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  • 27714 Officer Cadet (III) Navarre Hebb: The way I see it – ‘loss of privileges’ order – quite a different perspective

27714 Officer Cadet (III) Navarre Hebb: The way I see it – ‘loss of privileges’ order – quite a different perspective

The way I see it – ‘loss of privileges’ order – quite a different perspective

27714 Officer Cadet (III) Navarre Hebb

Navarre Hebb

I have read the well thought out articles by both Colin Bond and Eliza Bruce and would like to provide a different perspective. I believe the leaders at the college have an overreliance on transactional leadership, which perpetuates the attitude of “Don’t get caught” that the Training Wing has been trying to end. The recent decision to confine cadets to barracks for a week following infractions of the dress standard (referred to herein as the CB), is an example of transactional leadership being exercised, therefore it has not and cannot change RMC’s culture of minimal compliance.

Despite OCdt Bruce’s position that it is not, the reason that reporting is seen as “blading” peers is because the cadet wing does not fully buy in to the rules. The cadet wing only enforces them out of fear of being punished. This encourages the culture of minimal compliance, as soon as cadets know they are out of the eyes of the training wing they fall back to “Don’t get caught”. The goal of the CB was to increase the amount of self-correcting within the cadet body, something necessary to maintain transactional leadership.

In OCdt Bond’s article, neither of the ‘rewards’ listed (Academic morning, Civilian clothing during classes) can be used by the chain of authority, meaning that cadets cannot employ these rewards when they observe outstanding behavior. Bond names three punishments that cadets could give to other cadets, yet has trouble naming a single reward that a cadet in leadership can give another cadet. I can name other punishments, such as lengths and detentions cadets can give each other, but find myself struggling to name a reward I can employ as a cadet leader myself.

The college leadership primarily relies on positive punishment (5s and Gs) and negative punishment (loss of privilege) to discourage undesired behavior. Despite preaching transformational leadership, the training wing seems to fall back on the tenants of transactional leadership regularly. We are told our reward is that we are paid a salary to be here, and that following every rule all the time is the minimum expectation and one will be punished if they fail to conform. This “Management-by-exception” stresses correcting deficient actions without, in any way, promoting the desired behavior. Word for word out of the book on transactional leadership.

Transactional leaders use punishments to gain compliance from their followers. Cadets are taught during psychology courses that punishments are extrinsic motivators that bring minimal compliance from followers. Minimal compliance is the “don’t get caught” mentality the college struggles with.. The CB has increased the level of fear the cadet wing experiences toward the training wing but has undermined ever further the faith the cadet wing has in the training wing’s good intentions. Ruling by fear is hard to maintain, will only result in compliance when leadership is present, and over the long term breeds resentment from the cadet wing.

The CB has had the opposite effect of the intended goal, instead of increasing our buy-in of the rules and making people intrinsically motivated to follow directives, it has made the training wing a feared entity and will only temporarily increase compliance out of fear. Pulling pages from the book on transactional leadership will only get the results of transactional leadership, meaning that the CB will only perpetuate “Don’t get caught” further, not help to eliminate it.

Canadian Armed Forces doctrine discourages the use of transactional leadership, and the college is intended to create officers which follow and embody this doctrine. The best way for us to learn how to use transformational leadership would be for our leadership to follow the Canadian forces leadership doctrine. Directive and contingent reward and punishment are not part of the range this doctrine considers “Transformational Leadership”, and therefore should be reserved for “emergencies and high-stress situations when subordinates may be temporarily disoriented, or thinking may be impaired”. From September until now there has been more than enough time to apply some measure other than directive leadership in enforcing dress standards. This was not an appropriate situation for a directive approach to be used. Doing so perpetuates and justifies this ineffective approach to leadership and helps maintain, not discourage, the undesirable outcomes of transactional leadership.

While I do not believe the CB has accomplished its stated goals, it has been an excellent opportunity to observe how a group responds to a decision like this. Lessons I have learned during and after the CB will guide decisions I make later in my career.

7 Comments

  • OCdt

    April 9, 2018 at 7:03 am

    I think that Hebb hit the nail on the head here. This is exactly what I’ve been thinking, he’s just put it into words. While the DCdts certainly did not overstep what he is entitled to do as a leader, and while it is a way to deal with the situation, I believe it has not helped that much. Transactional leadership is the name of the game at RMC. There is little reward, and it can only be given by the higher levels. Your pay does not feel like a “reward”. Everyone gets paid. There seems to be only punishments. I hate being punished, so I just follow the rules. But it feels like you can get punished for anything and everything sometimes. I don’t know where exactly we’re supposed to learn the transformational leadership style we’re told we’re supposed to have if the primary leadership institution does not show us how it works at all. It is not employed here.

  • Concerned Tax-Paying Citizen

    April 9, 2018 at 9:57 am

    >>>> Your pay does not feel like a “reward”. Everyone gets paid.

    Really. Why don’t you try explaining that to a Queen’s U. student or St Lawrence College student who needs to work part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer, just so that they can pay for the privilege of earning a degree or a diploma that does not guarantee them a career.

    If your pay does not feel like a reward, perhaps you do not really earn it or deserve it.

    If the CF doesn’t ‘reward’ you sufficiently, please consider that it is a volunteer service, and that you have many other educational and employment options.

    >>>> But it feels like you can get punished for anything and everything sometimes.

    Welcome to the military.

  • Don Kennedy

    April 9, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    “Lessons I have learned during and after the CB will guide decisions I make later in my career.”
    That’s fine; however, you will quickly learn to listen to your unit WOs, SSMs and RSMs. Your Sr NCOs don’t really care what definition of leadership you use. Adjectives like “transformational” and/or “transactional” mean dick all to them, and they are no strangers to the benefits of group punishment when a propos. In my experience, Sr NCOs have an innate sense of what is right for each and every disciplinary situation. Pay heed and your future decisions will benefit from their experience and advice.

