Leadership development lessons from the Army

July 26, 2017 by Wally Bock

Leadership development in the military

Bernard Banks is a clinical professor of management and associate dean for leadership development at the Kellogg School. He’s also a retired Army Brigadier General who taught leadership at West Point. It’s not surprising that he has some clear ideas about how to develop leaders. They’re described in a Kellogg Insight article titled, “Four Strategies for Cultivating Strong Leaders Internally.”

The leaders the Army develops may lead soldiers in real life and death situations. That’s reason enough to get serious about developing leaders, but there’s another important reason, too.

Unlike private sector organizations, the Army doesn’t have any other option. The Army doesn’t hire from outside for leadership positions. The only place you get Army generals is from the Army.

Leadership development lessons from the Army

You should read the entire Kellogg article for details and insight. Here’s a quick overview of Bernard Banks’ four strategies with my comments.

“Groom future leaders before they ‘make the leap.'” Don’t promote a man or women to a leadership position and then start developing them. Start early.

“Bet on everyone.” Psychological assessments can help, but even with them, it’s hard to predict which men and women will become effective leaders.

“The best leadership training is immersive.” That means developmental assignments. Give aspiring leaders the opportunity to discover if they like the work. Give yourself a way to assess their performance and potential.

“Keep employees in the driver’s seat.” Leadership development should not be something your company does for aspiring leaders. You should help them and counsel them and challenge them, but individuals should be in charge of their own development.

Bottom Line

Constantly ask yourself, “How would we develop leaders if we didn’t have the option to bring them in from outside?” Then follow the example of organizations that address that issue every day.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

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