch officials urge. Soldiers often wait until the day eligibility closes, which does not allow enough time for a thorough review, officials say.

Where enlisted promotions are concerned, it’s all about ensuring data accuracy, Uribe-Huitron said. Soldiers competing for senior NCO positions in the Army can be derailed by an out-of-date record.

“A Soldier should always continue to have his or her records updated, because when you’re competing for a brigade command sergeant major position … we are looking for key indicators,” RamosRosario said. “There are Soldiers in our inventory who have failed to keep their records updated [with requisite skill identifiers], and we could not identify them to either be eligible or to compete for a brigade.

“So, it never ends. It doesn’t matter how long you have been in the military − even if you are trying to transition out and complete your certificate of release or discharge, or if you need to update Exceptional Family Member Program paperwork. Updating things like that are critical so we can manage who is eligible for what board, where we can assign a Soldier post-board, etc.”

The right Soldier for the job

Dealing with the senior enlisted population, the Sergeants Major Branch at HRC follows a professional development road map to ensure that the right sergeant major is going to the right formation at the right time, said Sgt. Maj. Ron Culbreath, chief of the Sergeants Major Branch at HRC. In developing the future leaders of the Army, branch officials know that, though Army readiness takes priority, it doesn’t have to be at the expense of the service member and his or her family’s preferences.

“In the career branches, you have to set Soldiers up for their next promotion; you have to set them up for their next school, whether it’s going to be Drill Sergeant School or to keep them competitive in the Army,” Culbreath said. “In the sergeant major arena, you have to balance Army readiness a lot more with Soldier preference because for a lot of these Soldiers, it’s their last assignment.”

Plans are in motion to downsize the Army’s active-duty force from 510,000 Soldiers to 450,000 by 2015, and positions Armywide are at a premium.

“As we complete the Army structure and we reduce our force, certain positions and certain units are going away,” RamosRosario said. “So, we have reduced the number of opportunities [sergeants major can] serve at a particular level, whether it is battalion or brigade. There are opportunities to serve, but they are few and far between.”

Along with tools such as promotions and the centralized selection list process, the Qualitative Management Program, or QMP, and the Qualitative Service Program, or QSP, will help to shape the future of the force.

Soldiers must make sure their NCO Evaluation Reports have quantifiable bullet comments and substantive information that set him or her apart from their peers, said Sgt. Maj. Wayne A. Penn Jr., sergeant major of the Transition Branch at HRC.

“Under QSP, the Army is really looking to retain the best of the best of the best,” Penn said.

As the Army transitions to a smaller force, its focus will remain on the business of building strong leaders, HRC officials said. Though some senior NCOs may face involuntary separation through a number of tools, Soldiers are advised to remain competitive and flexible under the Army’s leader development strategy.

“Every decision that a Soldier makes should be a calculated one,” RamosRosario said.

“At [HRC], we have a very huge mission, and our mission is very important because we affect many Soldiers,” said Sgt. Maj. Rodney Allen, the former senior NCO of the Enlisted Personnel Management Directorate at HRC. “As the Army prepares to draw down, programs, such as CSL, QMP, QSP, are going to have an impact on Soldiers. [At HRC,] we strive here to make sure that we’re making the best decisions, using the most extreme precision that we can to guarantee we put the right person in the right place at the right time.”

Tips from the Enlisted Promotions Branch

More than 26,000 telephone calls and 40,000 e-mails are answered each fiscal year at the Enlisted Promotions Branch at U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Ky., said Sgt. Maj. Jonathan A. Uribe-Huitron, chief of the Enlisted Promotions Branch at HRC. The branch helps contribute to Army readiness by providing the Army with a system for Soldier advancement, which ensures a continuous supply of well-trained people to fill vacancies of the next higher grade. Branch personnel works to ensure the Army has a fair and equitable system that is consistently merit-based. Noncommissioned officers may reduce the likelihood of their promotions being hampered by keeping the following tips in mind.

Junior Enlisted Promotions

▪ Boards convene as early as the 20th of the month proceeding the board month and are completed no later than the fourth day of the board month. The president of the board is a command sergeant major or sergeant major unless the membership consists of both officers and NCOs, in which case the president will be the senior member.

▪ Leaders should assist Soldiers in reviewing their promotion point worksheet, or PPW, and enlisted record brief, or ERB, for accuracy. Soldiers must be integrated onto the PPW by the eighth day of the board month.

▪ It is the Soldier’s responsibility to ensure that his or her record is current, that all required updates are complete and that the information is accurate in the ERB and the PPW.

Senior Enlisted Promotions

▪ Soldiers’ eligibility for promotion consideration is based upon the parameters established by the Army G1.

