Posted on Oct 16, 2020
GySgt Kenneth Pepper
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"Toxic Leadership". The new normal or just overused?

Is it just me or is the term "Toxic leadership" being overplayed? It seems to me that every other SM on here complains about their leadership as if they are monsters, when a lot of the time it is likely just good old fashioned military leadership. Based off of the answers from some of the active Officers, NCO and SNCOs on here it seems like that culture is being fostered. Am I alone?
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Responses: 4
CSM Chuck Stafford
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Gunny, soldiers complain - that's to be expected. Some complaints are leadership issues and need to be worked through. Some complaints are toxic leadership issues and need to be aggressively excised as soon as they are recognized. Knowing the difference, educating those in your sphere of influence to know the difference, and acting appropriately with the right sense of focused urgency can counter the overused perception
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SFC Casey O'Mally
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Both? Can I answer both?

I think it is a combination of factors. First, as the term has become more mainstream, more people are recognizing it and calling it out. Sort of like when the military went on their big sexual harassment and assault education campaign, and the number of reports spiked. Incidents didn't go up; REPORTING of incidents did.

Second, the newer generation of Soldiers is softer. Just like we are a bit softer than the ones before us, who were a bit softer than the ones before them. I say that with no malice or spite. I like to think of myself as being willing to embrace the suck. But I seriously doubt I would have survived the Bataan Death March or the Chosin Reservoir. I know how much I bitched and complained about AC going out in Iraq... What about before AC even existed? Depression era Soldiers were hardened by the Depression. WWII Soldiers were hardened by the Depression and by the War. Korea Soldiers grew up with the hardships of WWII, and so on.
My generation (Gen X) had no real hardships at home (as a generation we didn't - plenty of individuals did). But we at least had parents who knew hardship and wouldn't take shit from their kids... We grew up with standing up to bullies (even if it meant getting your ass kicked), not reporting them to teacher. I am not saying everything was perfect, there were definitely mistakes, but we grew up with a backbone. When my Generation, who had known no *real* hardship started raising kids, who also knew no real hardship, we let them grow up soft. They have been taught that you don't solve your own problems, you tattle to an authority figure who will solve them for you. They have been taught that "talking it out" is the best solution to every problem. And so when they get their feelings hurt (sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly), they do what they have been taught through life... They tattle.

Third, new Soldiers today, as a group, are smarter. They have more of a desire for autonomy (while, paradoxically actually being less autonomous). They have more of a desire to (and sense of entitlement to) be part of the decison-making process. As a result, they are much less likely to accept "because I outrank you" as an acceptable justification - even though in the military, it is the only justification needed. This is not entirely a bad thing because it does require leaders to put more thought into justifying (I.e. fully planning and critically evaluating plans) their plans and execution. It also require leaders to "communicate consistently with my Soldiers and never leave them uninformed" (which is part of the Army NCO Creed). There are obvious drawbacks, but no one considers the positives.

Finally, I do believe that there is a little bit more of an "open season" effect here on RP. Young Soldiers see thos as a place that they can come and get advice from people completely outside their CoC. They use it to some extent, in my opinion, as a sounding board to see if their complaint is valid before bringing it up the chain. I think this is because (again, totally my opinion) despite the riles against retribution for EO, SHARP, or whistleblowing, there are no rules aginst complaints of poor treatment (outside of the above, obviously) or crappy leaders. And when you complain to 1SG about a crappy gunny, you can BET that 1SG is going to tell gunny. And you can also bet that your life will become worse because of it. Doubly so if you are bringing up complaints that are not legitimate. So if you can bring them up on here to check yourself BEFORE going to 1SG, why WOULDN'T you?
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1stSgt Operations Manager
1stSgt (Join to see)
7 mo
SFC Casey O'Mally , really good response. Thanks.
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MAJ(P) Eugene Chu
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Toxic leadership does exist in our military. While some may consider complaints to be generational gap, we have had officers and NCOs get relieved for legitimate reasons. Serious off-duty misconduct, egregious hypocrisy or illegal actions are some of the example behaviors of why the term exists.

https://taskandpurpose.com/leadership/military-toxic-leadership-problem
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GySgt Kenneth Pepper
GySgt Kenneth Pepper
7 mo
I agree that it does exist because I have seen it at command level. It almost cost me a well deserved promotion. My point is that it seems that the definition is being broadened to the point of losing it's meaning. As the article you included points out, a toxic leader is one who fails not only the mission they are tasked to lead, but they fail the people they are supposed to be leading.
I have seen it used to describe 1SGTs who make field day failures get reinspected on Saturday morning. Hardly toxic.
Even worse I have seen active, retired and former Officers and SNCOs suggest loopholes to E-1 to E4 SMs on how to circumvent the system or avoid following lawful orders.
I realize every generation is suspect of thinking the new generation is soft. I am probably guilty as anyone. Or maybe it is because there has never been a forum with such open discussion between junior troops and (current and former) senior leaders. Either way, I cringe every time I see a PFC who got yelled at for doing something stupid get coddled by members of this group.
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