Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Army Takes On Its Own Toxic Leaders

Top commanders in the U.S. Army have announced publicly that they have a problem: They have too many "toxic leaders" — the kind of bosses who make their employees miserable. Many corporations share a similar problem, but in the Army's case, destructive leadership can potentially have life or death consequences. So, some Army researchers are wondering if toxic officers have contributed to soldiers' mental health problems.
One of those researchers is Dave Matsuda. In 2010, then-Brig. Gen. Pete Bayer, who was supervising the Army's drawdown in Iraq, asked Matsuda to study why almost 30 soldiers in Iraq had committed or attempted suicides in the past year.
"We got to a point where we were exceptionally frustrated by the suicides that were occurring," Bayer says. "And quite honestly feeling — at least I was — helpless to some degree that otherwise good young men and women were taking their lives."
Matsuda might seem like an unconventional choice to study Army suicides. He's an anthropologist; the Army hired him to advise U.S. commanders on how to understand what was really going on below the surface in Iraq. But Bayer says those skills are what prompted him to ask Matsuda to look below the surface of the suicide problem in the Army.
"What we valued about [Matsuda], as well as a few others who worked for us, was he didn't wear a uniform. He wasn't one of us, so to speak," Bayer says.
Whenever a soldier committed suicide, Bayer says, a team of Army investigators would essentially ask the same questions: What was wrong with the individual soldier? Did he or she have a troubled childhood or mental health problems? Did the soldier just break up with a partner or spouse? Was he or she in debt? The answer was often "yes." But Bayer says he felt part of the puzzle was missing.

"We decided we were going to take a look at it from a different angle," he says.
So Matsuda looked at the cases of eight soldiers who had recently killed themselves and interviewed friends of the victims.
"I crisscrossed Iraq and interviewed 50 soldiers," Matusda recalls.
A more complicated story began to emerge, he says. In addition to major problems in their personal lives, the victims also had a leader who made their lives hell — sometimes a couple of leaders — Matsuda says. The officers would "smoke" them, as soldiers call it.
"Oftentimes platoon leaders will take turns seeing who can smoke this guy the worst. Seeing who can dream up the worst torture, seeing who can dream up the worst duties, seeing who can make this guy's life the most miserable," says Matusda.
He says the evidence did not show that the soldiers' leaders caused them to commit suicide. But the soldiers' friends said leaders had helped push them over the brink.
"When you're ridden mercilessly, there's just no letup, a lot of folks begin to fold," Matsuda says. He submitted a report stating: "[S]uicidal behavior can be triggered by ... toxic command climate."

...

Lt. Gen. David Perkins, who commands the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, says he knows how toxic leadership can hurt soldiers — and the Army.

"If we don't do something about toxic leadership, I mean in the end, not to be too dramatic, but it does have life or death consequences. And quite honestly, we owe it to the American public," Perkins says.
He continues: "I can just tell you from experience ... that if you have toxic leadership, people will get sort of what we call the 'fox hole mentality.' They'll just hunker down and no one is taking what we call prudent risk." Perkins led the first U.S. Army troops into downtown Baghdad after the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. "They're not being innovative, they're not being creative. And some people who are toxic leaders, they might be able to get some short-term results and get an immediate mission at hand done. But in the process, they are destroying the organization and destroying their people."
Perkins says the first step to figuring out what to do about toxic leaders was to define the problem. So in 2012, the Army revised its leadership bible, Army Doctrine Publication 6-22, to detail what toxic leadership means for the first time.

The manual now states:
"Toxic leadership is a combination of self-centered attitudes, motivations, and behaviors that have adverse effects on subordinates, the organization, and mission performance. This leader lacks concern for others and the climate of the organization, which leads to short- and long-term negative effects. The toxic leader operates with an inflated sense of self-worth and from acute self-interest. Toxic leaders consistently use dysfunctional behaviors to deceive, intimidate, coerce, or unfairly punish others to get what they want for themselves. The negative leader completes short-term requirements by operating at the bottom of the continuum of commitment, where followers respond to the positional power of their leader to fulfill requests. This may achieve results in the short term, but ignores the other leader competency categories of leads and develops. Prolonged use of negative leadership to influence followers undermines the followers' will, initiative, and potential and destroys unit morale."
...

Rest of story here.
 Stolen entire from Military Photos dot net who got it from NPR.

No comments: