Category Archives: Toolkit

Recommended reading for new advisors to senior leaders

U.S. Army War College

The following recommended reading list has been generated by the Senior Leader Seminar and Executive Leader Course faculty based on their research, course development and execution experience, student recommendations and other sources. The intent of this list is simple: to provide a self-study resource for advisors to senior leaders, supplementing existing recommended reading lists. This list cannot be all-inclusive due to the rapid annual generation of new leadership articles and books. It may also duplicate other reading lists because of the recognized value of many classic leadership documents.

Critical Army and Joint Doctrine:

    1. ADP 1, “The Army,” September 2012 (new version pending)
    2. ADRP 6-22, “Army Leadership,” August 2012
    3. ADRP 1, “The Army Profession,” June 2013
    4. Department of Defense, “The Armed Forces Officer, GPO,” January 2006
    5. National Defense University, “The Noncommissioned Officer and Petty Officer; Backbone of the Armed Forces,” Washington, D.C.: NDU Press, 2014

Comment: If we are truly professionals, we must fully understand our service and its doctrine on leadership, the profession, and the role of the Officer and Noncommissioned Officer Corps. These works provide a starting point for understanding these critical topics. ADP 1 explains the Army’s purpose, vision and values, as well as its role in the joint force and a broad view of the current path forward. ADRP 6-22 lays out the central tenets of the Army leadership model. ADRP 1 details the importance and requirements of the Army profession. The Armed Forces Officer explains the origin and unique roles and responsibilities of the Officer Corps within the Department of Defense. The companion NDU document provides a joint view of the roles and responsibilities of noncommissioned and petty officers.

Leadership Theory:

Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last, New York: Penguin, 2014.

Comment: Considered a classic, along with its predecessor, Start With Why, Sinek discusses how visionary, empathetic and committed leaders can create strong teams that succeed in today’s challenging business and national security environments. Using multiple examples, including contemporary military situations, Sinek demonstrates how effective leaders who place their employees and organizations first can create successful resolutions to complex crises. An easy, but useful read, Sinek’s work is a solid introduction to professional leadership thought.

Robert K. Greenleaf, The Servant as Leader, (download:

Comment: Greenleaf’s seminal philosophical essay on servant leadership inspired a sub-genre of leadership studies and books. Greenleaf’s theory, which is fundamentally consistent with Army leadership doctrine and the Army profession concept, is that the most effective leaders start as servants, or followers, then rise to become leaders because they want to serve, not because they want to become leaders. The true servant-leader ensures that other people’s needs are addressed first, whereas the leader-first person is motivated by personal ambition to be in charge or to acquire more possessions. In addition, the servant-leader utilizes persuasive power to motivate, rather than using coercive or manipulative power. The greatest value of Greenleaf’s essay is that it can inspire the diligent reader to look internally and assess his or her motivations and methods of leadership.

Bill George, Discover Your True North, Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley, 2015

Comment: An updated and expanded version of his 2007 True North, George’s book examines the leadership evolution experienced by a large number of executives who capably lead business and government institutions. Although they have worked in a wide variety of fields, he identifies common factors that enable leader success, including identification of guiding personal principles and the requirement for authenticity in leadership style. George’s use of short case studies enhances this work, making it easily digestible to a wide range of readers and readily applicable in many different types of organizations. His discussion of the final stage of leadership – when “your true north meets the world” – is especially valuable to senior military leaders, who are now in this critical stage of leadership development and implementation.

Organizational Theory:

Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, New York: Penguin, 2007.

Comment: Brafman and Beckstrom argue that the pace of change and the social and electronic interconnectedness of the modern world demand new decentralized organizational structures and decision-making processes. These ideas are a direct challenge to traditional bureaucratically organized business and government entities, which inherently lack the agility to quickly adapt to the changing environment. Using historical examples and current case studies, the authors demonstrate the need for immediate intellectual and organizational change, proposing 10 game-changing rules that need to be considered in order for organizations to remain competitive.

