A contemporary issue in the Army that I feel needs more attention is the professional development within our leadership. According to Army Doctrine Publication 6-22, Army Leadership, ‘good leadership does not just happen by chance, it is a developable skill’ (Department of the Army, 2012, p. 1). However, how does one develop their leadership skills?
One tool that I feel should be implemented to aid in the professional development of our leaders is mentorship. Mentorship has not been stressed as an important part of our development as leaders as it should be (Jackson, 2018). Without mentorship, our senior leader’s knowledge and expertise will be lost to the future leaders of the Army. As a senior leader, I have strived to mentor my junior leaders as I was fortunate enough to have a Platoon Sergeant mentor me, but I have not seen this as a popular trend among my counterparts.
While I was a junior leader, my Platoon Sergeant would take the time to advise me on how to improve my counseling techniques, how to improve my training techniques for my Sergeant time training, as well as advise me on my career path. His mentorship has been so influential in my own leadership skills that to this day I still see his guidance. Unfortunately, many junior leaders do not share my experiences. Without a set mentorship program within the Army, junior leaders are left without a personal connection to their senior leaders and are left to “mimic” what they see of their leaders (Jackson, 2018).
According to AR 600-100, Mentorship is a “voluntary and developmental relationship that exists between a person with greater experience and a person with less experience, characterized by mutual trust and respect.” (Department of the Army, 2017, p. 32). Many senior leaders are not prioritizing the importance of mentoring their junior leaders because it is only viewed as voluntary. If there were a more structured and set program available, it would benefit junior leaders as well as senior leaders.
Another important tool that can assist in the professional development of our leadership is communication. I feel communication is a big challenge for all leaders. It is the responsibility of the leader to communicate effectively to the soldiers. However, one “must be mature or skilled enough to communicate with their subordinates and leaders” to have significant outcomes (Bradshaw, 2018). As a leader, you must realize that a single method of communication may be ineffective, and you must be adaptive to each circumstance.
I have witnessed a junior NCO repeatedly yell at his soldiers regardless if they were performing well or poorly. This, as a result, caused his soldiers to dislike working with him and made him an ineffective leader. After taking the time to understand why he was communicating this way, it was determined that was how he thought NCOs communicated with their soldiers because that was how he had been communicated to. After he learned how to better communicate with his soldiers, he, therefore, became a better leader.
Learning how to be adaptive and adjusting the way you communicate face to face to your soldiers is important but knowing how to effectively communicate through the vast array of technology we have available today is becoming just as important. According to Major Christopher M. Ford, U.S. Army, “The Army is drowning in communications, and the victim is good leadership.”, (Ford, July-August 2015). Modern technology has allowed us to instantly connect with each other, however without proper context text messages of orders may be misinterpreted, and poor writing styles may lead to illegible emails. Learning how to improve our written communications is just as important in our modern Army as our face to face interactions.
In conclusion, I feel that by implementing a mentorship program and focusing on better oral and written communication skills we will all have better leadership skills. A mentorship program will allow the knowledge of senior leaders to be passed on to junior leaders and an improvement in leadership skills will rise. Also, better written and oral communication will help improve not only more clear and concise orders and expectations but also make us all stronger leaders. Through mentorship and communication, we can positively influence the professional leadership skills of our future leaders.
- Professional Mentorship in the Army – Article from Military Review
- Professional Development Resources for Army Personnel – Guide from American Public University System
- Mentoring in the Military: An Overview – Book chapter from “Enhancing Human Performance in Security Operations”
- Building Basic Leadership Skills Through Mentorship – Article from the official Army website
- The Importance of Good Mentorship in the Military – Article from The Balance Careers