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The Effective Use of Stories in Army Leadership Training

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Tue Sep 01 2009

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Written by Jeffrey Horey in the September '09 issue of T&D Magazine...

Facing high-risk and turbulent external environments, leaders at all levels make decisions paramount to long-term organizational success, particularly in the U.S. Army.

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Recently, frequent deployments and decreased opportunities for institutional learning have placed a premium on the effectiveness of multi-source feedback, mentoring, and other methods to accelerate development of Army leadership competencies and to inculcate Army values. Amid resource constraints, the Center for Army Leadership (CAL) strives to improve leader development through acceleration of competency acquisition.

Stories, as exemplars, present a powerful and motivational tool for leaders at all levels to better understand what the Army expects from them. Meaningful stories are easily remembered and have long been a device to transmit the culture, beliefs, and history of an organization.

However, relatively little is known about how the content and context of an exemplar is related to individual learner development and retention. CAL and ICF International are currently developing a library of leadership exemplars to better communicate effective leadership behavior throughout the Army.

The intent is for the stories to be concise and clear examples of various doctrinal competencies. This article reports the results of an examination of how exemplar gender, timeframe, rank, and situational context affect perceptions of the story effectiveness.

Exemplars come from a variety of sources such as books, videos, and blogs, and include leaders in a range of levels and circumstances. Each exemplar can typically be reviewed in less than 10 minutes. The library could be used for individual self development or in the classroom.

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