This week’s post is by our founder Jim. As you read through it remember to think broadly about how it pertains to you and those around you, look to share it, and let us know what you think by commenting on it. Get reflective! Also, don’t forget to signup for MilitaryMentors.org if you have not had the chance yet. Become one of our growing team!

Has anyone else noticed the waves of military leaders being fired these days? I’m not just talking about flag officers being told to hang it up, I mean, field grade officers and senior NCOs who are being relieved of command for atrocious behavior. In 2015 alone, the Navy relieved 32 officers and the reasons were rarely a technical or tactical failure. Similarly, as of last year, the Army has relieved 129 battalion and brigade commanders since 2003 including the court-martial of 41 lieutenant colonels or higher, including two general officers, in the last six years. The problem has become so pervasive that Military.com has their own news thread for it.

I know that we are not intentionally breeding bad apples in our profession, but I am concerned that we are not doing nearly enough to prevent leaders from developing negative traits. The overwhelming majority of these firings were due to professional misconduct, not technical ineptitude, and this pattern stems in some ways from a failure of our system to create the right sort of leaders. I don’t believe that anyone intentionally plans to become corrupt, but a gradual degradation can easily occur if authority increases in the absence of emotional intelligence.

We’ve written about emotional intelligence repeatedly in this blog. It’s a vitally important component of leadership and one of the greatest benefits from mentoring. In a nutshell, emotional intelligence has five components:

– Self-Awareness – Knowing one’s strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and impact on others
– Self-Regulation – Controlling or redirecting disruptive impulses and moods
– Motivation – Relishing achievement for its own sake
– Empathy – Understanding other people’s emotional makeup
– Social Skill – Building rapport with others to move them in desired directions

Question: Would emotional intelligence have prevented those leaders from making those poor choices?

It’s no surprise that we are squarely in the camp that believes EQ is the critical component that they lacked. They knew that their choices were wrong, but they lacked the self-regulation to stifle the disruptive impulses, the self-awareness to see the impact of their actions, and the empathy required to lead effectively. Undoubtedly, they all had stellar performance evaluations. Why, then, did our professional development fail so dramatically?

Siegfried Kaltenecker is the joint managing director of Loop Consultancy, specializing in organization and leadership development and based in Vienna. He is an expert on organizational design and lean improvement. According to him, the answer is simple; “It shouldn’t come as a surprise that traditional performance appraisals, 360-degree scorecards, employee surveys or assessment centers hardly support the behaviors needed for professional peer feedback.” The failure is in our industrial-era personnel system and the evidence of failure is clear. Sigi continues, “If we want to make personal feedback an additional driver of continuous improvement, it can neither be reduced to hierarchical relationships nor to standardized evaluations. We need different formats to encourage trustful exchanges and mutual help.”

Mentoring creates this continuous feedback loop. In this voluntary relationship, professionals put down their armor and exchange the sort of information that leads to lasting growth. This is why we created Military Mentors. I was lucky to have Chevy as a leader and now as a mentor, but we know how hard it can be to find other people who care about professional development. Our community of military professionals and resources let you find someone wherever you are and connect. We’re looking to fix this problem for the military once and for all. Join in and help us in the cause!


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