Lead with the best version of yourself.

Creating a Culture of Honest Feedback: A Strategy to Keeping the Organization Healthy

Creating a Culture of Honest Feedback: A Strategy to Keeping the Organization Healthy

U.S . Army Reserve Headquarters prepares for new fitness test with diagnostic eventsBy Richard L. Farnell II

Honest feedback is the breakfast of champions: it allows those who seek and incorporate it to identify their blind spots, increase self-awareness, and become a better version of themselves. Unfortunately, some leaders skip this important “meal” to stay comfortable and avoid criticism that may compromise their psychological well-being. 

Failing to receive honest feedback can stunt the growth of leaders and organizations.  Honest feedback enables transparency, in contrast to feedback that is only open to compliments or praises.  Consider a person who never gets physical checkups or ignores symptoms of ailments. This type of behavior could potentially create long-term irreversible effects.  Similarly, leaders who ignore honest feedback from their employees can hinder performance levels and put organizations at risk, leaving employees unable to trust them.   

There is a myriad of reasons some leaders struggle to receive feedback, but a few are especially worth mentioning. First, seeking and enabling feedback requires a willingness to be vulnerable that some leaders lack. Leaders look for trusted employees when eliciting feedback. This process works well if the leaders have a variety of minds to draw from and the feedback loop stays transparent. However, this is often not the case, so it is important for leaders to seek feedback from multiple sources—particularly those they feel can give them unexpected, perhaps even unwanted perspectives.                                                                                                                                      

How to Write as a Thinker-Practitioner

Tropical Storm 2019: Jungle Survival

By Vincent A. Dueñas

In his treatise, Why Don’t We Learn from History, B.H. Liddell Hart opens the first chapter with a general discussion of history and its merit. In describing the advancements of the conduct of warfare over the course of history he takes aim at the concept of direct vs indirect experience, just as Bismarck did with the aphorism: “I want to learn through others’ experiences…” Hart posits that indirect experience is the best way to advance the theory and conduct of warfare. However, direct experience results in otherwise unattainable insights that would be missed by simply relying on indirect experiences. Service as a Soldier offers the kind of direct experience that can advance theory and conduct of warfare if leveraged properly.  Practitioners, such as Soldiers, gain direct experience and are then able to facilitate understanding and dialogue about said experiences. For practitioners, however, indirect experience is fundamental and it should occur sequentially for the individual, after direct learning, vice concurrently.

General knowledge is improved when all ideas present themselves and the best can be shaken out – as Ray Dalio’s Principles emphasize – and Soldiers can capitalize on their direct experiences to enrich the learning experience. The first step is to keep handwritten notes using a (green) notebook, and that is the best way I know to do this, officer and enlisted perspectives included. It is important to have a framework for your ideas and to consider how they might grow from direct experience to something you might share about the true nature of warfare. Pursue your curiosity in other disciplines before putting all of your thoughts in order and have someone review and challenge them.

3 Leadership Lessons Observer, Coach, Trainers Understand That You Should, Too

3 Leadership Lessons Observer, Coach, Trainers Understand That You Should, Too

Soldiers Train with Pyrotechnics to become a Qualified Observer Coach on JMRC Ranges

By Joshua Trimble

Leadership traits are taught and leaders evolve in some of the most unsuspected places. Consider that U.S. Army training centers are built and designed to put units through rigorous and realistic training to evaluate their preparedness for fighting our nation’s wars. Most people would understandably assume training centers are more about preparing units than leaders. The Observer, Coach, Trainers (OCTs) are an integral part of these training centers and often evolve as some of the best leaders – learning and teaching leadership traits to those they observe.

Serving as an OCT at a training center is not without its own unique challenges. The OCT is often trapped between wanting to unnecessarily help the rotational training unit avoid disaster and watching them fail. The training units predictably expect the OCTs to be experts, and OCTs want to help lead the unit to learn through their own experiences of mistakes and successes. For the OCT, knowing when to say something to the unit or a Soldier, as well as what to say, is an art developed from self-observed and practiced experiences that translate to effective leadership traits. It is a practice of understanding the appropriate situations to lead in a more passive role to develop individuals, teams, and units and knowing when to take an active leadership role when it is most necessary to coach and train. OCTs are leaders on the battlefield, and they understand the following traits that can apply in any type of organization.

