Academic journal article Military Review

Designing a Battalion Leadership Development Program

Academic journal article Military Review

Designing a Battalion Leadership Development Program

Article excerpt

Identifying and developing the future leaders of America's Army are [commanders'] most important functions . . . They will be faced with a constant tug-of-war between near-term readiness and leader development . . . Faced with this tension, they must err on the side of leader development and carve out the time to talk with young leaders . . . The greatest legacy was have is how well we've trained our subordinates . . . How well [we] have done can generally be measured by the next generation of leaders and the performance of their soldiers.1

-Army Chief of Staff General Dennis J. Reimer

BATTALION COMMANDERS have an inherent responsibility to develop subordinate leaders. This responsibility is important to the unit's warfighting abilities, as well as long-term individual developmental aspects. Army warfighting doctrine recognizes leadership as an essential element of combat power.2 Each commander's responsibility to deliver maximum combat power to the battlefield is a compelling reason to improve the leadership abilities of all leaders within their battalions. The Army must develop effective leaders. Even if commanders do nothing to consciously shape subordinate leaders' growth, the operational environment provides the experience for leaders to learn and adequately perform their duties. However, commanders cannot leave leadership development to chance nor individual motivation. Rather, they should deliberately plan and execute leadership development just as they plan and execute tactical and technical training or equipment maintenance.

Several key questions come to mind:

* How do commanders consciously develop leaders in their units?

* What programs should they create to improve leadership?

* Although the 1999 US Army Field Manual (FM) 22-100, Army Leadership, clearly describes leader values, attributes, skills and actions, how do commanders develop those leadership qualities in their junior leaders?

This article describes a leadership development model (LDM) and explains how individual leaders can use the model to consciously guide their personal leadership growth and how supervisors can use it as a basis to shape their subordinates' leadership. I also describe how battalion commanders can use the model's components to craft a comprehensive unit leadership development program (LDP).

The LDM is a derivative of the best officer and noncommissioned officer (NCO) development programs from various units across the Army.3 The model is a product of the synthesis of various units' developmental programs, the Army's leader development framework (LDF) and several adult learning theories.4

Strategic LDF

The Army's strategic LDF illustrated in Figure 1 consists of three pillars:

* Institutional training and education. Provide leaders with "the opportunity to acquire skills, knowledge and behaviors needed to perform duty position requirements."5 During institutional training, leaders learn leadership theory and doctrine. They also acquire information, learn and use the learned knowledge through role playing, case studies, practical exercises and computer simulations.

* Operational assignments. Are key to developing leadership abilities by placing "leaders in positions to apply the skills, knowledge and behaviors acquired" during institutional education and training.6 Operational assignments refine "a leader's skills, broaden his knowledge and shape his behavior and attitudes."7 Additionally, operational assignments provide opportunities to master skills and demonstrate values and attributes essential to effective leaders of character and competence. Based on their performance during operational assignments, promising leaders are selected for progressive promotions, appropriate schools and utilization assignments.

* Self-development. Pervades the other two pillars, and should "stretch and broaden the individual beyond the job or training. …

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