A Cancer in the Army: Identifying and Removing Toxic Leaders

  • Lieutenant Colonel K. Scott Katrosh

This paper addresses the wicked problem of toxic leadership in the U.S. Army. The paper begins by defining toxic leadership, explaining the scope of the challenge, describing its effects on subordinates and units, and examining current barriers to identification of toxic leaders. The paper explores methods to identify toxic leaders within the U.S. Army. Finally, the paper describes tools available to remove toxic leaders from military service. Taming this wicked problem requires positive and effective leadership at all levels. Leaders must first help establish a military culture that encourages Soldiers to report toxic behavior without fear of reprisal. Leaders must also make the hard choices necessary to document and remove toxic leaders from military service. The Army is moving in the right direction with several new initiatives including revamping the Officer Evaluation Report system and implementing the Commander 360 evaluations. The Army must continue to monitor and expand upon these initiatives to demonstrate its commitment to rid toxic leaders from its ranks and to protect the integrity of the military profession.