Leaders exposed to video training tool
April 24, 2013
FORT BENNING, Ga. (APRIL 24, 2013) -- Leaders from across the Maneuver Center of Excellence took the opportunity last week to participate in a leader development workshop at the Benning Conference Center.
The workshop focused on Leader Challenge, an interactive video-based vignette that Soldiers can work through, and was held in support of the MCoE's strategic initiative for 21st century leader development.
"The reason we're down here is because of Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster's focus on leader development," said Col. Tony Burgess, director of the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning at the U.S. Military Academy. "Developing leaders is the impetus for us being here, and he has the same passion for it that we do."
The workshop was open to all Soldiers, but the attendees came mostly from the Infantry Officer Basic Leadership Course, the Armor Basic Officer Leader Course, the NCO Academy and the Maneuver Captains Career Course.
The training sessions were April 16-18, with a different group of Soldiers attending each day. Each day had Soldiers work through several Leader Challenge vignettes, with different aspects of the scenario revealed intermittently.
Soldiers were given the initial scenario, and then broken down into small groups to discuss the scenario for 15 minutes.
Another portion of the scenario was then revealed, after which Soldiers rotated into w after which Soldiers rotated into new groups, allowing them to share insights and information from group to group.
"It was interesting because it was a variety of individuals," said Capt. Steven Northrop, a recent graduate of the Maneuver Captains Career Course. "You had senior NCOs, junior NCOs, officers of varying background and experience, so as the situations played out, we would discuss and you'd get a variety of viewpoints. It helped you to understand how somebody would approach the situation based on their experiences, backgrounds, beliefs or biases.
"You're constantly being exposed to other rationales and ideas, and it forces you to work within that dynamic to come up with a solution and analyze the situation."
The Leader Challenge vignettes can cover a variety of leadership questions, and all come from Soldiers' real-life experiences.
"It covers a wide range of topics anything from moral and ethical dilemmas, shoot or don't shoot issues, rules of engagement, escalation of force, leader dynamic issues -- you name the relationship, there's a Leader Challenge at play," said Maj. Jason Wayne, CALDOL's deputy director. "The power of it is that they're real experiences. … The idea is for us to take everyone in here, replicate that experience, and kind of peel back the layers of the onion, so to speak, and really figure out what's going on and what we can take away from that as leaders."
While the vignettes are derived from real-life situations, Wayne said the purpose of the exercise is not to second guess the decisions made by the Soldiers who were in the field at the time.
"I can't emphasize enough that there is no right outcome for a lot of these," Wayne said. "There is simply what happened. We come into this space not judging the outcome. There is always context to everything. There's always more to the story. It's easy to armchair quarterback things that happened, but the reality is when you're in that situation with all the extenuating circumstances, stresses get put on people in ways that affect their decision making. What we do in here is try to recreate that context."
The Leader Challenge program also not only gave the instructors who attended the workshop another tool to use in future instruction, but it also served to help exercise judgment, something Burgess said should be viewed as a priority.
"It's really easy for us to think about physical fitness and how you have to constantly work at it to maintain physical fitness, but we don't think that way about our mind and honing our judgment," he said. "You think your leader judgment is just something that you have, and that's it. But, the fact of the matter is that is has to be honed in the same why that physical fitness is. One way that is accomplished is through experiencing tough scenarios."
For Northrop, he said the most significant lesson he took from the workshop was the importance of two-way communication at all times.
"It really helps an individual to understand two-way communication," he said. "Is the person understanding your point of view or are they just listening? And when they speak, do you understand that person's point of view? It makes that two-way communication work, and digs deeper into the subject material by asking the difficult questions."