Stanley McChrystal, Team of Teams; New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, New York: Penguin, 2015

Comment: Although many potential military readers may be disinclined to read this book, there is great value in Team of Teams’ discussion of the role of networked matrix teams in resolving complex situations. Based on his experiences in the Global War on Terrorism, (Ret.) Gen. McChrystal explains his personal intellectual evolution and the corresponding changes within his organization as they wrestled how to analyze, manage, plan, and execute global actions to defeat similarly evolving terrorist organizations. In many ways, this book explains how a military organization successfully morphed itself into the type of organization championed by Brafman and Beckstrom.

Advisor Practice:

Michael Useem, Leading Up; How to Lead Your Boss so You Both Win, New York: Crown, 2001.

Comment: Another business leadership classic, Useem challenges traditional hierarchal leadership models, arguing that there is an important role for subordinate leaders who “lead up,” providing critical advice and leadership to the benefit of the organization. Often requiring significant shifts in organizational culture, this leadership technique may be challenging to insecure senior leaders, but was necessary for success in the multiple case studies offered by Useem.

John J. Gabarro and John P. Kotter, Managing Your Boss, Harvard Business Review, January 2005 (download:

Comment: A reprint of a 1980 article that inspired major changes in business management and leadership theory, Gabarro and Kotter similarly challenge traditional management models, stressing the importance of creating and maintaining effective two-way relationships with your boss. Though many military readers might find this intuitively obvious, “managing your boss” to achieve the best results for your organization is simple in theory but complex in execution as it requires significant effort to establish and maintain effective working relationships, especially at the most senior levels. In addition, this concept requires a high-level of self-awareness for all leaders to understand each other’s style, triggers, preferences, strengths and weaknesses.

David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford, The Trusted Advisor, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002.

Comment: Though this work focuses on the role of an advisor in the business sales environment, its discussion of the pivotal role of trust in business client-advisor relationships is applicable to a much wider audience of potential leaders and advisors. The authors provide detailed guidance on how to earn trust, give advice and build relationships, along with subsequent discussions on the challenges of maintaining trust, changing clients and other related issues. It is a book that has direct applicability to new advisors to senior leaders.

James E. Lukaszewski, Why Should the Boss Listen to You? The Seven Disciplines of the Trusted Strategic Advisor, San Francisco: Wiley, 2008

Comment: Lukaszewski’s book directly addresses techniques that can lead to greater success for strategic advisors in any type of organization. Proposing seven disciplines, ranging from being trustworthy to thinking strategically to teaching your boss how to accept your advice, this work is a practical resource for both new and experienced senior advisors. Lukaszewski’s work is well-worth the time to read and digest its discussion and recommendations.

Leadership Challenges:

Dean C. Ludwig and Clinton O. Longenecker, The Bathsheba Syndrome: The ethical failure of successful leaders, Journal of Business Ethics (April 1993) Vol. 12, Issue 4, pp 265-273. (download:,%20The%20Bathsheba%20Syndrome.pdf )

Comment: Unfortunately, all of us may have to deal with ethical failures either personal or our bosses’. Ludwig and Longenecker address why these failures happen with senior leaders, using the biblical parable of King David and Bathsheba to illustrate the causes and repercussions of unethical senior leader behavior. They propose methods to avoid these situations and suggest ways to respond when they occur despite the use of avoidance/prevention methods. Their recommendation to use “guardrails” during potentially disastrous personal behavior situations has great value for senior leaders and their most senior advisors.

Kurt Sanger and Dan Stallard, The Nathan Solution to the Bathsheba Syndrome, Marine Corps Gazette, April 2014 (download: 1515632573.html?FMT=TG)

Comment: Sanger, a U.S. Marines Corps lawyer, and Stallard, a U.S. Navy chaplain, take Ludwig and Longenecker’s ideas and apply them to the contemporary environment, where negative actions by senior leaders continue to receive great attention from the public and, ultimately, severely damage unit capabilities and their ability to lead effectively. Citing the important role played by Nathan, a trusted advisor who admonished King David for his improper behavior, they highlight the valuable advice and other assistance provided by today’s military lawyers and chaplains. They also stress the continued importance of quality unit training and education on ethical behavior.

