Welcome to the seventh post in the ProDev2Go Major Series. This series focuses on the transition from Company Grade To Field Grade Officer.
Today we have ProDev2Go’s first Guest Post from none other than Major Casey Dean. Casey is an Army officer with a curiosity for leader development and the potential of connections. He’s currently in the middle of his second tour as an AfPak hand.
Enjoy learning how and when to change styles.
We’ve all heard about Iron Majors, the field grade officers that pride themselves on hard work and mission accomplishment. While NCOs are the backbone of the Army, Iron Majors can be described as the cogs that drive the larger wheels. At the division-level and below this means close coordination across the formation and always thinking about what’s over the next hill. It also can mean fighting for resources for your organization, so your Troopers have the resources they need. Assertiveness and a capacity to put out the day’s fires are great assets to the Iron Major, but are those same skills needed after your KD assignment?
Should Iron Majors go into broadening assignments with the same frame of mind? Do the same skills and abilities that made you successful in passing the litmus test for future battalion command make you successful in jobs at echelons above brigade? Many of the same skills apply when you’re outside of your KD billet. However, your perspective must be appropriate with the job. It can be difficult to shift from thinking at the tactical level for so many years and then transitioning to operational and strategic-level thinking. This includes shifting your mindset from 0-45 days out, or occasionally working on the long-range training calendar (knowing it will all likely fall apart) to the development of long-term engagements and programs that could take years before they see the light of day. Looking five years ahead to determine outcomes and objectives can be very similar to planning a gunnery, if you just tweak your horizon a bit.
During a broadening assignment, teamwork is paramount. A little less Han and a little more Luke will go a long way when working in a joint, interagency, intergovernmental, or multi-national (JIIM) environment. Some assignments include engagements with other militaries where our words and actions don’t just represent a battalion, branch, or Service, but potentially the entire US Government. Many of our JIIM partners don’t speak the same language or take kindly to the same gruff approach that makes many field grade officers successful at the brigade level. This broad spectrum increases the cultural gap between you and your teammates. Cultivating your sense of empathy, or an understanding of another person’s feelings, is valuable skill. Simon Sinek writes in “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t” that empathy “is the most important instrument in a leader’s toolbox”. An understanding of your partner nation or JIIM partners will go a long way in bridging these divides.
The third ability that assists you was previously discussed in the ProDev2Go Major Series. Learning how to control emotions, especially when dealing with bad news, will help tremendously in future assignments. The TTPs COL Coffman wrote about when dealing with bad news from subordinates, peers, and bosses are a great asset. Keeping your cards closer to your chest and a calm head will lead to clear thinking and problem-solving solutions instead of emotional outbursts.
As you prepare for life after KD (it will happen) take some time to sit, think, and write on how you’ll need to shift your approach in your future assignment. Shifting your viewpoint both below and over the horizon, using empathy to help build bridges in new work environments, and keeping your emotions in check when bad news arrives will go a long way to helping you in your broadening assignment. Remember, the skills and abilities that got you here aren’t the same ones that will make you successful moving forward.
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