  • D.K

    April 9, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    I like the transformational-approach that you suggest where leadership endeavours to inspire and empower (vice coerce) members to adhere to the rules and norms, and also like that you recognize that there is a place for punitive measures.

    Obedience to the rules seems to be a key ingredient that contributes to organizational effectiveness; but what is not conclusive is whether the carrot or the stick (or a combination of both) is the best way to achieve it. The punitive approach is systemic: all municipal, provincial, or federal regulations have punitive measures for when rules are broken – even for something as small or minor as a parking violation. I’m not sure whether this is because the punitive approach is inherently more effective (than rewards) in bringing about the desired behaviours; or whether a transformational-approach / reward-based transactional approach is pragmatically too costly in time, money, and effort to achieve desired outcomes; or maybe the reliance on a punitive approach is simply outdated dogma that has been mindlessly carried forward through time.

    Either way, it’s heartening to see you question of one of the fundamental meme’s of society and institutional norms, and it lends hope to the vibrancy and success of the institution and to the quality of the officership that is being developed. Please continue sharing those unique perspectives!

    Cheers,
    D.K

  • Paul Ritchie

    April 9, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Things have not changed from earlier days, where the unofficial motto was “TDV, and don’t get caught”. The author is correct; it is one consequence of transactional leadership.

    The reward discussion might be a red herring. What’s the reward for following the speed limit, staying off the grass, separating recyclables from regular garbage and other rules in everyday life? Nothing really, just knowing you are fulfilling your responsibilities and contributing to a better community. Enhancing or maintaining esprit de corps is the parallel in the military context.

    I don’t really understand the complete backstory. Did repeated infractions lead to the Training Wing imposing sanctions on the Cadet Wing? That would involve multiple points of failure at various levels.

  • Darren Rich

    April 9, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    An interesting article and BZ to OCdt Hebb for having the courage to write it. What was missing and would have been very interesting to see, were proposed courses of action to help change the culture that my good friend Paul highlights.

    He will soon discover after he arrives at his first unit and becomes a full-fledged member of the chain of command is that it is well and fine to raise an issue but it is even better, and a trait that is sought after by his superiors, if he is also able to provide suggested courses of action to fix the issue. Throughout my years in leadership positions either as a Marine Systems Engineering Officer, a Section Head at a maintenance facility, a Chief of Staff, a Liaison Officer in a foreign HQ, and finally as a Commanding Officer I always fostered the philosophy of, “don’t bring me problems (the very word itself carries a lot of baggage), bring me issues with well thought out courses of action to address them.” If he can do that he will be well on his way to separate himself from the other staff around him. And, yes, rely upon your Senior NCOs and superiors. It never hurts to ask for guidance and mentorship along the way.

    Good luck in your career!

  • J.S.

    April 9, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    My main point is that there is a ‘troops to task’ analysis that has to happen at RMC, and it needs to be willing to make hard choices. But first:

    “Listen to your Snr NCOs” is not useful when it comes to developing officers at RMC. I do not say this because I disagree with the intent of your statement, as Snr NCOs provide the practical knowledge about how to deal with soldiers on a daily basis and are the best resource available to a YO looking to perform well as a leader. However, it is completely unacceptable to write off 4 years of salaried, pensionable time by indicating that the Cadets should just listen to their Snr NCOs anyways. Surely some beneficial training could happen in the meantime. In fact, why not introduce these OCdts to the wonderful mentors that are Snr NCOs earlier?

    RMC does have professional military staff, but only about 1 Captain and 1 Sgt for every 100 OCdts, so that mentorship really only applies for the one or two senior cadets who are otherwise in charge of the other 99 cadets. The problem is exacerbated when those professional military members usually work 0700-1600, so there is precious little time for one-on-one time with the cadets. Furthermore, that time is allocated to the bottom 10% (“administrative burdens” as it has become colloquially known in the CAF), which leaves out the large middle section of cadets who would benefit most from applied mentorship.

    The real problem with RMC is partially that the reward structure is completely skewed towards academics, which makes it much less effective at military training. The main attraction of RMC is money. Academic costs are covered PLUS a salary for students – incredible! All I have to do is complete my education and pay lip service to the other rules and regulations? Maybe I’ll go the extra mile, but at the end of the day, when you get that ‘D for Degree’ at RMC, I’ll still be a commissioned officer. RMC has tried for decades now to get its cadets to go that extra mile, and it hasn’t necessarily improved the overall quality of its graduates in terms of leadership – which is the desired end state of the institution. So why not just divorce the attempt at leadership training from the academics? We’re a commonwealth nation, so using the Sandhurst model seems sensible from a historical perception, and we could never spend enough money to rival the resources that the USA has, so why try to emulate Westpoint? I would never want to see the academic wing out their jobs and research capabilities, as they truly are some of the best individuals employed at RMC. However, the ability to focus on academic, then military skills, would be hugely beneficial in achieving both. Civilian universities would weed out people who are unable to self-discipline, and deliver cost-effective education. The military training could be staffed adequately with mentors, and consequences for breaking military regulations, such as dress and deportment, would be easier to enforce, since the state hasn’t already invested three years of salary into those individuals. Complete reimbursement of academic costs would be given upon completion of the leadership training, with financial assistance being available for students who need it to pay for the university. Deductions to pay would be made retroactively if they succeed in their total training.

    The current system at RMC doesn’t have enough mentoring, too much focus on academics to the detriment of the other pillars, and results in what amounts to a formalized hazing process that tests the patience of these individuals, but not necessarily their leadership abilities.