Academic journal article Military Review

Mentorship: Growing Company Grade Officers

Academic journal article Military Review

Mentorship: Growing Company Grade Officers

Article excerpt

IN 1985, CHIEF OF STAFF of the Army (CSA) General John A. Wickham, Jr., designated "leadership" as that year's Army theme and addressed a framework designed to produce more effective Army leaders. The benchmark for the framework revolved around senior leaders challenging all leaders within the Army to be mentors to their subordinates. Mentoring immediately became an Army paradigm.

Wickham quickly generated tremendous support for the concept of mentoring, and "[m]entoring emerged as a primary concept in all leadership courses throughout the Army's professional education system." (1) The term "mentoring" began to appear in official Army publications, and most officers included "mentoring of subordinates as a major objective on their Officer Evaluation Support Form." (2)

Problem Statement

According to Wickham, "the problem was that the Army had not formulated an official definition of mentoring nor had it established any guidelines for instituting a mentoring program." (3) This lack of a widely accepted, clear definition of mentoring and the absence of an approved mentoring program created a void in Army policy, much ambiguity, and was the beginning of many different interpretations of mentoring and diverse ideas about how to implement a mentoring program. Consequently, mentoring came to mean different things to different people, causing considerable misunderstanding.

During this CSA initiative, U.S. Army publications provided minimal coverage of mentoring. Field Manual (FM) 22-103, Leadership and Command at Senior Levels, did not specifically mention mentoring; however, "it did discuss coaching, teaching, and role modeling in the leader development process." (4)

Department of the Army Pamphlet 600-80, Executive Leadership, provided the best description of mentoring, defining mentoring as a "process used to develop the thinking skills and frames of reference for sequential and progressive leader development." (5) Mentoring is different from coaching in that "coaching focuses on here-and-now performance and is the responsibility of immediate superiors. Superiors are the mentors and they are concerned with assessing potential and developing the capabilities and frames of reference that will be required in the future." (6) The pamphlet pointed out that mentoring could not be imposed as a requirement. Consequently, "executive leaders are responsible only for establishing and reinforcing a mentoring structure through the organization by setting the example." (7)

Field Manual 22-100, Army Leadership, addresses mentorship to a degree and provides guidance on the skills and competencies an effective leader needs. However, the manual falls short in addressing mentoring to prepare leaders for future service. Herein lies the problem: the Army lacks policy for a formal mentoring program for company grade officers or that provides senior leaders the framework in which to grow them for future service.

Literature Review

As 21st-century senior leaders face challenges complicated by rapid technological, economic, and social changes, the requirement to find and develop future senior leaders of wisdom, vision, intelligence, and devotion to the Army and the Nation has never been greater. Once the Army identifies potential leaders, an important developmental task is for senior leaders to mentor them and adequately prepare them to meet future challenges.

Mentoring is a unique, often-misunderstood process. From a historical perspective, "the term 'mentor' is derived from both the Greek language and mythology. Mentor was the friend and counselor of Ulysses, who during his 10-year Odyssey raised Ulysses' son." (9) However, mentorship is a dynamic, time-consuming relationship in which the person mentored matures professionally and personally under the mentor's tutelage so he can "innovate, think, and adapt to the demands of a fast-paced, highly stressful, rapidly changing environment. …

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