Leadership selection should be based on performance

| January 31, 2023

Stuart Scheller of the Military Times provides a recommendation for the next President to fix the military. This fix begins with leadership, which impacts organizational performance. Scheller uses the NFL’s selection process as an example of what could be adapted in the military. Instead of what he calls a nepotistic production process, Scheller proposes a selection process that tests performance for the position (general officer) that candidates are vying for.

From the military Times:

In a chapter on military genius, Clausewitz described military leaders’ need for courage: “Courage is of two kinds: courage in the face of personal danger, and the courage to accept responsibility, either before the tribunal of some outside power or before the court of one’s own conscience.”

Unfortunately, Clausewitz specifically stated he would not explore the second quality, moral courage, in his book. He didn’t understand or didn’t care to explore a military system’s influence on leadership quality, or, by extension, the military’s overall performance. Said succinctly, there can be no military genius if the system doesn’t allow it.

The problem with the current military system is that it degrades moral courage over time.

It compels subordinates to please superiors for high subjective evaluations, many times at the expense of performance and honesty. This people-pleasing system is further weakened by a need for fairness, inclusion and timecard punching instead of performance.

It’s worth noting that the term “general” officer literally denotes that an officers’ background is irrelevant. These officers theoretically are generalists possessing a war-fighting ability superior to all others.

A “general” officer is someone graduating from military apprenticeship by demonstrating mastery in all aspects of military warfare.

However, reality demonstrates that America’s general officers are selected for an infinite number of reasons other than war-fighting performance. The need for inclusion and fairness affects all things.

The next U.S. president must dramatically reshuffle this entire process. A needed shock to the dying system would be a performance-based war game for all general officers, which would determine continued military service and advancement.

The first round of losers should be sent home to retirement. The subsequent rounds should determine the most prestigious positions for America’s general officers.

Stuart Scheller details his viewpoint on this topic at the Military Times.

Category: Military issues

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With liberals in charge, this will degerate into “who you know” and “building relationships” for sucess.


Or who can hack the system/game it best. kobiashi Maroo (sp)?


That might be an improvement.
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Kobayashi Maru.

丸, ~maru, is a suffix added after a vessel’s name.


For real:


Or “mentoring” and “sponsorhip” as Harvey Weinstein calls it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Anonymous

Yes, but winning at all cost should not be the grade. It should be a series of challenges, to include logistics, Intelligence evaluation, logistics, maneuver, logistics, personnel mentoring and leadership, logistics, medical prioritization, and innovation.
I won’t harp on my own failings, but one thing I got very little of was mentoring during my 24+ years. Officers were so worried about gaming the system that they failed it. I had two superiors (other than my very first team leader in the Rangers) actually conduct initial counselling when I worked for them…both of which did not actually give me an evaluation. Most of my Senior raters only talked to me about my career during my 15 minutes to sign my evaluation.


Don’t forget logistics!!!



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Omar Bradley, Rommel and H. Norman Schwarzkopf said it too, so take yer pick I guess.


I had suggested a new way to run the evaluation system: All Senior Raters were required to put every officer they rate in their profile. Numbered 1-n. Each quarter at a minimum they were required to relook their evaluation. In order to move someone up or down they had to provide positive or negative couseling. This would help them write their final evaluation, and would move away from rewarding favorites when their eval came due early. However good officers know how to write an eval even if they “don’t have room in their profile”.


How much wokey is okay dokey?
There’s your first major battle right there.


I’m pretty sure it’s been found that promoting people based on performance is rayciss.

Old tanker

So you want a civilian president, one almost certain to have never served in ANY military function, nor trained to even recognize a military force, to become an expert in selecting top military leaders.

Nothing could possibly go wrong with that… except it is exactly how the senior military leadership got to it’s present condition…


Dwight D. Eisenhower. I was just a kid but my dad often spoke
of him and why we needed such leaders going forward.
Long time ago eh?


Most generals in the Army served as a General’s Aide at some point.

Green Thumb

If they cannot bench press 225, then send them to the showers.

That would balance the federal budget.

Veritas Omnia Vincit

Ideally any rating system should involve a sort of double blind review of the pertinent data collected on performance. Meaning that none of the raters know which individual the material in front of them relates to so they aren’t ranking or rating on who they know but on the data provided.

Currently the systems seems geared towards ranking on the least controversial, least dissent, least objectionable. Which to put it nicely is ranking on mediocrity…those who never offend with their dissent, are never objectionable, and never controversial in their actions or commentary are also never innovative or inspirational. Instead they are risk averse tapioca pudding style leaders.

You need some people in leadership roles that are somewhat fiery in nature and plain spoken to cut through the bullshit and get to the objectives in front of them.

When you rank for excellence without concern for pleasantness you tend to get excellence first, as opposed to whatever the hell it is we do now.


