Where, precisely, is the fine line between an exacting, razor-sharp leader of soldiers and a complete tool of an officer? The answer to that question may determine the fate of Col. Christopher Lambesis, "a mountain of human muscle” nicknamed “Big Nasty,” who’s accused by his Arizona National Guard superiors of being, well, too much of a hardass.
The process of separating from the military is complex and can become overwhelming for service members. Ensuring every box on a checkout sheet is signed off on takes time and effort from transitioning service members. Service members only have one chance to get this process right and create the best conditions for success in the civilian world. While the current formal transition model is already flawed, it is not agencies like the departments of Defense and Labor alone that are contributing to a suboptimal process of turning service members into veterans. Military leaders from noncommissioned officers through high-ranking commanders can have a greater influence on the individual experiences of their subordinates than any agency. Military leaders and commands regularly fail to provide the right climate for transition and offer little support once service members decide to separate rather than reenlist.
A great deal of time and effort has been spent by military leaders trying to seek out and prevent horrible command climates. The term often used is “toxic.” Time and effort is spent on sexual harassment and equal opportunity training, suicide awareness, and risk management in order to demonstrate that unit leaders “are doing something” and care about their soldiers.
When poor leaders make it into the general and flag officer ranks, it can really be destructive to the military profession and unit effectiveness. It’s no different in the civilian world where people are even less likely to point out that the emperor has no clothes for fear of losing their job. Below are 17 sayings from senior leaders demonstrating poor leadership that I overheard as an aide-de-camp for three well-known successful generals. People who habitually say these things or act in this manner can send organizations hurtling in the wrong direction unless there was a very strong team of soldiers, noncommissioned officers, and junior officers to keep the unit on track despite their failing commander.