Army Reports What We Already Knew: Toxic Leaders Decrease Soldier’s Effectiveness

Army Reports What We Already Knew: 

Toxic Leaders Decrease Soldier’s Effectiveness

The Army has again spent what probably amounts to millions of taxpayer dollars on a study to confirm what anyone who’s ever served already knows- soldiers with toxic leadership experience a decrease in effectiveness.

Dr. George Reed, the dean of the School of Public Affairs, University Colorado recently released his paper “Tarnished: Toxic Leadership in the U.S. Military”.

Reed suggests, “the stories of the way some of our best and brightest were treated by their superiors were completely inconsistent with a world-class organization”.

Almost everyone in the military has been subject to toxic leadership at one point or another, and to different degrees.

To be clear, toxic leadership isn’t the NCO who yells at you, it’s the NCO or officer with an apparent lack of concern of the well-being of others and an energy that negatively impacts organizational climate.

NCO who makes you do pushups because you flagged a teammate, ok; NCO who makes you do pushups to inflate their own ego, not ok.

It goes a lot further than abuse of power in these instances however. Toxic leadership in the military is usually portrayed through a “yes-man” mentality- leaders refusing to tell their superiors they are legitimately incapable of performing a prescribed task.

These cases usually end one of two ways, others complete the task and the leader in question still receives the credit, or the entire thing crashes and burns.

This then highlights one of the biggest repercussions of bad leadership- subordinates no longer going the extra mile. Rather than taking pride in their unit and leadership, soldiers take on the mentality of “not my fucking job”.

Don’t get me wrong, discipline and rank is obviously important in the military, but earning the respect of your men is much more important than demanding it.

The most common solution to having toxic leadership? Leaving the service. It’s worth mentioning however that those with over 10 years in the service elect to stay in and ride it out until retirement. Again, we lose some of our best and brightest soldiers not to injury or death, but to a shitty leader; why put up with another 13 years of bullshit and fear that your next unit is just as much of a mess when all the wonders of the civilian world are calling you.

It blows my mind that it took a major, published study to highlight the negative impacts of a bad leader in the military. The military is an organization where any bad decision is magnified a hundredfold and has the potential to lead to the unnecessary loss of human life.

A ruler is one who directs from a desk, but a true leader is one who directs from the front, and by example.  

About the author: Andrew Farquharson is an Iraq Campaign veteran and an ex-cavalry scout currently living the dream in Newport, Rhode Island as a college student. Aside from writing for 11Bravos his hobbies include mountain climbing, shooting guns and convincing women they should date him. Comments or hate mail can be sent to or, follow him on Instagram @Lord_Farquharson