▪ Promotion eligibility will be announced in a military personnel, or MILPER, message, which will also include the parameters for the board.

▪Who is eligible for promotion is determined by a query of the electronic records in the Total Army Personnel Database, or TAPDB, or the Total Army Personnel Database Reserve, or TAPDBR.

▪If a Soldier’s electronic record is found to be incorrect, it will not be pulled into the eligible population. It is the Soldier’s responsibility to notify the Enlisted Promotions Branch as stated on the MILPER message.

▪ Soldiers must read the MILPER message to ensure that they meet eligibility requirements.

▪Soldiers may access their My Board File using the link cited in the respective MILPER message. If a Soldier cannot access their board file, this means that the Soldier’s records indicate that they are ineligible for consideration based upon the parameters established in the MILPER message. Soldiers who meet the eligibility requirements cited in the MILPER message but who cannot access their board file should contact the Enlisted Promotions Branch.

Source: Enlisted Promotions Branch

CSL selection changes

The Command Selection List system fills the Army’s brigade- and battalion-level command sergeant major and sergeant major key billets with the Army’s best-qualified senior noncommissioned officers.

Beginning in fiscal year 2016, command sergeants major and sergeants major will be required to “opt-in” to compete. This will also mean that they are “all-in” and will therefore compete in all sub-categories in which they are eligible.

Using the command preference designator, or CPD, sergeants major and command sergeants major will rank their CSL sub-category preferences and associated units. The board will create one Order of Merit List for each functional category, of which there are now four: operations, generating, training and key billets. Primary choices are then aligned to sub-categories based on OML order and NCO preferences.

HRC has consolidated its officer and enlisted Command Management Branches. This puts the program management of all CSL billets, boards and slating processes now under the Officer Personnel Management Directorate.

Sources: U.S. Army Human Resources Command, www.army.mil/standto

Inspiring Leadership

U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy

A Soldier can spend his or her entire military career without ever finding that one mentor whose leadership style is both inspirational and motivating. Yet those who’ve had the good fortune to work under these inspiring leaders often attribute their success to their transformational leaders.

I have experienced this unique opportunity on many occasions throughout my 20-plus years of military service as an infantryman. These leaders are particularly easy to pick out of crowd with their dominating presence and charisma, which is felt immediately upon arriving to a unit. Though some units are cluttered with substandard Soldiers, mediocre noncommissioned officers and junior—and sometimes senior officers—whose toxic presence destroys morale and cohesion, I have seen inspiring leaders immediately recognize these deficiencies and, at once, create a positive, cohesive atmosphere. They motivate Soldiers, prepare them for combat and ultimately enhance a command climate that fosters camaraderie. Not only do they leave a lasting impression on Soldiers, their leadership affects countless officers and NCOs for many years. Since my first encounter with this type of inspiring leader, I have tried to hone my leadership style, in order to mirror their continuous success.

My first encounter with a true, caring mentor was during a unit awards ceremony in 2002 during my first tour in Germany. I was young a staff sergeant at the time; I had not deployed and had never heard the whiz or crack of enemy bullets in combat. I remember feeling disdain about attending an awards ceremony on a Friday afternoon, for someone I did not even know. Standing side-by-side with my fellow NCOs and Soldiers, the buzz about why we were there was lingering in the humid, mid-afternoon air.

As the ceremony began, I caught my first glimpse of a sergeant major as he walked to the front of the formation when his name was called. He looked all the part of a seasoned combat veteran. His uniform featured the Combat Infantryman Badge with a star affixed atop the wreath, 1st Ranger Battalion combat scroll and the coveted Bronze Service Star, “mustard” stain on his Jumpmaster wings. With eyes slightly closed and squinting in the full sun, his swaggering walk of confidence carried him to the front of the battalion formation. He was being awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his actions as a company first sergeant in Afghanistan.

Until this point, only a small handful of Soldiers in the formation had deployed— most during the Gulf War—and combat awards were merely a thing we read about in history books. But here, standing in front of the formation, was the battalion commander speaking of this sergeant major as a true warrior. His words about the sergeant major’s actions in combat, which earned him the Bronze Star, fell on anxious, curious ears: “For displaying outstanding courage and exemplary leadership during ground combat operations against a determined enemy force in the Afghanistan area of operation.”

Humbly, Sgt. Maj. Darrin Bohn, expressed that it was not his actions that earned him this award, but the actions of his men in A Company, 1st Ranger Battalion, while he was the first sergeant. He was a true warrior who had seen the deadly arena of war, and it became very clear to me on that day that I had found one of my mentors.

