FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — Predictability is not usually a trait leaders strive to achieve, especially on the battlefield. But creating a culture that includes predictability is key to leadership success, according to U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George and Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Weimer.
The CSA and SMA addressed a record number of Pre-Command Course future commanders, command sergeants major and spouses at The Army University Oct. 19, 2023, at Fort Leavenworth.
The pair explained, as the students and spouses step into their battalion and brigade leadership roles, establishing norms early helps create predictability.
This includes knowing how a leader will react and lead during low times, knowing training schedules well in advance and even knowing how communication will flow throughout the entire unit even to the families.
Predictability as a leader
“There’s nothing more important to any formation than leadership,” George said. “People are always looking up asking, ‘Do I want to do that?’”
Knowing how a leader operates can create invaluable trust within a unit. George offered four areas of focus for the students to achieve this:
- Be steady.
- Be present.
- Be reliable.
- Take care of yourself.
Emphasis on these four topics allow leaders to be resilient and adaptive, Weimer added. “The investment early, will help you minimize the time you spend in those low spots,” he said.
As students and their spouses return to their units, they have important roles beyond Soldiering; creating a cohesive team that includes the families.
“There needs to be a deliberate, sustainable process to make sure people feel a part of the team, part of the family,” Patty George, spouse of CSA said. “Being part of the unit is just as important to us as families ... Being connected with the other families in the unit gave us stamina and purpose all our own. We all felt that tension of being something bigger and better than ourselves. It makes us feel we were part of the team.”
Weimer added events allow leaders to not only connect with families but enables them to demonstrate and create the culture of the unit.
Predictability in the Permanent Change of Station process
A culture that includes predictability starts from the moment a Soldier receives orders to a unit.
Moving an entire family to a new installation is hard, even for senior leaders, Weimer explained.
The impression of a unit and its leaders starts before a Soldier and their family even see a box in their homes.
George elaborated, how their unit is welcoming Soldiers and families, needs to be a priority for the new leaders.
George offered the "WAR" of onboarding to consider when creating onboarding processes, with communication being at the top of the list.
W — Welcome new Soldiers and Families.
A — Accurate contact information.
R — Reliable unit and community information.
Information cannot stop at unit specifics, George explained, it must include information from every level to include the Soldier and family’s new garrison.
“That window to build trust and welcome Soldiers is essential. You don’t get a do over on that,” Weimer said. “We have a lot of technology answers to how a Soldier and their family comes to a unit, but that does not replace the human aspect of this.”
Phone calls or even a text, establishing a line of communication on the other side of orders can help individuals, including spouses, feel like part of a something early, Patty George said.
Predictability in schedules
Continuing the trust and predictability created during onboarding comes in the form of schedules.
George challenged the PCC students to be “looking deep”, at least a 90-day calendar, that can be shared with service members and families.
Having a longer-range calendar allows Soldiers to prepare themselves and families for their work loads.
“We owe it to our Families and Soldiers,” George said.
While the work of a leader is focused on ensuring units are trained and lethal Soldiers, there’s a balance PCC students need to consider, Weimer explained.
“We train hard. We have to put that same effort into our families,” he said.
Deliberate focuses on connecting to Soldiers and families; personal leader development; and predictable communication of everything from installation resources to trainings schedules can create a successful unit culture, and it starts with leaders.