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Effective leader development should have a strong foundation. Leader development is derived from self development and self awareness. It allows you to grow and learn as the threats and challenges to our way of life surface. Life-long self-development enhances learning in institutional and operational arenas. Although it is probably one of the least discussed leadership competencies, self-awareness is by far one of the most important. Self-awareness is always being conscious of what you're proficient at, while acknowledging the areas you need to work on or have yet to learn. On a more personal level, self-awareness of your strengths and weaknesses helps generate trust from others and increases your credibility. Both will significantly increase your leadership effectiveness. A Soldier's character is exceedingly important. The moral and ethical qualities help determine what is right and give a leader motivation to do what is right, regardless of the situation or the cost. As a senior leader, you need to use doctrine and other resources to determine the method that you will use. This paper will identify the Army's strategies on leader development, self-development, and self awareness and I will add my personal perspectives. Institutional training can greatly improve a soldier's ability to lead effectively by enhancing their strengths, identifying their weaknesses, and submitting to them that self-development is very instrumental to the very nature of becoming an effective leader.
What is Leader development? Leaders must always identify areas that need improvement and prioritize the opportunities as part of life-long learning. Once these areas have been identified and prioritized, developing and following a comprehensive plan will maximize the tools that include military professional development training, operational assignments, and self-development, therefore generating vast improvement in leadership.
Leader development, through self-development and self-awareness, are integral parts to the overall success of our future leaders. These attributes are the cornerstone of an effective leader.
Leader Development is the deliberate, continuous, sequential, and progressive process, grounded in Army Values that grows Soldiers and civilians into competent and confident leaders capable of decisive action (Army Regulation 600-100, (2007), p. 4).
Leaders must be able to operate independently in an ambiguous, dynamic, and politically sensitive environment. Leaders at all levels must be able to communicate, coordinate, and negotiate with a variety of personnel, including joint and coalition forces, interagency partners, nongovernmental organizations, local leaders, U.S. and foreign media, civilians, contractors, and people of different cultures and languages. Leaders must maintain tactical and technical competence, as applicable in their designated fields; keep abreast of, and remain adept in advances in information technology; and maintain their knowledge of the standards of conduct, policy, law, rules of engagement, and the Geneva Conventions (Army Regulation 600-100, (2007), p. 1).
Senior Noncommissioned Officers have the ultimate responsibility to ensure that the leaders of tomorrow have the necessary tools to become proficient, efficient, and effective leaders. In order to develop our future leaders, we must assess their ability, mentor them, persuade them to continuously engage in self-development, and afford them the opportunity to attend military professional development leadership courses commensurate with their rank.
Our current enlisted requirements for promotions are to select a soldier, promote them and attend military professional development leadership training for their specific skill level. To no fault of the soldier, it could take up to two years for them to attend their leadership training, due to school availability, fund allocation, and soldier's civilian schedule. While waiting to attend leadership training, soldiers formulate leader skills that could have significant adverse effects on how he or she develops as a leader. In my experience, promoting some of our younger soldiers prior to them receiving the basic military professional development training, Warrior Leader Course (WLC), is providing them an injustice. This basic leadership training is most crucial in the beginning stages of a soldier's career. In my opinion, this approach will prolong the soldier from obtaining the needed leadership attributes and would greatly decrease the likelihood of preparedness for their next assignment.
The previous enlisted requirements, if a soldier wanted to be promoted, required them to attend military professional development leadership training prior to being promoted. Providing this training to them prior to promotion or new assignment, would establish a base to work with and improve upon. In my opinion, it would benefit the soldier more to attend military professional development leadership training, WLC, prior to being promoted to Sergeant; Senior Leader Course (SLC) prior to being promoted to Staff Sergeant; and Advanced Leader Course (ALC) prior to being promoted to Sergeant First Class rather than afterwards.
As the world rapidly changes, so do the requirements for maintaining the efficiency and effectiveness of our young leaders. There has been an intentional effort to integrate self-development into the soldier's way of life as a better way to prepare them for future assignments. Additionally, Structured Self Development (SSD) has been introduced as a mandatory requirement for enlisted soldiers. This is a prerequisite for attending any Noncommissioned Officers Education System (NCOES) course. This concept supports the life-long learning strategy. I believe that this will enhance the ability of any soldier who is ready for next step of their career. This prerequisite will provide them with a base of knowledge for their next NCOES course.
Self-development is continuous and must be pursued during both institutional and operational assignments. Successful self-development begins with the motivated individual, supplemented by a concerted team effort. Part of that team effort is quality feedback from multiple sources, including peers, subordinates, and superiors. Trust-based mentorship can also help focus self-development efforts to achieve specific professional objectives. It is important to understand that this feedback leads to establishing self-development goals and self-improvement courses of action (Field Manual 6-22, 2006, p. 8-7)
In my opinion, self-development is a crucial aspect to develop the necessary leader skills of our young soldiers. As self-development takes place, a new found confidence will present itself to that soldier and those around him. Self-development assists leaders in perfecting their strengths, decreasing their weaknesses, and obtaining their leadership goals.
Self-awareness is the ability to recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Self-awareness and adaptability are two attributes that enable a leader to learn new talents and proficiencies (Briscoe & Hall, 1999, p. 28, 37-52; Hall, 1986a, p. 25, 235-265, 1986b, p. 120-159, 2002).
Self-awareness is the extent to which people are conscious of various aspects of their identities and the extent to which their self-perceptions are congruent with the way others perceive them (Hall, 2004, 153-173).
Self-awareness has been referred to as "the first component of emotional intelligence" and discusses how it is "the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effects on others" (Goleman, 1998, p. 95).
It is crucial for a leader to be able to assess him or herself, recognizing the impact of their thinking and decisions on situations, as well as, on other individuals.
In closing, after I completed this particular lesson, "Leader Development" and the self awareness exercise, I realized what type of leader I am now and what areas I need to improve on in order to make myself a more well-rounded leader. I believe that had I had this assessment done during my Basic Non-commissioned Officers course (BNCOC), now known as, SLC, this would have allowed me to know where my strengths and weaknesses were and improve on those weaknesses. I attribute my success as a leader to the many NCOs, Warrant Officers, and Officers that have mentored me over my many years, all the military professional development training courses and my initiative to pursue self-development.