Leonard Wong and Stephen J. Gerras, Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession, U.S. Army War College SSI Feb 2015 (download:

Comment: Dr. Wong and Dr. Gerras of the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute directly address the institutional pressure within the U.S. Army to be untruthful when reporting because of the overwhelming number of directed training requirements. The authors explain causes of this important ethical issue, providing recommendations to help bring requirements and compliance checks under control and further encourage honest reporting and truthful leadership.

Conclusion: Professional study is a never-ending responsibility for all senior leaders and advisors. The intent of this list is to provide a starting point for self-study. Though hundreds of books and articles are published annually on leadership and related topics, only a few are truly worthy of study by busy military leaders and advisors.

Shake-up in promotion, NCOPD policy a ‘STEP’ in right direction

NCO Journal

The path to promotion in the Army’s Noncommissioned Officer Corps has been reshaped as the Army has rolled out its initiative to systematically realign the structure of its “backbone.”

Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh recently signed Army Directive 2015-31, which affects Soldiers vying for promotion to the ranks of sergeant through sergeant first class.

The change in the system shifted the synchronization of the noncommissioned officer professional development system and promotion eligibility requirements as part of the Army’s Select, Train, Educate and Promote (STEP) program.

“Under STEP, NCOs will have to meet Army standards for the knowledge, skills and attributes for the grade they wish to hold, before they will be promoted,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey.

“For years, that wasn’t the case,” said the 15th sergeant major of the Army. “During the height of the deployment years, NCOs could advance with no additional primary military education.

“Under this realignment, we are reaffirming that America’s sons and daughters are being trained and mentored by men and women with quantifiable standards of knowledge, skills and attributes associated with the grade and position they hold,” he said.

Lessons learned

The change was prompted by the NCO 2020 survey, which was compiled from NCOs throughout the NCO Corps and validated during subsequent studies by the Center for Army Leadership Annual Survey of Army Leadership; and the Research and Development Corporation.

“We learned … that a more rigorous and effective system is needed for developing NCOs today — not based on a desire to separate from past traditions — but instead based on getting back to a focus on building a competent and professional NCO Corps,” said Sgt. Maj. James Thomson, the sergeant major for the Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

According to Thomson, four key roles and competencies of the NCO, both now and in the future, will be to lead by example; train from experience; enforce and maintain standards; and take care of Soldiers, their families and equipment.

“Until now,” Thomson said, “development of NCOs focused on leveraging their experiences in the operational realm and providing individuals with exposure to technical training in the institution.

“Now, following a long period of war and deployments, Soldiers can benefit greatly from a revitalized set of processes designed to shape their professional growth and optimized performance,” he said.


The change in the promotion system will have a ripple effect on how Soldiers are enrolled in NCOPD schools.

“Under the STEP career model,” Thomson said, “HRC will [send only] those selected for promotion to sergeant first class to attend SLC. So the scheduling is going to be, when the E7 list comes out, HRC is going to schedule all those [Soldiers] to go to school.

“Every month, when they get the new list from the E6 board,” he said, “those folks will be scheduled to go to school. We actually think that we’ll gain efficiencies in our school scheduling and attendance processes.”

Recently promoted Sgt. Felipe Zamora, a paratrooper assigned to the 407th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, passes through the archway, symbolizing his induction in to the noncommissioned officer corps during an induction ceremony Aug. 27 on Fort Bragg, N.C. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)
Recently promoted Sgt. Felipe Zamora, a paratrooper assigned to the 407th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, passes through the archway, symbolizing his induction in to the noncommissioned officer corps during an induction ceremony Aug. 27 on Fort Bragg, N.C. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

There will be no new additions to school backlogs as of Jan. 1. because Soldiers will not be scheduled to attend school if they are not in a promotable status, Thomson said. However, there will be a backlog for Soldiers who have not attended schools that will be required for their rank.

