I will start this article with the short answer to avoid the “click-bait” criticism: no, it will not.
Recently, I sat on a mentorship panel with a room full of eager NCOs and this topic came up amongst the masses. It should come as no surprise, but not a single person in the room thought this course would make them a better leader. In fact, I am curious if there is anyone out there who thinks it does make you a better leader. Bottom-line is no book or class will make you a better leader; only you can do that.
I have read hundreds of books on leadership, listened to thousands of podcast episodes and sought mentorship very feverishly over the years. My goal was to consume everything I could on the topic because it is a topic that truly interests me. My conclusion after 25 years of purposeful study is others can only give me a different perspective on a theory, a topic, a situation, another person and, most importantly, myself; however, none of them have the power to change who I am. Only I can make that change based on the perspectives I choose to adopt from the experiences I have.
So, what does any of this have to do with Course 15? Everything. I think the material that makes up this course and the material within Course 14 is very good. It is a great collection of subjects and theories appropriate for the NCO and SNCO. It is material taken from countless years of experience and research from very smart leaders and it is packaged in a way for us to understand. The problem is it is just like any other course or book; we only get out of it what we want to.
None of us want to be forced to do anything and this is being forced down our throats…I get it. Because of this, most of us approach the course with the purpose to get it out of our lives. I know that is how I tackled Course 14v5 and 14v6. To be honest that is also how I approached ALS, NCOA, SNCOA and lots of my college classes. I wanted to complete them and hopefully learn something. I admit, none of them made me an outright better leader. They did help me with my introversion and desire to avoid group work, but a better leader I was not.
It never really hit me until talking with this group of NCOs and one said, “at least with CDCs, there is OJT.” This young SSgt helped me understand this from a different perspective. We can easily measure and even quantify tasks required to earn a new skill level. How can you quantify OJT for leadership skills? Do we set up training tasks to deliver paperwork, counsel others, make tough decisions and then measure them? With making these PME courses mandatory at certain year marks, we can kind of measure this a bit now.
The question still lingers…will THIS make us better leaders? Still the answer is no. We need to understand this and realize leaders are forged from their journeys and experiences. Books are not a substitute, but they are a springboard. I love reading chunks from a book and then having discussions with others about what they think. I am ALWAYS surprised by what comes out of this discussion. Still we are not better leaders, but we have a different perspective. Having all of our peers receive the same material at the same point in our careers should help facilitate these discussions.
Do the course. Try to learn from this material that has been collected. Look at the different perspectives and try to learn who you are as a leader. Then reach out to others and ask them how they got to a particular decision or share something you did and ask for feedback. Trial and error are great teachers if you can be open to learning from the results. Finally, you continue to seek learning opportunities and repeat the trial and error process while seeking feedback and repeat, repeat, repeat.
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