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October 9, 2011
Rooting out toxic leaders
By Michelle Tan
Soldiers will now be asked — and expected — to rate their bosses.
Effective Oct. 1, officers will be required to assert that they have completed a 360-degree evaluation
— where the officer is graded by his subordinates, peers, subordinates and superiors — within the past three years.
Requiring officers to complete 360-degree evaluations should encourage them to grow and, at the same time, weed out potential toxic habits among officers, officials said.
A recent survey of more than 22,630 soldiers from the rank of E-5 through O-6 and Army civilians showed that roughly one in five sees his superior as "toxic and unethical," while 27 percent said they believe their organization allows the frank and free flow of ideas.
The survey, conducted by the Center for Army Leadership, also stated that rooting out toxic leadership from the ranks requires "accurate and consistent assessment, input from subordinates, and a focus beyond what gets done in the short-term."
Gen. Martin Dempsey, now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said when he was the Army chief of staff that senior leaders must "change the culture of the Army to embrace 360s" and develop a culture where leaders want to know how they're viewed by their peers and subordinates.
The 360-degree evaluation now required of officers is called the Army 360 Multi-Source Assessment and Feedback. This addition to the Officer Evaluation Record is among a list of changes the Army is making to the officer evaluation policy. The changes apply to OERs with a "thru date" of Nov. 1 and later. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said he believes "multidimensional feedback is an important component to holistic leader development."
"By encouraging input from peers, subordinates and superiors alike, leaders can better ‘see themselves' and increase self-awareness," Odierno said in a statement to Army Times. "A 360-degree approach applies equally to junior leaders at the squad, platoon and company levels, as well as to senior leaders. The ability to receive honest and candid feedback, in an anonymous manner, is a great opportunity to facilitate positive leadership growth."
The MSAF program is not new but until now has been voluntary and was not tied to the OER, said Col.
Thomas Guthrie, director of the Center for Army Leadership, which developed the MSAF.
Commander's Assessment Tool
In addition to the 360 MSAF, the Army is working on a Commander's Assessment Tool, which also is an initiative from Dempsey, Guthrie said.
The tool, which is being developed by the Center for Army Leadership, is similar to a 360-degree evaluation and will be used to inform a command selection board as it evaluates officers for command.
The Army this year has relieved four brigade commanders, the highest number since 2005. At least two of the firings had nothing to do with misconduct or battlefield performance, but were related to toxic leadership issues.
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The goal is to launch a pilot program in fiscal 2012 to test the assessment tool in the brigade command selection board, Guthrie said. If things go well, the assessment tool will be implemented in fiscal 2013 and could be added to command selection boards at the battalion level, he said.
Since Jan. 1, about 10,000 officers and about 10,000 noncommissioned officers have chosen to complete a 360 MSAF, Guthrie said.
He said he anticipates the number of officers taking the evaluation to grow with this new requirement on the OER. However, officers only have to show that they have completed a 360 MSAF. The results of the 360 MSAF will not be part…