“There are some staff sergeants today who have not been to ALC,” Thomson said. “After [Jan. 1], they will be in what we call the ‘legacy backlog.’

“We are going to give every one of those [Soldiers] in that legacy backlog one opportunity to complete their [Professional Military Education],” he said. “If they don’t complete it, if they don’t take that opportunity, they will not have an opportunity to go again, nor will they be competitive for any future promotions.”

The realignment will serve as a potential promotion opportunity for Soldiers who are doing the things needed to qualify for promotion.

“As Soldiers choose not to attend their requisite schooling or meet the prerequisite standards for PME success like [the Army Physical Fitness Test] and height/weight,” Dailey said, “they are self-selecting to be removed from the promotion lists. This will allow those who are committed to the Army profession a chance to demonstrate initiative, and they will be the ones to get promoted.”

The STEP program is one of several ways the Army plans to improve its NCO Corps.

“There is more work to be done,” Dailey said, “including adding levels of PME and adding rigor to the course work in those classes, which also can lead to ultimately more college credits. With these and other advancements in the works, we are on a path to maintain the undisputed title of ‘The Most Highly Educated Enlisted Force in the World.’”

New requirements

Beginning Jan. 1, Soldiers competing for the rank of sergeant must be graduates of the Basic Leader Course and individuals competing for the rank of staff sergeant must be a graduates of the Advanced Leader Course in addition to meeting or exceeding the promotion point cut-off score, which is published monthly. Those who meet point requirements but have not completed school requisites will not be promoted, but will retain their promotable status.

Staff sergeants who are selected for promotion by the fiscal year 2016 Regular Army or Reserve sergeant first class selection board will be required to have completed Senior Leader Course to be fully eligible for promotion, regardless of their sequence number. Soldiers who are eligible by sequence number but have not completed SLC will retain their sequence number, but will not be selected for promotion until they have completed the course.

The realignment will also affect National Guard Soldiers. Those Soldiers selected for higher-grade positions but who have not completed the NCOPD requirements will have 24 months to complete the level of NCOPD required for promotion pin-on or they will be removed from the position that fill.

“One key line of effort for the [NCOPD] is a focus on ensuring that NCOs have exposure to the right types of education and broadening experiences as a part of their career life-cycle,” Thomson said. “Systematic changes to the way the Army trains and develops NCOs are also necessary to achieve strategic goals and objectives the Army has in mind for its operating concept in the future.

“NCOs must become more knowledgeable regarding their role within unified land operations, joint force planning, and the tenets of operational art,” he said.

Additional reading

To read the full text of Army Directive 2015-31, click here.

NCO promotions get tougher this year; more changes ahead

Broad changes for enlisted promotions took effect March 2. More are expected later this year.

The most recent comprehensive list of changes to Army Regulation 600-8-19 are tied to the reduction in size of the force, Army Chief of Staff Raymond T. Odierno said Jan. 6 during a virtual town hall event at Fort Lee, Va. During the past 10 years, the Army peaked at a force level of about 570,000 Soldiers. That number is scheduled to dip to 450,000 by the end of 2017.

To maintain high standards in the Army’s NCO Corps, promotions have to become more challenging, Odierno said.

“What we want to do is promote the right people … so we maintain a strong Army,” he said. “We’ve got to have the people we want to move forward. But it is not going to be as fast as it was five years ago.”

To that end, changes to the NCO schooling system were announced in February, with the revised promotion regulations coming soon after.

Among the key changes is the implementation of a link between promotion and the successful completion of Structured Self-Development courses. The SSD program helps develop adaptive, agile and critical-thinking leaders as well as prepare Soldiers to function effectively in the Contemporary Operational Environment, or COE. Now, the course is a requirement for promotion for Soldiers vying for ranks from sergeant to master sergeant.

Another key change is a policy that allows promotion points for Soldiers who have spent time in a combat zone. Previously, Soldiers in the Middle East were often kept from taking part in distance education studies because of the rigors of deployment. Now, sergeants can attain up to 30 points and staff sergeants up to 60 points for their time overseas.

