The 97 Percent Solution
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The Washington Post headline reads "Army worries about ‘toxic leaders’ in ranks." The Army defined "toxic leaders" as those "who put their own needs first, micro-managed subordinates, behaved in a mean-spirited manner or displayed poor decision making." There appear to be a lot of them.
"A major U.S. Army survey [of 22,000 Army leaders] of leadership and morale found that more than 80 percent of Army officers and sergeants had directly observed a “toxic” leader in the last year and that about 20 percent of the respondents said that they had worked directly for one."
That's pretty serious, but it gets worse. Half the soldiers surveyed expected the toxic leader to get promoted. There's some good news, though, in a single sentence from the story.
"The survey also found that 97 percent of officers and sergeants had observed an “exceptional leader” within the Army in the past year."
That finding matches my experience. For more than twenty-five years, I've asked participants in my supervision programs to identify "a time when it was great to come to work." There's never been a participant who couldn't do that. They all experienced those times and the vast majority identified their boss at the time as a key driver of the experience. Class participants used those leaders as models for what good leadership looked like. The Army could do that and more and so can you.
Tell the stories of exceptional leaders far and wide, describe them in action. That would do three good things: it would recognize exceptional leaders in a special way; it would send the message that the Army values those leaders; and, it would provide a teaching story so others could learn exceptional leader behavior.
Use the exceptional leaders as instructors in leadership. They're the most credible instructors you can have, especially if they use their own stories as part of their teaching. As an added bonus, they will become more conscious of their leadership through the process of developing their instruction plans.
Use exceptional leaders as resources. I've had good results from using panels of exceptional bosses in training for other bosses. You can also use exceptional leaders as resources to help develop training and evaluation materials and to provide "what I would do" observations for leadership scenarios.
Develop training based on the common behaviors of exceptional leaders. That's what I did for my programs and the Working Supervisor's Support Kit.
Boss's Bottom Line
If you want to become an exceptional leader, observe what exceptional leaders
do and then do it yourself.
Wally's Working Supervisor's Support Kit is a collection of information and tools to help working supervisors do a better job. It's based on what Wally's learned in over twenty years of supervisory skills training. Click here to check it out.