Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thankfully, the Navy does not have this problem - 'toxic leaders'

Army worries about ‘toxic leaders’ in ranks
By Greg Jaffe
Published: June 25; Washington Post

A major U.S. Army survey of leadership and morale found that more than 80 percent of Army officers and sergeants had directly observed a “toxic” leader in the last year and that about 20 percent of the respondents said that they had worked directly for one.

The Army defined toxic leaders as commanders who put their own needs first, micro-managed subordinates, behaved in a mean-spirited manner or displayed poor decision making. About half of the soldiers who worked under toxic leaders expected that their selfish and abusive commanders would be promoted to a higher level of leadership.

The survey also found that 97 percent of officers and sergeants had observed an “exceptional leader” within the Army in the past year.

“This may create a self-perpetuating cycle with harmful and long-lasting effects on morale, productivity and retention of quality personnel,” the survey concluded. “There is no indication that the toxic leadership issue will correct itself.”

“We are looking at the command selection process asking how can we introduce 360-degree evaluations,” General Martin Dempsey (the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) said in a meeting with reporters this spring. “We can ask a battalion commander, does the senior commander [over him] engender a climate of trust.” Such an approach could help weed out toxic leaders.


CWO4 Brian Ashpole, USN-Retired said...

I had one - that's why I retired when I did. Wasn't going to take it anymore.

Anonymous said...

"Thankfully, the Navy does not have this problem - 'toxic leaders'"

- Are you serious or playing the 'troll' role?

Anonymous said...

DJ Sheehan

I find your comment most naieve.
Currently a family member is serving under a "Diversity Quotient" Squandron Commander who has been found "UNSAT" for reasons specifically defined in the "toxic"
commentary, and allowed to remain in command until his normal rotation occurs. This Commander has also been told to ready his retirement papers since he will not be granted any further duties.
The Navy, ref. Holly Graf as the prime example, is certainly not absent toxic commanders.

Anonymous said...

Until the Navy leaves the Caste System....we will be never change....I have a degree therefore I am an officer and better than you...The military in general breeds this type of "toxic leadership" Do away with the rank structure and see how the natural leaders rise to the top...Leadership is not learned from a textbook. However, the Navy promotes on a system that blindly promotes it's people through the "Selection Board" process. How naive is that? The game is lost before it has started...The best leaders have already gotten out because of this very reason....

Anonymous said...

The Navy has just as many Toxic leaders as the Army does.

Big navy wonders why they can't keep and maintain quality officers and it's for this very reason. Too often they promote those that stay and they do more harm then good. For example if you are a ship CO and you have had more than 2 suicide attempts in your wardroom then it's time someone comes in too take a look or just out right fire you. But they don't because of any number of reasons or excuses.
Thanks fully I work for one of the best CO's I have ever had in my 22 year naval career but the good one's are few and far between.

s said...

Getting rid of toxic MUST start at the top. Apart from a few people who are just toxic by their nature, I suspect the overwhelming majority of those deemed to be toxic are toxic due to what is coming at them from their chains of command, and not from a deep-seated desire to ruin their commands.

Anonymous said...

Captain Lambert,

This post as one would expect brings out all manner of opinions, mostly from those who have had a bad personal experience with their leaders. In 24 years service I found only one Skipper that I felt would fit the title of being, toxic. What I did find was a number of subordinates to the CO, on ships that I had served, complaining of the CO being as one might say, toxic. That could have been that the CO had to stay on these Officers to get them to do the job that they were required to do to perform the mission. Anyone that cannot stand to get corrected or chewed out by their superiors on occasion is in the wrong occupation. I always felt that some of the things that the OOD or JOOD underway were reprimanded for was a part of their training, and not a thing to be considered toxic.

Very Respectfully,

Anonymous said...

The first leader I had, in A school, was a toxic leader. He ended up getting relieved of his position. Thankfully have only had one other in the 14 years I've served since then - a Navy warship captain. Also thankfully, I only had to endure him for seven months until the change of command replaced him with a fine leader.

Nutz said...

Fits right in with the post about Mulitplyers and Diminishers
Good book by the way, appears that the "Black shoe" world is filled with "Toxic Leaders" (

however, from my experiance, the airdale world is no different. Some of it, IMHO, come from the lack of leadership opportunity early on in the officers career and the focus of the Navy's view of leadership development.

Anonymous said...

Every leader I ever had was (and is) a toxic leader. They expect me to work and all I want to do is collect a paycheck...Why can't they leave me alone? Somebody else will pick up the slack.

Captain - Special Duty Cryptology said...

Anon @ 1150AM

Great sense of humor!!

Anonymous said...

CAPT I assume you are being ironic. The difference between the Army and the Navy, at the moment, is the Army has been in continuous combat for 10 years and stretched to the breaking point, forcing them to confront their weaknesses - toxic leaders prominent among them. The Navy is in the opposite situation - mostly adrift. So the Navy has taken a different tack - they make the toxic leaders flags.