A closer look at some of the pertinent updates to this year’s enlisted promotion changes, along with resources for more information, may be seen below.

Click here to download a printable version of the document.

Click here to see a complete look at AR 600-8-19

—      Compiled by Pablo Villa


What NCOs need to know about the new tattoo policy

NCO Journal

The Army has revised its tattoo policy again —the third time in just more than a year.

On April 10, Army Regulation 670-1 was updated to remove restrictions on the number and size of tattoos on the forearm and the leg below the knee. Soldiers and recruits are now allowed appropriate tattoos of any size anywhere on their body except their head, neck and most of their hands (AR 670-1 allows one “ring” tattoo per hand.)

The release of AR 670-1 came less than two weeks after Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno announced that change was imminent during a news conference April 1 at the Association of the United States Army Global Force Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville, Ala.

“As part of the regular process that we go through in reviewing regulations covering the wear and appearance of the Army uniform and the appearance of our Soldiers, we will be releasing in the coming weeks an update to that policy,” Odierno said. “And the most notable change is going to be the change in the tattoo policy in the Army.”­

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey seemed to have telegraphed the potential for the changes in the weeks preceding the announcement. Dailey took over as sergeant major of the Army in January. Even during his first troop visit in early March to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., it was clear that many Soldiers were unhappy with the policy, which was revised in March last year to limit the number of new tattoos below the elbows and knees and scale back some allowances made in 2006, during the height of the surge in Iraq and Afghanistan.

About a week after his visit to JBLM, Dailey was at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he opened his talk with Soldiers and their families by saying that he had some idea about the concerns they would raise.

“I’d bet my next paycheck that someone in here wants to talk about tattoos,” he said.

The new AR 670-1 includes a few other changes, as well. It authorizes Soldiers traveling commercially on official business to wear their Army Combat Uniforms. Previously, Soldiers had been required to wear their dress uniforms. The new regulation also clarifies the wear of Army uniforms at off-post establishments that sell alcohol — Soldiers may be in uniform when buying liquor at a liquor store, for instance, but not while drinking at a bar.

However, it was the new tattoo policy, first announced in March 2014 and then revised in September 2014, that had drawn the most attention — and ire.

After Odierno announced the latest changes, Dailey said, “You can’t go anywhere without hearing about the Army’s tattoo policy. It came up when I was at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy (at Fort Bliss, Texas), too. So it’s not just Soldiers, but leaders as well.”

Dailey also said that “overwhelmingly,” Soldiers have told him the tattoo policy would play a role in whether they stayed in the Army.

“So then we struggle with: Do the standards of discipline we’ve established override the needs of what we need to maintain the all-volunteer force, and the quality of the all-volunteer force?” he said. “When we move this standard too far to the right, can we actually maintain the all-volunteer force in the future?”

When Dailey was at Fort Bragg, one Soldier told him that he would like the Army to return to the “pre-surge” standards, when tattoos were allowed as long they weren’t visible while a Soldier wore his or her Class A uniform.

“Does that sound fair?” Dailey asked the room. He was met with a resounding “Hooah!” from the Soldiers in the room. And he and the secretary of the Army listened.

—      The Army News Service contributed to this report.

Tattoo bans over the years

Read more in interactive chart.

Toolkit: Dealing with the media

NCO Journal

In every conflict since the Revolutionary War, members of the media have been present on the battlefield documenting American servicemembers on the front lines. During World War II for example, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal was embedded with the U.S. Marines on Iwo Jima when he snapped the iconic photo of five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the Stars and Stripes on Mount Surabachi. During the Vietnam War, reporter Joe Galloway was alongside Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division and then famously told the story of their fight in the la Drang Valley in Vietnam.