Well stated, VOV… 👍 


I don’t know how they fix this system. The Army is full of so many ticket punching careerists in the field grades and junior generals that only a major war will winnow them out.


Unfortunately, Counselor, the number of senior field grades and general officers who fall in war is essentially miniscule.

What will winnow them out, however, is their lethal ineptitude and losing a war, also unfortunate, both for those they lead and the country as a whole.

Getting our asses decisively kicked out of the Western Pacific by the Chicoms may be just such an event.

A terrible price to pay to free ourselves of such a corrupt system… 😣 



I’d agree if war (and MOOTW) were a science rather than an art.

All art is the application of science, whether it’s in mixing and applying paint to a canvas or training and deploying weapons systems. Techniques, on some level, are codified tactics – but any codification falls apart as the scale gets grander and the problem less predictable. There’s a large and growing subjectivity to assessing how one commands at higher and higher echelons, and “excellence” is a term that demands posterity more than prediction.

When you rank for (presumed) excellence, you invite the very system you warn against; leaders are appointed for their ability to be uncontroversial because “excellence” is defined by imperfect variables.

In this, I posit that personal judgment of how a candidate operates – off-paper and under duress – is worth more than any favoritism a double-blind approach might sidestep. Assuming that judge is, himself, judged on merit rather than politics.

Dennis - not chevy

One problem, as I saw it when I was on active duty, is the career mentality. I had a desire to pull my hair out by the roots each time I heard an instructor talk to trainees about their careers. What careers? They had enlistments. Each member has a service commitment, be it 2, 4, 6, whatever many years. What is wrong with serving the commitment and going home? No, it was all about going for 20 or more years. Same with officers, do your commitment and go home. Leave the careers to those who can and want to do them.
With everyone going for 20, everything is about getting checklists filled out; one has to do off-duty education (taking courses that have nothing to do with their AFSCs, MOSs, or NECs), volunteering, participating in the unit’s sports teams, getting the showiest additional duties, impressing the higher-ups, and maybe doing their jobs. It’s like Catch-22 again, if I make this decision will it give me a black eye; mustn’t smudge the performance report.

Veritas Omnia Vincit

Indeed when you reward risk aversion you get cautious leadership that weighs every decision based on the furtherance of a career as opposed to getting the job done in a timely and effective manner.

Risk aversion is great when it comes to capital investments in weapon systems, buildings, and foreign entanglements….

Not so much when there is an actual physical conflict that needs resolution through force of arms, where leadership decides to act decisively for the best outcome of the mission and the personnel conducting the mission…in those moments risk aversion costs lives and materiel….


It costs lives and materiel. That doesn’t seem to translate to lost investment in the risk-averse. If anything, it’s those who rock the boat that are jettisoned. It appears that sailing in blind calm is preferable to enduring those who walk from gunnel to gunnel, looking to spot the torpedoes that eventually will be launched.


Just ask Lloyd “Don’t worry Mr. President, ISIS is the JV team” Austin how he failed his way all the way to the top to where he is.

Then do whatever you can to make sure that crap doesn’t happen again in the future.

Forest Bondurant

Precisely. That cocksucker and his lackey Milley didn’t have the courage to resign after Biden surrendered in Afghanistan.

Two perfect examples of people put in leadership positions but don’t have the moral courage required of those positions.


“after Biden surrendered”

And the result if Trump had won would be different because….? Other than the fact that Trump’s goal was to “surrender” 3 months earlier.


If you actually read the agreement, Trump’s accord with the Taliban was contingent upon their actions – which they had failed to uphold.

Of course, none of us know whether President Trump would have held them to those requirements, as there was no President Trump at the time to make that call. To assume in either direction is an exercise in bias, not analysis.

What we do know is that President Biden held them to no such standard.

We can argue grand strategy forever over whether it was right or wrong to pull out of Afghanistan at that time, and I see valid arguments from both sides.

The only argument I’ve ever seen posited for why we pulled out the way we did is because we had to pull out then and that there was no better way to do so.

That argument simply doesn’t hold water.

*edited for grammar, only

Last edited 1 year ago by Hate_me

“Trump’s accord with the Taliban was contingent upon their actions”

You are absolutely correct. All I can say is Ooops! On the bright side, this should increase my humility, which I am told is a virtue.

Of course there was a better way. And I hold those who implemented the withdrawal (military and state dept.) responsible for the chaos and general upfuckedness. They are, allegedly, expert in such things and did have a year or so to plan and prepare.


As far as I know, neither Trump nor Biden ever cancelled our intent to withdraw. On the contrary, from what I have read both Trump and Biden remained committed to withdrawal in spite of Taliban violations of the agreement.