In 2001, the Army announced the consolidation of the light and mechanized infantrymen military occupational specialties. The Army identified that it needed a more flexible infantryman, the Army chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, announced, and it was in place by July 2001.

Affected by this transformation, Bohn, who was new to mechanized infantry, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, at Vilseck, Germany in the summer of 2002 as the battalion operations (S-3) sergeant major.

In that position, Bohn became obsessed with the technical and tactical aspects of mechanized infantry and was constantly picking the brain of the battalion master gunner. Bohn was well aware that the superior technology and firepower able to be unleashed by the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, BFV, against an enemy force would no doubt determine the outcome of any battle. As luck would have it, there were two battalion master gunners (normally a battalion only has one) serving in the operations section, Staff Sgt. Ray Zumwalt and me.

Zumwalt, the more senior master gunner, was transitioning out of the operations shop, and I was stepping in to fill his shoes for the next 18 months. Zumwalt and I would spend countless hours answering questions thrown at us by Bohn about the logistical, technical and tactical aspects of the BFV and the training associated with the mechanized concept. He was determined to know everything about the BFV, and it would take both Zumwalt and I to fuel his curiosity.

In the countless hours we spent together, we developed an inspiring sense of camaraderie, and there were many occasions that helped break through the mechanized-light infantry barrier. Zumwalt and I soon realized that Bohn was a down-to-earth leader. His sheer presence commanded respect, and his devotion to learning the concept of mechanized infantry was entirely wrapped in his commitment to take care of Soldiers, which he said came from what his team, squad and platoon had instilled in him as an NCO—the good qualities of a successful leader.

I remember thinking, “What a great concept, learning from your subordinates.”

After these and many other encounters with Bohn, I committed myself to incorporating his leadership competencies and characteristics into my own style as I continued my career.

During the next few months, I found myself scribbling notes about Bohn’s leadership style in one of those typical, green Army notebooks. I continued to write in this book and, years later, would go back and read some of the things that I had written. Most of my notes were anecdotes and lessons that I used again and again during the next 10 years.

One that sticks out is something that Bohn said to me once when I showed up late to a command and staff briefing. Carefully opening the door to the brief, I tried not to call attention to myself and found my seat. This, of course, was impossible as Bohn immediately called me out in front of the entire battalion staff.

“Brosch, come on in, have a seat. There’s not always room for someone at the table, but if you get here on time I bet you can find one,” he said.

His tone was a bit more than sarcastic, and I felt uneasy for the better part of an hour waiting for the meeting to end. He approached me afterward and used my lateness as a learning experience; but I did not realize it at the time. The entire conversation took less than three minutes, and I remember walking away needing to write something in my green book to reference later. The only three words I could remember were, “stupid, coach and mistake.”

Later I recalled what he had actually said: “You can’t coach stupid” and “never make the same mistake twice.” Even inside a good ol’ fashioned butt chewing, I was able to pull away with something good to add to my little green book.

Caring For and Training Soldiers

As the end of the summer of 2003 was drew near, our unit received orders to deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. An intense training plan was immediately set in motion, and the men were eager to get into the fight with the rest of the Army. Bohn was a constant presence during the intense pre-war train up.

Exercising his expertise in light infantry, he spearheaded multiple training events from demolition training to close-quarters marksmanship. Much of the expertise he brought to the training would pay huge dividends for the unit during The Battle for Fallujah later that year. It was clear during the entire preparation phase that he was fanatical about ensuring all Soldiers received quality, realistic training. A few years after Fallujah, Bohn was interviewed for an oral history and asked about the unit’s training plan prior to deploying to Iraq:

“Those guys [Soldiers] just need good leadership. No one wants to go to work and be a dirtbag and fail at what they’re doing–and with good leadership and guidance, those guys shined. Lt. Col. Newell and I—and Command Sgt. Maj. Faulkenburg in the beginning—really put a good comprehensive plan together before we left for Iraq. We knew it was going to be a ground fight, we knew there was going to be a lot of room clearing, and we knew the man with the rifle was going to win the battle, so we did a lot of close-quarters battle and close-quarters marksmanship. With my background, I even ran a leadership program through the Soldiers in the brigade that came to Vilseck. We ran them through a quick two-day [close-quarters battle] and [close-quarters marksmanship] to get the other two or three battalions up to snuff where we were. I still have guys coming up to me and saying they thought it was horse s— that they had to go through the courses in Vilseck but, that said, they wanted me to know it also saved their lives and other Soldiers’ lives as well.”