An Open Letter to Battalion Commanders: How to Use Social Media

An Open Letter to Battalion Commanders: How to Use Social Media

Social media platforms offer children exciting but frightening environmentsBy Scotty Autin



I feel like most of us are missing an opportunity.  We’re missing a chance to get the command messages out to audiences and shape the narrative of our units.  More so, we’re missing a chance to talk directly to our Soldiers, their families, the larger Army, and even the American public.  

In a post late last year, Gen. Robert Abrams penned an article published on this site titled, “Social Media: Senior Leaders Need to Get on the Bus.” If you haven’t had a chance to read his article, take some time to read it before you proceed here.  It gives you a great understanding of why leaders need to be on social media. Likewise, the US Army laid out a comprehensive overview of how to use social media with most of it focused on the official accounts for brigade and above.  From here forward, for those nondigital natives like me, I hope to lay out a way that battalion commanders can leverage social media.

First and foremost, you have to think of social media as a virtual hangout as it relates to interacting and engaging with Soldiers and families.  It exists and your Soldiers are there and active in it. Whether or not you choose to be present, the thoughts, ideas, and narratives are progressing with or without you.  For me, I had the benefit of witnessing some really good leaders and public affairs experts that understand how to use social media as a force projection and multiplication platform.  With that, I’ll lay out a strategy that can help you wrap your head around how to be a leader on social media. This is based on three key points.

Becoming Number One – Assuming Battalion Command as the Executive Officer

Becoming Number One – Assuming Battalion Command as the Executive Officer

Flight preparation


By Daniel Clark

You’ve been at the job for a few months now. You’re just starting to get the hang of this executive officer thing. You know the unit’s mission, you understand most of the personalities in your battalion, and you’re starting to see the staff rowing in the right direction. You’ve even been “in command” for a day or two while the old man was out TDY (temporary duty/travel). There’s still a mountain of work to be done, but between you and the operations officer, the unit is running pretty smoothly. You’re almost content, not yet ready to punch on the autopilot, but ready to take just a moment to relax. Then the phone rings. “Get to the brigade commander’s office, now.” You don’t even get a chance to ask what it’s about before the brigade XO hangs up the phone.

Now you’re standing outside the commander’s office wondering what one of your personnel might have possibly done this time. A DUI, a domestic incident, a lost sensitive item? It could be anything, and you’re racking your brain trying to think if there’s anything you missed, and if so, why does the brigade commander know about it before you? Does your boss know? Where is your boss by the way?

“This isn’t going to be easy,” the brigade commander tells you, “but I have every confidence that you’ll be able to do the job, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t put you in the position.”  Your head is swimming just a little bit while you try to process what you just heard. You’re the battalion commander now.

From the Lost Generation to the iGeneration: An Overview of the Army Officer’s Generational Divides

From the Lost Generation to the iGeneration: An Overview of the Army Officer’s Generational Divides

gen1.jpgBy Scotty Autin

In 2015, a new generation of lieutenants arrived at Army units. They arrived unannounced with no notice to their receiving commands. These officers are technology-based, possess an innate ability to find information, and are closely aware of the geopolitical environment. While this surge of new thoughts and ideas could be invigorating to the organization, it is more likely that these generational differences will create personality conflicts between senior leaders and these new officers. Some senior officers may not recognize their inherent strengths and only highlight their reliance on social networking and lack of concrete experience.

While academic research continues to explore the impact of differences between the societal generations, it is possible to understand how generational divides have influenced the Army’s officer corps. Due to the strict hierarchical structure of the Army and “time-in-grade” requirements for promotions, the officer corps naturally segregates along generational lines. These prerequisites produce officer cohorts that often share similar societal experiences and may develop similar personality traits.

Currently, there are four generations operating in the Army, individually banded to a specific set of ranks. Each of these generations has different and specific perspectives shaped by their generational experiences. For example, some current general officers tend to strongly value organizational loyalty, colonels and lieutenant colonels prefer to empower junior officers and NCOs, majors and captains are comfortable with change, and the new lieutenants have vast digital networks that help them gain context within the strategic environment.

Acknowledging that there are fundamental personality differences within the entire chain of command is important to create an atmosphere that enables trust and growth. In order to optimize effectiveness, officers must accept that generational differences exist in the Army, understand how those differences currently influence officer interactions and recognize how to leverage the strengths of each generation of officers.

