Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Leader Development at West Point

Some time ago I had the privilege of visiting the US Military Academy (West Point) to learn how they develop leaders.  The following is a short summary of their development model.  Note the emphasis on spiritual and ethical leader development as part of their foundation for growing leaders.

“The West Point Experience (WPE) is the primary developmental vehicle for accomplishing the military Academy’s mission.*  There are two main ways to describe the WPE:  how the cadets experience it, and how it is organized and implemented by the Military Academy. The cadets experience growth in six primary areas: intellectual, military, physical, spiritual, ethical, and social. The three primary developmental programs are Academic, Military, and Physical.

“Three domains focus on acquisition and application of professional knowledge and expertise. These domains are Intellectual, Military, and Physical. The intellectual domain focuses on a well-grounded and wide range education. They are required and expected to think critically, and to anticipate and respond effectively to a changing world. The military domain focuses on the warrior ethos and the winning spirit. This domain trains for real combat and military context. The physical domain focuses on the physical development of the soldier.

“The spiritual domain focuses on two aspects: character is rooted in the essence of who we are as individuals, and discerning who we are, is a lifelong search for meaning. This domain has two areas it focuses on, spiritual fitness and opportunities for spiritual growth. The ethical domain focuses on linking ones spirituality to the ethical norms of their profession. The four areas focused on in this domain are the warfighter, servant of the nation, member of a profession, and leader of character. The social domain focuses on the “Do.” It is not enough to know everything needed, one needs to choose to act in the right way.

“Principles of leader-subordinate relationships are listed.
• Leaders and subordinates abide by the ethical standards of our profession
• Leaders and subordinates demonstrate mutual loyalty and teamwork
• Leaders and subordinates never gain or seek privilege at the expense of others
• Leaders and subordinates respect each others dignity and worth
• Leaders and subordinates accept responsibility for their own actions
• Leaders establish clear, attainable objectives and standards
• Leaders motivate and inspire subordinates
• Leaders enable communication
• Leaders promote self-esteem and provide constructive evaluation of duty performance, enabling improvement and development”

* United States Military Academy Mission:  To educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country; professional growth throughout a career as an officer in the United States Army; and a lifetime of service to the Nation.

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