During the Battle for Fallujah, on Nov. 11, 2004, Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Faulkenburg, our battalion command sergeant major, was killed by small-arms fire in the breach phase of the operation. Immediately and without hesitation, Bohn assumed the role as battalion command sergeant major. Positioned with the maneuver element of the task force in the heavy forward tactical operations center and commanding a BFV, he took time when there were lulls in fighting to visit the Soldiers of the battalion to instill confidence and inspire them to continue to fight. A few hours into the battle, one of the company executive officers was fatally wounded; his vehicle was pinned down and unable to conduct a casualty evacuation. Bohn, with a complete disregard for his own safety, positioned his BFV in between the wounded XO’s vehicle and the enemy rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire to provide suppressive, accurate fire to facilitate the XO’s evacuation. These actions earned Bohn the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for Valor.

Robert Harvey states in his book, Maverick Military Leaders: The Extraordinary Battles of Washington, Nelson, Patton, Rommel and Others, “Leaders who appreciate the importance of their men and morale in turn will be entrusted by their men and will be followed to the ends of the earth or, more importantly, to the ends of their lives, if necessary.”

This was apparent throughout Bohn’s tenure as the senior enlisted NCO in charge of training the battalion. Granted, Bohn is not a commissioned officer like those referenced in Harvey’s book and he would scoff at the idea of being compared with the likes of Patton, Rommel and so many other “mavericks” listed by Harvey.

Perhaps a look at what some of the Army’s most senior leaders say about Bohn will shed some light onto his inspiration and leadership. When asked about this his leadership, the U.S. Africa Command commander, Gen. David M. Rodriguez said in 2013:

“He has a feel for people and interpersonal skills that enable him to engage with people in a way that inspires them to do more than they ever thought possible. The ability to lift people up gives them the enthusiasm to make a difference in the mission, no matter how hard it seems. He is one of those leaders who treats people with dignity and respect, and builds relationships effectively with our joint, interagency and multinational partners. The resulting teamwork is one of the strengths he brings to any organization. He has the intellectual gift to listen intently, analyze the situation and get to the heart of the problem. He makes these recommendations and judgments with consideration of the strategic context, all the way down to the individual context, always thinking through the second and third order effects.”

Over the last 12 years, for me it has been an illuminating experience to have served with such a great mentor as Bohn. He truly internalizes his beliefs, the Army Values and, above all, cares for and brings out the best in Soldiers. Some argue whether or not leaders are born or made. While I personally think this is a polar argument, Gen. Colin Powell said in 2005 during an interview, “Effective leaders are made, not born. They learn from trial and error and from the experience and puts it behind them.”

A statement Bohn has said reminds me of Powell’s: “Never make the same mistake twice.”

Born or made, a leader must come from the sort of background that fosters a strong character with morals and beliefs that define that. I have seen my fair share of both great leaders and extremely toxic ones. The leader who cares and who can bring out the best in their subordinates is the one who will be successful and never be forgotten.

Being taught to always be self-aware, adaptive and, most importantly, reflective on who I was and where I came from has no doubt been a contributing factor to my success in the Army.
Bohn’s success can be summed up in saying that he never forgot where he came from. He was not born a command sergeant major, and he knew that. He started at the very bottom of the military ranks and rose to one of the highest enlisted ranks (and positions) in the Army by always being forthcoming, deeply caring for his subordinates, embodying the Warrior Ethos, and exercising the core leadership competencies outlined in FM 6-22, Army Leadership.

Sgt. Maj. Bohn is now Command Sgt. Maj. Bohn and is serving as the AFRICOM’s senior enlisted leader. His transformational, inspiring leadership has been the cornerstone of my leadership style since the day I first met him. I have since served through two other combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan and never lost a Soldier. I contribute my accomplishments and success to Bohn’s inspiring leadership and mentoring.

Sgt. Maj. Michael Brosch is a recent graduate of the Sergeants Major Course student at the United States Sergeants Major Academy, Fort Bliss, Texas. He has served in every infantry NCO position from team leader to first sergeant. His previous assignments include Fort Bragg, N.C., Vilseck, Germany, Fort Benning, Ga., Ft. Hood, Texas and Korea. His previous duty assignment was the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 525th Battle Field Surveillance Brigade first sergeant at Fort Bragg. In his 21-year career as an infantryman, he has deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Paul Willey, an instructor at the Army's Northern Warfare Training Center in Alaska, inspects a student's equipment during the Basic Mountaineering Course. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brehl Garza)
Staff Sgt. Paul Willey, an instructor at the Army’s Northern Warfare Training Center in Alaska, inspects a student’s equipment during the Basic Mountaineering Course. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brehl Garza)

Mastering the Art of Military Leadership

U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy

Whenever I facilitate a classroom discussion on the Leadership Requirements Model with future sergeants major, someone usually asks, “How did you develop yourself?” More specifically, they want to know the opinion of a senior sergeant major on mastering military leadership. Interestingly, fellow classmates always join in to ensure that the question is not redirected or answered in the form of another question — as though there’s some great secret held by nominative command sergeants major. To be sure, it’s a slippery slope for the capstone instructor. Most nominative command sergeants major respond with what worked for them. However, what worked for me may not necessarily work for others.