Winning the Right Way: Positioning Your Team for Long Term Success

Winning the Right Way: Positioning Your Team for Long Term Success

Dodgeball Tournament Marne Week 2019

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Devron Bost)

By Richard Farnell

We all understand the importance of running an organization both effectively and efficiently.  However, it is important to realize organizational goals have the potential to be jeopardized when leaders lose sight of how they are winning.

To win the right way, leaders must routinely instill the right ethics, values, and practices for long-term success. Moreover, they must foster a productive and fruitful culture that nurtures individual contributions and encourages one to perform at their highest potential. For example, in a football game, it is possible to achieve a touchdown and players not perform at their highest potential. This can be misleading for those that do not understand the long-term effects of poor cohesion, integrity and shared understanding of the overall mission. In this example, the touchdown may have been executed, but it does not mean the team is winning the right way. The next time the team members need each other for a particular play, they might fail due to a lack of trust and dysfunction. This is not surprising, but winning the right way starts with people, as they are the nucleus of the success of the organization. 

However, well-intentioned people can be either stifled or nurtured by culture, making it essential to have people and culture aligned for success. Think about it. If you have the right people but the culture is toxic, those people will become de-energized, frustrated, and ultimately underutilized.

Staying Sane for Holidays: 4 Tips for Managing Your Digital Devices

Staying Sane for Holidays: 4 Tips for Managing Your Digital Devices


By Joseph McCormack

As we move full speed into the holiday season, most everyone becomes increasingly stressed by their never-ending to-do lists, both personal and professional. The holidays are ripe for multitasking. Everyone is trying to get everything done at once.

And you know what’s making it worse? The regular ding of our digital devices, drawing our focus and attention away from the task at hand. The result: waning focus and declining efficiency.

These continual interruptions drain our brains. Think of it as a mental fuel tank that can go empty. If your mind is all over the place, it’s similar to driving a car until it runs out of gas.

Research indicates that the current number of connected devices per person today averages 3.64. Experts predict that people will soon have access to more than six connected devices per person. With this many devices at our fingerprints, vibrating and ringing and beeping at us, how do we drown out the noise?

It’s difficult, but you must actively make a choice to ignore your many devices. You will constantly battle the urge to check social media or send an e-mail, and it is ultimately a personal responsibility to win this battle. But you’re not in it alone.

Risk and Reward

Risk and Reward


By Josh Powers

Last week, General Abrams (@DogFaceSoldier on Twitter) published a short article encouraging more senior leader engagement on social media. Titled Social Media: Senior Leaders Need to Get on the Bus, the article provides ten reasons why leaders should be more active in the digital space.  As demonstrated (blog posts, live casts, etc), I must disclose that I wholeheartedly agree with General Abrams’ perspective. Based on my own experience, I remain passionate in my view that there is something in the digital world for every military professional. I see it as a medium where we can learn, grow, and interact. Still, there is risk associated with engaging online and it is worth discussion. Many leaders in the profession have considered engagement but weigh perceived risk and reward only to ultimately abstain from engaging online. So what are they worried about? Over the past few weeks, I polled the Twitter audience on the topic and, based on their feedback, I offer a few of the main risks that keep our colleagues offline. 

Digital Readiness: What You CAN Do

Digital Readiness: What You CAN Do

readiness(Credit: U.S. Army/Spc. Hubert D. Delany III)


By Megan Jantos

Two years ago during an Army-led focus group, an older private first class made an astute observation that I’ll never forget. “The Army does a great job telling me what I can’t do, but I’m often left wondering what I can do.” I suspect that this same sentiment prevents some leaders from engaging in digital leadership. For many Soldiers, it seems easier to reduce risk to your personal reputation and professional operations by avoiding social media altogether.

On the contrary, the Army actually encourages Soldiers and their families to use social media to stay connected and tell the Army’s story. Engaged Soldiers are needed online more than ever before. Can you imagine a digital Army that reflects our organizational might in the physical world?

Entering the digital sphere is a double-edged sword, though. Numerous benefits of online participation also come with an equal number of pitfalls. However, given the right resources and training, anyone can become a digital pro. Here are several steps you can take to become an online warrior.