By Command Sgt. Maj. Roy Ward (Fort Leonard Wood)July 30, 2015
Service members, leaders, civilians, Families and teammates:
I am continuing to talk with leaders around post to gain their perspectives on Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey's initiative to empower young leaders to know and care for those they lead, before the culminating Leader Professional Development sessions at 1 p.m. Aug. 20 in Baker Theater and 1 p.m. Sept. 2 in Abrams Theater.
Dailey's effort is to identify areas of improvement and implement ways for leaders to enforce standards across the Army. The initiative, "Not in My Squad, Not in Our Army: We are Trusted Professionals," pledges to focus on the well-being, safety and dignity of our service members and civilians.
This week, I asked 1st Sgt. Jimmy Robles, Headquarters and Headquarters Company first sergeant, 1st Engineer Brigade, to discuss the senior leader level of this initiative.
Please read my dialogue with Robles and what "Not in Our Army" means to him.
Question: "Not in Our Army" is a call to action for officers, senior noncommissioned officers and civilians at all levels, Army wide, to expand this initiative beyond the squad to every organization in the Army. As a senior leader, how do we do this?
Robles: As a leader, I think it's really important to empower Soldiers. Part of doing this is to have a strong leader presence but to also self-reflect and make sure we are showing our junior leaders that we are also committed to mission priorities.
For example, right now one of the biggest priorities for our Army is the prevention of sexual assault. We conduct consistent training and mentor our junior leaders to have situational awareness and prevent things like sexual assaults from happening.
But, it's hard to effectively show our Soldiers and junior leaders our commitment to this priority when we continue to have leaders -- across all branches of our military profession -- commit the very atrocities we are trying to prevent, working directly against the culture change we are trying to encourage.
So, the best way we can expand upon this initiative is to continue to mentor, develop and empower our junior leaders to do the right thing, to care for their Soldiers, and, as senior leaders, to lead by the right example.
Question: The first part of the initiative, "Not in My Squad," is a call to duty for junior leaders to take responsibility and own solutions while caring for those in their charge. What advice do you have for junior leaders to accept and successfully uphold this responsibility?
Robles: Ownership and pride are vital and essential in any leadership position. Soldiers and junior leaders earn the trust and loyalty of their Soldiers through ownership, pride and taking care of their Soldiers.
The trust and loyalty of Soldiers is special -- even a privilege -- and something every leader should strive to earn. Junior leaders can gain this through leading by example, via deeds and not just words.
By treating Soldiers fairly; by coaching, teaching and mentoring their Soldiers, they'll earn trust and loyalty, building an outstanding camaraderie and team dynamic.
Question: Trust is an essential component of this initiative and the cornerstone of our Army profession. How do you assess the level of trust amongst Soldiers and leaders? Do you have any recommendations to maintain/increase trust?
Robles: I think you assess the trust of Soldiers and leaders by flat out asking them if they trust their leadership.
This is a difficult question to ask -- especially if it's specifically about you -- but, it has to be a direct question.
Nothing is accomplished by avoiding it out of fear of the answer. Once we ask this question, we must be able to differentiate between the straightforward and honest responses, and those withholding information.
Sometimes Soldiers are fearful of providing candid feedback out of fear of reprisal. If this is the case, it's a good indication we, as leaders, have not earned their trust, and we have to do our best to figure out why they are not willing to place their trust in our hands.
Sometimes the reason is easy to fix, other times it is difficult to accept and even hurts a little. But, at the end of the day, as senior leaders, we must self-reflect and adjust our leadership styles and techniques in order to earn that trust. Without it, we are not an effective team.
Now, earning trust is not as simple as changing one or two things and "voila" -- you've earned it. It's a process of consistently doing the right thing, prioritizing the well being of our Soldiers, and through that consistency, showing them we are sincere.
Question: The initial focus of this initiative is on the prevention of sexual assault and harassment, bullying, hazing, and substance abuse. What advice do you have for other junior leaders and service members in battling these challenges to mission readiness?
Robles: First, educate yourself on the topics and learn what these issues are, how they negatively affect your organization, the Soldiers, and how you can tackle them effectively.
Shooting from the hip in any subject will only backfire in time, but even moreso with potentially life-altering issues like these.
Understanding these problems and applying yourself to fix them will create a sense of ownership.
This will translate to your Soldiers when addressing some of these issues, and create an environment in which your team is keen to indicators and acts taking place which may suggest someone is struggling with one or a few of these challenges.
Question: As a senior leader, what have you found to be effective in building a climate of dignity, respect, trust and inclusion at the squad level?
Robles: Honestly, it starts with a strong leader development program.
By grooming your Soldiers early, you begin to teach them what being a leader is all about. Senior leaders should show our junior leaders and Soldiers that being a professional is something to be achieved.
Not to sound cliché, but our doctrine (Army Doctrine Reference Publication 6-22) does a phenomenal job at explaining what it takes and means to be an effective leader.
Part of being a professional leader is to treat everyone with dignity and respect and lead by example. Professional leaders develop professional Soldiers and unprofessional leaders develop unprofessional Soldiers.
-- Robles enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1998 and attended One Station Unit Training here, earning the proud and distinct title of combat engineer. His previous assignments include first sergeant of Company C, 35th Engineer Battalion, 1st. Engr. Bde., and time as an integral part of the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Office of the Inspector General team. He has deployed in support of Operation Task Force Eagle, Bosnia Herzegovina, and two tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His education includes a Bachelor of Science in security management.
(Editor's note: Ward is the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood command sergeant major.)