Nevertheless, many are baffled when I say there are no secrets or shortcuts to success in the profession of arms. Truth be told, when you have not yet learned a competency or attribute, those who have mastered it appear to know professional secrets. But even in the most logical sense, secrets are not determinants of success. The fact is many professionals simply fail at higher levels of leadership because they don’t apply the elements of the LRM. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply.”

To put it in perspective, it’s essential that we recognize the three major paradigms, or misconceptions, that perpetuate leadership secrets. The first centers on the Behavioral and Path-Goal Leadership Theories, which focus on a leader’s “attempt to explain distinctive styles used by effective leaders.” There are task-orientated noncommissioned officers who assume that civilian education development (specifically in reading, writing and math) is not a necessity for excellent performance and becoming a successful NCO. As a result, they become fragmented leaders and passive followers who feel constantly constrained.

The second myth is a misconception of leadership styles and personality. Those who hold this view base their assumptions on Leadership Trait Theories, and are victims of the fallacy that “leaders are born, not made.” This belief is reinforced when the individual possesses effective leadership traits such as attractiveness, aggressiveness, being articulate, possessing high-energy or self-reliant. They also assert that their military qualifications and experience alone should prepare them to lead at the next level.

The third paradigm perpetuates a negative stereotype of situational leaders and managers. Though there are definable differences between the two, they are mutually supportive. As such, the two paradigms overlap because great leaders are excellent managers, and exceptional managers are successful leaders. In essence, we are all managers — whether it’s managing our personal finances, families and development, or an organization’s resources, personnel and training. Ironically, foregoing reasons are why many professionals often fail. They simply lack an understanding of themselves and leadership theory paradigms.

My response to the “How did you develop?” question is this: A successful leader’s transformation from expert to master is not one of happenstance. It begins with a profound sense of purpose that is cultivated through years of personal and professional development and effective followership.  This is the mysterious secret that enables great leaders to master the art of military leadership. According to ADP 6-22, “Army Leadership,” it results in “the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.”

If you subscribe to the Army’s definition in ADP 6-22, you can realize that leadership is an inside-out process that is predicated upon the Army Values — and exercised through the LRM. These values are symmetrically nested within each competency (Leads, Develops and Achieves) of the LRM and are the heart and soul of the artful leader.

The problem is, during the Information Age, learning priorities are shifting more toward technology rather than intellect to solve complex problems. Magnanimous solutions and creative ideas don’t lie within the next advanced computer or weapon system, because computers don’t have intuition. It lies within a leader’s mind — his or her ability to think critically, creatively and intuitively — which gives the leader the mental agility to thrive in complex situations. However, a leader cannot engage in intuitive problem solving without field experience. Experience is what allows leaders to make sense of “gut feelings.” As one would expect, it’s a balance of academic knowledge, field experience and emotional intelligence that develops intuitive skills.

Undeniably, advanced technology does instigate change. It has negated neither the Principles of War nor Army doctrine. It simply has added several layers of complexity. However, the LRM leverages technology to get results in the contemporary operational environment, especially against creative and adaptive adversaries. Once the root cause of the problem is identified, the solution lies in finding creative new ways of doing old things.

That’s what the application of the LRM does. It reduces the decline in critical thinking and redefines the “basics” by harmonizing decision-making styles (decisive, hierarchic, flexible and integrative) with operational design and military decision-making process concepts. More notably, it accounts for the dimensions of human behavior in regards to ethical dilemmas. It’s not revolutionary; it’s the art of military leadership.

Applying the art of military leadership is unlike any other profession in that the leader often works within the complex operational variables of political, military, economic, social, information, infrastructure, physical environment and time (PMESII-PT) that habitually conflict with one another. Not to mention the fact that decisive-action operations, in their most basic sense, leverage complexity to combat complexity, and civilian educational development and critical thinking allow us to think within these variables. This is how artful military leaders solve ill-defined problems.

Drawing on the LRM (Figure 1), one can visualize how leadership attributes and competencies are applied to address PMESII-PT.  It is an integrated two-pronged approach to mastering the art of leadership. Accordingly, the LRM systematically integrates sudden insights from the Situational Leadership Model to address complexity. This artistic process is the harmonious matching of character, presence and intellect to the appropriate leadership style. Decision-making and communication styles are also used to achieve the desired results.