“April 18 — In a released statement, Trump criticizes Biden’s Sept. 11 withdrawal deadline saying, “we can and should get out earlier.” … I planned to withdraw on May 1st, and we should keep as close to that schedule as possible.” ”


tom reynolds

I’m positive that President Trump wouldn’t have left behind 85 billion dollars worth of weaponry for our enemies. Just saying.


So he (we) would have left the Afghan Army with nothing but some used AK-47s and his best wishes?


“Leadership should be based on performance.” Hell’s bells, now-a-days it is. As in “who can perform as a trained puppy” or “who can perform the best as fellatio” and “who can perform with a double lip lock firmly upon the buttocks of the ones that rate the performance”… Get the picture? Military leadership should be determined by who has the skills to lead Warriors in the Defense of the Constitution of these States United AND these States United against ALL enemies, foreign and domestic.

Political oriented ossifers (and enlisted) have been around since the days of The Society of The Cincinnati. And always will be. How many political ossifers did Ol’ Abe burn thru until he found The Butcher Grant? “Find out what he drinks, I’ll send a barrel to all of my other Generals.”

George S. Patton, weeps.

Prior Service

The army’s new command selection process is starting to move in this direction. It starts with the traditional board of eligible officers where a panel of seniors evaluates their file of evals and record brief (where they’ve been, what they’ve done). Those selected as principals or alternates for BN or BDE command then go to the in-person assessment which includes fitness, writing, leadership reaction course, psych eval, and a blind panel interview by colonels or generals. This includes an assessment of their risk for bad leadership by a diff psych. Also, the panel reviews an anonymous survey by peers and subordinates. Ultimately that panel assesses them as either ready or not ready for command. The five day assessment results in changing the results of the traditional board by almost thirty percent in terms of ready or not, or moving from primary to alternate (or alternate up to primary). Bottom line, the system is screening out bad leaders who look good on paper.


“The army’s new command selection process…”

It’s new, so it’s got to be better!


IMHO, this crap started in the 80’s. For the Navy, it was the pride and professionalism program. People got more promotion points for civil service and selling girl scout cookies than for being good at their jobs.


I could write for days on this topic. The Navy is famous for eval writing styles that are geared to “not being the bad guy” and only trying to say something good as to not hurt careers. I taught a class for three years and the worst students were the officers, who were so stuck in their belief of “I’ve always done it this way”. I sat on six MCPO/SCPO/CPO selection boards. It got so ridiculous reading eval after eval that sounded alike with everyone being “great”. I finally said “Why do we need all these fucking ships when all our Sailors apparently walk on water?”

The only way to promote the best is through truth in reporting. Call it as it is and put it on paper. If a Sailor sucks, say so. The military isn’t for everyone. Let’s weed out the non-performers, promote the hard chargers, and carry on with the plan of the day.


The greatest eval bullet I ever saw was “he’s an earthquake among movers and shakers”.


Great bullet, “borrowing” it for future use!

Another good one: No scale goes high enough to measure this members impact on this command.

Milo Mindbender

I am not and never have been a commissioned officer, but I have many years as a senior NCO. I was confused when I gave an honest evaluation of one of my subordinate troops, and they went to the senior enlisted advisor to complain that I didn’t grant a “firewall” 5 even if they had an ongoing discipline issue. I was told that I was tanking the members career, sorry I didn’t earn “firewall” 5, and no of no mortal that could truly claim to be the best at every evaluated tasking.
Now with personal pronouns in official signature blocks I’m afraid the lunatics are running the asylum and the meds have worn off.
As far as general officers go I believe there are too many and they have been chosen for reasons not related to their mission profile.
This means we have overpaid walk dressing for formal occasions. Any political appointee is not as skilled at their required tasking, and has excelled at the art of tastefully kissing the right ass


I highly recommend Thomas Ricks’ book The Generals.

That said, Stu’s kinda all over the map here (LtCoL (resigned) is not a thing; he resigned, he rejected that title. Sorry).

First, the NFL combine is a very effective method for collecting data on the physical attributes that are known to predict high performance in A GAME WITH WRITTEN RULES, PLAYED ON A MEASURED AND MARKED FIELD, WITH UNIFORMED REFEREES THAT CAN BE OVERRULED BY INSTANT REPLAY. Absolutely no comparison.

Second, all of Stu’s examples are actually failures of political leadership; specifically in their inability to set concrete objectives. He also confuses tactical and strategic outcomes. I can go into detail if you would like.

Also, consider that every ‘Warfighting’ General goes through a multitude of war-games at various points in their career from battalion right on up to Combatant Command.

Finally, let us not forget that Stu himself was a product of the very system he laments.


“The problem with the current military system is that it degrades moral courage over time.”

That is the problem with all systems run by human beings. It won’t change until human beings do.