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Developing leaders is critical for the Army; given the amount of time officers spend in units, that experience should be important to their development. Yet few studies indicate whether Army units even have leader development programs, and, if they do, what the programs consist of and how well they are executed. To gain insight into these issues, Arroyo Center researchers met with over 450 officers (lieutenants through colonels) to discuss leader development within Army units. The discussions revealed that no set of activities exists that could be characterized as a standard unit-level leader development program. Instead, leader development tends to be informal, personality-driven, and dependent on the abilities, experience, and inclinations of the unit commander. The researchers do not recommend that the Army impose more formal programs or requirements on commanders, but instead that the Army’s school system demonstrate the proper way to do counseling; introduce Army leaders to an array of leader development tools that could be adapted to a unit’s needs in different situations; and, most importantly, foster the expectation that leader development will take place, according to Army standards, in operational units. The authors note that the Center for Army Leadership can support these efforts by fostering the sharing of leader development tools and ideas, possibly online, and exercising continuing quality control over the ideas being shared, based at least in part on user feedback.

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The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.

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