Figure One
Figure 1


Additionally, the model centers on four logical hypotheses (Figure 2A & 2B) to link behavior to the follower’s ability and motivation. As explained by management experts Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, the primary purpose explores the motivations of the follower. According to the Situational Leadership Model, situational leaders say if a follower is unable and unwilling; the leader needs to display high task orientation to compensate for the follower’s lack of ability and low relationship orientation to get the follower to understand what needs to be done. Therefore, the situational leader can intuitively apply the appropriate leadership style (directing, participating, delegating, coaching) based on the follower’s readiness level.

Figure 2A


For some leaders, situational leadership defies conventional wisdom, so they often become comfortable with applying one leadership style to all situations, become indecisive in their decisions and settle for “good enough” performance.  On the other hand, artful leaders create committed learning cultures, and understand that success depends on their ability to match their decision-making style, communication style and leadership style to master the art of leadership (Figure 2B).


Figure 2B
Figure 2B

According to Ohio State University professor Bernard Erven, “Success in leadership comes when the leadership style is matched with the characteristics of the follower.” Moreover, the best leaders understand that situational leadership is an art of choosing — choosing to learn, choosing to think, choosing to change and choosing excellence, 100 percent, every single day of their careers. They know the commander’s intent is the instigator of change, and that it plays a critical role in allowing them to understand patterns of friction and change.Situational leaders rely on their education and experience to solve complex problems that are not problems yet. And they understand that the quality of their thinking lies within their ability to draw logical connections between PMESII-PT. In turn, this creates the right amount of stress to perpetuate a sense of urgency and resolve that is the driving force behind their critical and creative thinking abilities. This motivates them to seek precise solutions to problems that most professionals dismiss as insoluble.

Figure 3
Figure 3


Therefore, NCOs should move from the “Be, Know, Do” mental model to the “Be, Know, Think, Choose, & Do” mindset. For sure, the choices you make today will limit your opportunities in the future.

This is vital because the LRM acts as a driver for creativity and empowerment thus preventing leader development issues, lazy thinking, passive communication and leadership style mismatches that often keep potential leaders from succeeding. In the same way, the LRM naturally purges toxic behaviors and leader trust issues that habitually plague organizational cultures.

In short, the answer to mastering the art of leadership is the meticulous matching of leadership, communication, and decision-making styles to solve problems. And it starts with both the LRM and situational leadership approaches. However, some professionals are missing the leadership developmental link between “intellect” and “getting results.” That link is critical thinking because, without it, inaccurate assumptions, negative stereotypes and archaic mental models will fill-in knowledge gaps. Subsequently, it skews our sense of priorities in complex situations as well as our ability to explain intuitive thoughts.

Though simple in concept, many fail at higher levels because they do not apply these fundamental attributes and competencies. In other words, there are no secrets to success in the Profession of Arms. To be sure, a professional does not become a respected leader until he has mastered his art. Any attempt to do otherwise only breeds contempt.

Sgt. Maj. Nathan E. Buckner is a leadership instructor at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, and was previously the command sergeant major of the National Training Center and Fort Irwin, Calif.



Best Warrior Day 1 exhausts competitors physically and mentally

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NCO Journal

For many of the competitors in the 2013 Army Best Warrior Competition, the first day of events began and ended in darkness — both literally and figuratively. With a map, but nary a hint of what they would be expected to accomplish at each checkpoint, the 23 competitors struck out after a pre-dawn physical fitness test early Wednesday morning, Nov. 20, into the unknown.

Sgt. Erik Eaton, the Soldier of the Year competitor representing U.S. Army Medical Command, changes the tire of a humvee as part of the "Vehicle Maintenance" lane during the 2013 Army Best Warrior Competition on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at Fort Lee, Va. (Photo by Meghan Portillo)
Sgt. Erik Eaton, a Soldier of the Year competitor representing U.S. Army Medical Command, changes the tire of a Humvee as part of the “Vehicle Maintenance” lane during the 2013 Army Best Warrior Competition on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at Fort Lee, Va. (Photo by Meghan Portillo)

What they found were 10 events built to test their knowledge and skills — both routine and esoteric — over a 14-mile path through the woods and meadows of Fort Lee, Va. By the end of the day, each competitor would fire various weapons, extricate and treat a casualty in a Humvee, write an essay, don protective gear and enter a chamber filled with CS gas, react to an ambush, wend their way through a land navigation course, complete a written exam, correctly handle the discovery of an improvised explosive device in a crowded village, and change a tire on a Humvee to standard (by far, the competitors’ least favorite task).

