Small Wars Journal

Rooting Out Toxic Leaders (360 Degree Army Evaluations)

Mon, 10/10/2011 - 4:49pm

Rooting Out Toxic Leaders by Michelle Tan, Army Times.

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...



Sun, 12/29/2013 - 1:26am

From first hand experience I know Toxic or weak Senior Leaders ignore Toxic Subordinate Leaders. The Army has a big problem and Odierno is trying his darn to fix it.

Toxic Leaders come in all forms and great subordinate Officers pay the toll of the Army's failure to weed them out. I have seen BN Commanders live through IG complaints from an entire BN Staff only to be promoted all while the staff were given bad OER's as reprisal, they just walk. I know of the same BN Commander that hand picked personnel to do his leader surveys because his own BN destroyed him on a previous leader survey. Toxic leader come in the forms of sexist, racist, obnoxiously aggressive, and down right pigs. Toxic leaders must be weeded out now to protect the careers of great subordinates who have stood up for what's right and report them for their callous actions.

The Army is cutting thousands of Officers, many who have been wrongly evaluated by Toxic Leaders. The OER eval system is great, the problem exist when one takes Into to consideration the Toxic leaders who write bad evaluations based on personal thoughts about young Officers accomplishing missions, qualitative opinions vs quantitative facts.

As much as this bothers me to say, young African American smart Officers have bore the brunt of Toxic Leaders, the not so bright guys always get through. It's mind boggling when I think of just one Toxic leader and the havoc he has brought on Army Officers and Civilian subordinates within the Army, this guy came up through the ranks Double BZ and left his BN Command with open IG and EO complaints only to be promoted, a known racist is working his way up to General. I will write a book about this guy one day when the Army can't punish me for being open and honest.

The 360 must be a part of the OER evaluation.

I have no experience as a sworn member of the military. But I have plenty of first-hand exposure and second-hand stories, as well as experience under former military leadership in civilian Government agencies.

What seems to cut across all organizations is a lack of effective leadership. The Army may have a pay and retention system which effectively awards ineptitude and/or callous management, but the Federal Government as a whole, as well as private industry, are racked with the cancer of poor leadership.

My role as a contractor is essentially reduced to monitoring checkpoints on System Life Cycles for compliance with Federal Information Security Standards, but I have in a small way become "governance oversight" for management and staff.

Evaluations and their format or content will not improve leadership and outcomes as much as holistic evaluations of personality skills, and a more unified moral theory of operational aims. Operations, in this sense, meaning deployed, in garrison, in the modern corporate setting of most Federal back offices, or in the board room.

Leadership, like disease or happiness, can be evaluated by the generalized effects surrounding individuals or their projects. Taking the units social temperature is certainly one metric for measuring the effectiveness of leaders, but I have to ask what influence the leaders themselves may have on subordinates' evaluations, and what follow-up actions will come from a 360 leadership review? The fact that this evaluation system is now being implemented suggests a lack of leadership from the very top, as relying on metrics rather than reviews of organizational philosophy and practice seems to be a passive approach to a very real problem.

The private sector doesn't generally use any such 'democratic' processes, but the review system is much more fragmented and more based upon marketable skills. Technical skills are an important aspect of leadership, but so are physical fitness, task effectiveness, communication skills, financial acumen, and a host of others. The civilian leadership model has almost abandoned the evaluation of moral character (except for some like attorneys, doctors, law enforcement, etc.)and professional bearing, probably to the detriment of the workforce. The military model of leadership, on the other hand, has maintained these relatively subjective criteria, and can generally produce effective leaders. Somewhere, there is a disconnect between general concepts of what a leader should be, and what the leader should accomplish. I'm all for the model that the leader should be a respectable, effective person, and that the technical knowledge and outcomes can be learned along the way.


Tue, 10/11/2011 - 8:33am

On the new OER the 360 is not considered. The senior rater only has to check a block indicating the evaluated Soldier has completed or initiated a 360. This is basically a meaningless gesture, much like command climate surveys: the results will be ignored.

Raters and senior raters, particularly at the field grade levels are not stupid - as a rule. They know when a subordinate is not cutting it. When they have a Hail & Farewell and no one from Person X's unit shows up, probably a good indicator things are not going so hot with Person X's unit, etc etc etc. When Person X is always late or unprepared or the last one to "get it", another indicator. So long as Person X's rater can report to his/her rater that the mission is accomplished, Person X gets ignored and Person X's subordinates suffer.

We don't need 360s, we need leaders. Good leaders get out there and they know when their subordinate leaders are not doing the job and they make changes. Very simple.