Survey suggests Army focus on improving leader development
June 24, 2011
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, June 24, 2011) -- The results of a recent survey indicate that Army leaders are seen as effective on a wide range of criteria, but that leadership development has not been receiving the attention that it once did at the unit level.
"Unit leader development appears to be less of a priority," said John Steele at the Center for Army Leadership, Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Steele is the project lead for CAL's Annual Survey of Army Leadership, known as CASAL.
The latest CASAL, completed during November and December, had more than 22,000 Army leaders respond -- sergeants to colonels -- from both the active and reserve components.
Army leaders who reported their unit/organization placed a high priority on leader development was at an all-time low of 46 percent (compared to 53 percent in 2009 and 55 percent in 2008).
NO TIME FOR OPD
"If an individual is not getting leader development in the field, not seeing it as a priority, and the classroom is not effective in teaching leaders how to develop subordinates, then we need to figure out how to improve this." Steele said, adding that the current operations tempo has affected the time and attention that can be devoted to professional development.
Only 57 percent of Army leaders reported that they have time to carry out the duties and responsibilities for developing subordinates. This was down from 63 percent in 2009.
GAUGING ARMY'S PULSE
"A real value of CASAL is the detection of shifts or changes over time, since it is often the changes that occur gradually that can end up being the really big problem," Steele said.
This latest CASAL, completed during November and December of 2010, is an on-going effort by the Center for Army Leadership and the Combined Arms Center to assess Army leader attitudes on leader development, the quality of leadership, and the contribution of leadership to mission accomplishment.
"These perceptions not only affect behavior, learning processes, and learning outcomes, but ultimately and most importantly, mission accomplishment. We are constantly updating, changing, and utilizing what we learn about leader attitudes to maintain an accurate pulse of how leaders see their Army," said Steele.
From year to year the survey responses overall are more positive than negative, yet the Army desires to detect and act on initial signs of issues.
NCOs SEE DISCIPLINE ISSUE
Only 38 percent of respondents of the latest survey agreed that, “The Army is headed in the right direction to prepare for the challenges of the next 10 years.” The number one explanation was a perception of a “lack of discipline” or that the “Army is too soft.”
While 74 percent of junior noncommissioned officers selected lack of discipline as a reason, only 35 percent of company-grade officers did. Members of deployable units selected lack of discipline more often than leaders serving in the generating force.
This item was a follow-up to qualitative feedback obtained in 2006. Comments claimed the Army has become “soft” and discipline and respect are not instilled in new recruits. Some of the comments cited lowered entrance standards, such as physical fitness.
About one-fourth of Army leaders responding to the survey said they believe that honest mistakes are held against them in their unit/organization. Nearly one-third believed that their unit/organization promotes a zero-defect mentality.
About one in five Army leaders reported that their immediate superior demonstrates some negative leadership behavior. Four out of five Army leaders (83 percent) reported they observed a leader who demonstrated toxic leadership behavior in the past year.
However, almost all (97 percent) also reported that they observed an extraordinary leader in the past year.
DATA HAS MANY USES
Information collected in the CASAL provides research guidance for policy decisions and program development, Steele said
The bottom line, he said, is that CASAL findings inform diverse groups or consumers of information and are applied to a wide range of products, such as informing the Army Influence Trainer, FM 6-22, and various handbooks and training packages, as well as connections to areas with a broader focus, such as human dimension and providing baseline information for Comprehensive Soldier Fitness.
"CASAL allows us to see how the Army is doing in leader development, is a tracking and management tool to know what the field thinks, and empowers the field by providing opportunity for direct feedback," Steele said.
"It is a best business practice, and results in a database used for senior leader queries, such as broadening task force, effectiveness of Captains Career Course and MSAF," explained Steele, adding that the Multi-Source Assessment and Feedback, or MSAF, Army 360-degree program is widely used, has been well-received and is showing positive results.
This year was the first year CASAL examined the MSAF program in-depth and found its effectiveness is improved by increasing program engagement such as sharing results with others, and using the pool of trained coaches.
RANGE OF DATA
More than 100 items in this year's survey covered topics on the quality of leadership and leader development. Responses were both quantitative (select a response) and qualitative (a brief typed answer).
"Survey items assess ongoing and current issues such as the work environment, trust, unit effectiveness, ethics, leader development in units, institutional education, self development, leader development practices, workload, Soldier care, and subordinate development, leadership quality, leader attributes and competencies, toxic leadership, officer/NCO dynamic, leadership at combat training centers, deployment preparation, leader effectiveness while deployed, satisfaction in the Army, retention and commitment " Steele said.
Each year items have been dropped, added, or modified in order to balance survey size and respondent fatigue/time required, with the need to cover a wide range of topical leadership issues.
FOCUS ON COMMAND CLIMATE
"This year there was more focus on command climate. In addition, a more extensive exploration of PME (professional military education) was conducted with particular emphasis on course attendance, course relevancy and being up-to-date and transferring course content back to the job," Steele said.
CASAL is a reliable source because a rigorous scientific approach -- based, in part, on a large random representative sample and high precision -- is used for survey development, data collection, and data analysis. This year's survey had a response rate of 16.1 percent. This strong participation in the CASAL provides an overall sampling error of plus or minus .6 percent.
"What sets CASAL apart is the longevity of the data collection effort which allows for trend analysis as well as truly being a representative sample," Steele said.
"CASAL is another way for the Army to see itself and be made aware of the problems in leadership and leader development that matter most to the field," Steele said.
For more information on the Center for Army Leadership including, interactive training products and copies of recent CASAL reports, visit: http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/digitalpublications.asp#CAL
For archived reports and other Army research, visit: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/announcements/DOAC.html.