The day was designed to see how competitors would think while on the move, said Command Sgt. Maj. James K. Sims, the command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Lee, who has been instrumental in planning the competition each year.

“The intent really for today is to keep the competitors motivated, to keep them on the move to see how agile and adept they are as they engage various obstacles and tasks,” Sims said. “It appears that we’ve got some good NCOs and Soldiers out there who are very confident. There’s a great competitive spirit out there.”


‘Do your best. Don’t give up.’

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III (left) offers words of encouragement to Best Warrior competitors after the first event on Wednesday, Nov. 20. (Photo by Meghan Portillo)
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III (left) offers words of encouragement to Best Warrior competitors after the first event on Wednesday, Nov. 20. (Photo by Meghan Portillo)

Before their decathlon, competitors kicked off the competition with a modified Army Physical Fitness Test in Army Combat Uniforms and tennis shoes on the tarmac of an old airstrip. Under the watchful gaze of two sergeants major of the Army — incumbent Raymond F. Chandler III and his predecessor, Kenneth O. Preston — competitors pushed themselves in the traditional pushup, situp and 2-mile run events. With their nonstandard attire and bitter chill, some were disappointed in their scores. But all received encouraging words from Chandler.

“You may not have done your personal best today, but keep your motivation up,” Chandler said. “You can be really good at the PT test, but not read or write. We’re testing the total Soldier here — physical, mental, emotional.”

Chandler noted that the difference between first and second place last year was less than a thousandth of a point.

“So do your best. Don’t give up,” he said. “You’ll have eyes on you throughout this competition not just on how you’re doing as an individual, but how you contribute to the team.”


‘The whole day was a surprise’

A Best Warrior competitor dons protective gear before approaching a chamber filled with CS gas on Wednesday, Nov. 20. (Photo by Meghan Portillo)
A Best Warrior competitor dons protective gear before approaching a chamber filled with CS gas on Wednesday, Nov. 20. (Photo by Meghan Portillo)

Reflecting after the day’s events, competitors seemed unprepared for the grueling pace.

“It was a lot more physical than I thought,” said Sgt. Erik Eaton, the Soldier of the Year competitor representing U.S. Army Medical Command. “It really took a lot of mental and physical fitness throughout the entire day.”

The day eventually became a blur, said Spc. Richard Thomas, the Soldier of the Year competitor representing U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.

“I didn’t really know what to expect at this competition, but today really surpassed whatever I could have thought,” Thomas said. “The whole day was a surprise. We really didn’t know what was going to happen. It was a never-ending journey, it seemed like at times.”

For Spc. Michael Sands, the Soldier of the Year competitor representing the Military District of Washington, it was a day like none other in his career.

“This might be the toughest day I’ve had in the Army, quite honestly,” he said. “The situations challenged you on every level — individually, being a team leader. It was a lot of fun, but I’m glad we’re done for the day.”


‘An epic fail’

Staff Sgt. Cory Schmidt, the NCO of the Year competitor representing U.S. Army Forces Command, reads his instructions for the next event of the Best Warrior Competition early Wednesday, Nov. 20. (Photo by Meghan Portillo)
Staff Sgt. Cory Schmidt, the NCO of the Year competitor representing U.S. Army Forces Command, reads his instructions for the next event of the Best Warrior Competition early Wednesday, Nov. 20. (Photo by Meghan Portillo)

No event stymied competitors like the innocuously titled ‘Vehicle Maintenance’ lane. The task was simple: change a Humvee’s tire.

“But for me, changing the tire was just an epic fail,” Sands said.

Though most competitors have had to do that in real-world situations, few seemed to be familiar with how to do it according to what the relevant technical manual says, said Sgt. 1st Class Juan Nieves, an evaluator for the event.

“Anybody can change a tire. But can you change a tire to standard?” he said. “They weren’t expecting this.”

Sgt. Brian Hester, the NCO of the Year competitor representing SMDC, said the event was his least favorite, but also said he understood its inclusion in the Army’s premier competition.

“It is proper vehicle maintenance,” Hester said. “You’ve got to know what the standard is, and that’s one of the big plusses of the Army — everything is written down. As long as you’re willing to read, you should be able to do it.”


Prolonging the mystery

With only a third of the competition complete, competitors and organizers readied for Day 2 on Thursday — the “mystery events.”

“Tomorrow, I’m just expecting the unexpected,” Sands said.

Sims would offer only a cryptic preview of what the competition would present.

“The competitors are showing themselves to be very adaptive and very innovative,” Sims said. “But I think tomorrow, we’re going to see just how innovative the competitors are.”



Due to illness, Sgt. Ryan Lewis, the Soldier of the Year competitor representing U.S. Army Materiel Command, was unable to compete.

