The United States Army cannot function without strong leaders. The development of these leaders is one of the main focuses of the Army because of the importance of utilizing strong leaders. The purpose of this paper is to discuss how the Army develops leaders. The Army defines leader development as the deliberate, continuous, and progressive process-founded in Army values-that grows Soldiers and Army Civilians into competent, committed professional leaders of character (Parson). Army develops leaders in many ways; the three ways discussed are current Army leaders developing future leaders, leaders developing themselves to lead, and the new Army Basic Leaders Course (BLC).
Current Army leaders are paramount to the development of future leaders. A significant way those future leaders learn from their superiors is from the mistakes those leaders make, whether that is how they lead or how they treat their Soldiers. According to Sergeant Major Andre Lawhorn, “Soldiers learn from their leaders — growing and nurturing great leaders is far more involved than simply setting back and divvying out tasks”(Milnes). Sergeant Major Lawhorn is talking about good leaders training future leaders, but that is not always the case.
It is up to the Soldier to take the aspect of a lousy leader and attempt to change how things operate once they are in a leadership position. There are also many great leaders in the Army. These leaders are not great just because they can complete the most amount of missions successfully or have the most squared away teams; they are great because they do not withhold the aspects that make them a great leader. A successful leader develops their Soldiers to take over their position, to lead that team in the same successful way that they did. These dynamics of current leaders are important to the development of future leaders.
Self-development is another important ideal for the development of a successful leader. A leader cannot lead troops into combat if they have not development themselves first. Major Tim Devine states it best, “Your development is your responsibility—not your instructor’s, not your boss’s or a career counselor’s” (Devine). Major Devine is talking about how a classroom or structured environment cannot develop a leader. For a leader to establish themselves, they have to take ownership of that process. The Army trains leaders in primarily a classroom environment, but all the answers for leading troops are not in these classes. The courses Soldiers attend aim to set a Soldier in the right direction towards becoming a leader.
It is up to the Soldier to take these taught ideas and expand on them, by applying these ideas at their unit or in everyday life. An instructor cannot force a Soldier to retain the information the Soldier has to want to become a successful leader. If a Soldier focuses on self-development, they can become a far better critical thinker and be able to handle complex problems. The new Army Basic Leaders Course has significant aspects of self-development and is why it is another crucial aspect of creating successful leaders in the Army.
The new Army Basic Leaders Course (BLC) has completely changed how the Army is developing leaders. The course has focused on basic Soldier task in the past, which was not creating leaders it was creating Soldiers. The unit will train Soldiers in basic tasks, and the structure of the new BLC is completely different. Sergeant 1st Class Jeffery Delay states, “BLC adheres to a ‘20-80’ approach to learning with 20 percent of the course driven by the instructor and 80 percent followed up by the students themselves, which has proven to drastically raise the instruction’s effectiveness”(Poe).
The 20-80 approach has Soldiers spending less time watching power points or being in a lecture environment and more time working on papers or presentations on their own. This new program will help Soldiers to endure more responsibility for their success at the leader’s course. Just because a Soldier is successful in this course does not mean they will graduate knowing how to lead troops. The point of the course is to instill the foundations of a leader.
Writing is just as important as leading troops into combat because if a leader cannot accurately write a report for example, then it leaves the report up to interpretation. A report left up to interpretation allows for mistakes and ultimately could get people killed. The course promotes critical thinking, time management, and has a considerable focus on writing which are essential aspects of developing leaders.
In conclusion, leaders training future leaders, self-development, and the new BLC are huge factors that play into developing a leader. The development of leaders is vital to the success of the Army. In recent years, the Army has changed how it develops leaders because in an ever-changing world the development of a leader will change. Leader development is as important as training a Soldier the basic task of being a Soldier if not more important.