Modern wars are no different. In the early 1990s, media members reported from Baghdad during Operation Desert Storm and were with Army units when U.S. forces crossed into Iraq in 2003. Even today, there is media embedded with units on patrol in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Brett Perry and former Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta, who received the Medal of Honor in 2010, are interviewed by WGN radio in Chicago in December 2010. (Photo by Master Sgt. Alberto Betancourt)
Staff Sgt. Brett Perry and former Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta, who received the Medal of Honor in 2010, are interviewed by WGN radio in Chicago in December 2010. (Photo by Master Sgt. Alberto Betancourt)

Because the Army’s public affairs branch is small, public affairs officers and NCOs cannot be assigned to each media member embedded on the battlefield. That’s why it’s important for all NCOs to prepare their Soldiers to deal with the media.

“Preparing for a media event should be no different than any other task we do as Soldiers,” said Sgt. Maj. Kanessa Trent, U.S. Army Pacific Command’s public affairs sergeant major. “Dealing with the media requires thorough preparation. It is important to consider who the interviewer or media representative is and the story he or she intends to tell. It’s also important to know who the intended audience is and the story that you want to tell. Taking time to establish that in your mind before speaking to the media ensures that you, as the subject-matter expert, remain in control of the interview.”

The media will tell their stories with or without the help of Soldiers on the ground, Trent said. To make sure the media gets the facts correct; NCOs need to make sure their Soldiers only talk about what they know. 

“Don’t allow yourself to speculate about something that you’re not at liberty to discuss,” she said. “Stay in your lane and tell the truth. Follow those rules when interacting with the media and you can’t go wrong.”

When an event happens that media will want to cover, it’s important to get the correct information out to the public. That starts with Soldiers and NCOs on the ground.

“Releasing as much information as we have quickly is critical to maintaining credibility with the public,” Trent said. “Withholding information only serves to feed those who believe we have something to cover up. Our fundamental practice is maximum disclosure with minimum delay while ensuring the information is as accurate as we know. Of course, the facts will change quickly as more details become available. So providing constant and consistent updates is absolutely necessary, otherwise the Army’s credibility is once again deeply scrutinized.”

Trent added that a well-prepared NCO conducting an interview with a civilian press outlet has the ability to challenge any incorrect information or unwarranted negative coverage but should always be mindful of operational security measures as a top priority.

“No matter how quick we are with the truth or how quickly the truth we’ve released is trumped with additional facts as more is learned, there will always be those who want to portray the news negatively,” she said. “The Army can’t concern itself with the small portion of the media that might wish to twist information to meet their agenda. Being honest, candid and forthright with what we know — even and especially when we’ve made a mistake — is what is necessary to maintain trust with the American public.”


Media tips

Here are some more tips to for dealing with the media that are taught by Army Public Affairs:

  • If you don’t want to talk to the media, you don’t have to. But there are some definite benefits to telling the Army story. The American people are the military’s biggest supporters; by talking to media and getting the word out to them, you build credibility for both the Army and your unit.
  • Remember to always maintain operations security. You can still give general information, but avoid any specifics such as times, unit or equipment numbers, and locations, anything that could give the enemy an advantage and place troops in danger.
  • Always give factual information and avoid speculating. It is OK to say you don’t know the answer to a question.  But avoid the phrase “no comment,” as it makes it seem like you’re hiding something.
  • It’s best to only discuss things you have direct responsibility for or have personal knowledge of. It keeps you out of trouble and makes you sound more intelligent.
  • Feel free to give your opinion, but be aware you are representing the military while in uniform. Don’t talk bad about the chain of command or push political or social issues.
  • There is no such thing as “off the record.” Even when you’re joking around during a card game, everything you say can be published You don’t need to be paranoid, just be mindful.
  • Keep things rated PG-13. Your words will go out to the general public, so you need to make sure your language doesn’t offend and that your description of things is not too graphic.
  • When being interviewed on camera, make sure you present yourself as a professional. That means no chewing tobacco, cigarettes, gum, uniform infractions or general sloppiness. You represent the Army.
  • Avoid jargon, slang and acronyms — anything the general public wouldn’t understand.
  • Above all, be respectful. You are a direct reflection of the Army, your unit and the Soldiers around you. Do them proud.

Sgt. Edward Garibay, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, contributed to this story.