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NCOs awarded for excellence in educational leadership

Army News Service

Two NCOs have been named recipients of the Larry Strickland Educational Leadership Award for their excellence in educational leadership and commitment to the development of Soldiers.

Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Johnson of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Harris of Fort McCoy, Wis., said they were honored and surprised by the recognition.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III greets the recipients of the Larry Strickland Educational Award — Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Johnson of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., (center) and Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Harris of Fort McCoy, Wis. —at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition on Oct. 21, 2013, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III greets the recipients of the Larry Strickland Educational Award — Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Johnson of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., (center) and Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Harris of Fort McCoy, Wis. — at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition on Oct. 21, 2013, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

The award is named for Sgt. Maj. Larry Strickland, who served in the Army for 30 years. He was the sergeant major to the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel when he was killed Sept. 11, 2001, in the terrorist attack at the Pentagon. The Association of the United States Army presents the award in his honor each year.

Johnson and Harris were guests, along with the winners of other Army awards, at the Sergeant Major of the Army Recognition Luncheon on Oct. 21 at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C.

At the luncheon, the vice chief of staff of the Army, Gen. John F. Campbell, and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III recognized the contributions of NCOs to the force.

Those being recognized at the luncheon, Chandler said, have demonstrated the best about noncommissioned officers and Soldiers.

“That’s excellence in what they do — their commitment to their profession, their commitment, their character and their confidence,” Chandler said.


Apprenticeships prepare Soldiers for life after the Army

Johnson works on a partnership between the Army Continuing Education System and the United Association in its “Veterans in Piping” apprenticeship program.

Active-duty Soldiers take part in the apprenticeship program at no charge, he said, to learn valuable skills that will qualify them for civilian jobs in fields such as plumbing, welding, pipefitting, and heating and air-conditioning.

“We were the first Army installation to pilot this apprenticeship program with active-duty Soldiers,” Johnson said.

In these difficult fiscal times, Soldiers who are about to leave the Army often worry about getting a job after the service, Johnson said. The program provides the skills for Soldiers to succeed in the civilian world.

“In the last 10 months, we’ve put almost 80 Soldiers through the apprenticeship program. They left active duty and went straight into highly-skilled, highly-paid work with great benefits,” Johnson said.

It is a win-win program, no matter how you look at it, he said.

Not only does it help Soldiers and their families, it reduces the amount of unemployment compensation the Department of Defense may have to pay, he said.

It also provides employers with the best employees, since Soldiers are disciplined and hardworking, Johnson said. It is also a great recruiting tool, since it shows the Army takes care of its own.

“As we draw down, we have to take care of our Soldiers and our families,” he said. “It’s all around just the right thing to do.”


Sergeant first class earns Ph.D.

Harris said he has taken advantage of all the educational opportunities afforded to him as a member of the Army and he encourages all Soldiers to do the same.

“You always have to have a fallback plan, no matter what,” he said.

“Knowledge is the baseline of everything we do, with your job, interactions with people,” said Harris. “It doesn’t just help you with your job, it helps you later in life.”

Harris, who entered the Army with a bachelor’s degree, earned his master’s degree and a doctorate in philosophy while in the military.

He said he uses his own story as an example to encourage Soldiers to really focus on their own plan and plot a path that will help them for advancement in the military and when they leave the service.

“It helps them get promoted,” said Harris, who also volunteers as a tutor for high school students. “It shows when their leaders look at them, that they have the initiative and the drive to excel and exceed the standard.”

Harris has been a proctor for Soldiers who are deployed or in the field, which allows those Soldiers to have continuity in their courses and complete their coursework while they are on assignment.

In addition to college courses, the Army offers free e-learning with thousands of courses in information technology, business, leadership and personal development, he said.

Harris said Soldiers tell him that they had no idea the Army offered so much in the way of free education.

“They tell me ‘I’m glad you pushed that,'” he said. “I also made it a block in their counseling and make sure they are staying on the right path.”


Other NCOs also recognized

More than 350 people attended the luncheon that honored the exceptional leadership of non-commissioned officers.

Other NCOs recognized were:

  • Sgt. 1st Class Krystal Jarret, Army Recruiter of the Year
  • Sgt. 1st Class Mariela Richardson, Army Reserve Recruiter of the Year
  • Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Mannel, Army National Guard Recruiter of the Year
  • Sgt. 1st Class David Stover, Army Drill Sergeant of the Year
  • Sgt. 1st Class Ryan McCaffrey, Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year
  • Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Harris, Strickland Award winner
  • Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Johnson, Strickland Award winner
  • Retired Sgt. Maj. Andrew McFowler, Bainbridge Award winner