I am here at UPenn in Philadelphia, PA, learning to be a Master Resiliency Trainer. The course is engaging, fun, and educational, but as I tell my field-grade students at CGSC, this ain’t nothing new. Don’t get me wrong, the course is valuable, very valuable. But as an Army infantry leader for almost 30 years now, no matter what you call it, it is still leadership, plain and simple. After all, there is a reason the characteristic “resilient” is listed under the Leadership Requirements Model.
Having said that, it is always valuable to take apart our own thinking and examine it from time to time. That is where the MRT course comes in. This course is forcing all of us here to examine our thinking, expand our tool kit for developing our subordinates, and realistically review how we handle adversity. That process in and of itself is great, but I have high hopes for the last part of the course; the part that teaches us how to use our recently deconstructed resiliency methods to others, specifically our subordinates. That is the guts of the course to me, adding more tools for leader development so that we develop more resilient leaders.
Today’s MRT lesson was about character strengths and using them to get ourselves and others through tough times. Once again, nothing new that everyone here has not already developed over the years. The VIA Survey of Character Strengths is the forcing function used to determine our character strengths. It’s not a bad tool, but the UPenn faculty gave us the development background so we wouldn’t expect it to be perfect, especially since it is not tailored to military folks. It is basically designed to show where your inner strength lies across 24 areas that most cultures value. As a result, some character strengths we traditionally value specifically as Americans didn’t make the cut, for instance, rugged individualism or confidence. All that aside, it is still a helpful tool within its limitations. Using that survey, once again within its limitations, helped me identify my go-to inner strengths and to figure out my other strengths that I need to exercise a bit more. My scores on the survey were pretty much spot on, so it was a good exercise for me overall. The VIA Survey of Character Strengths could easily be incorporated into the other self-awareness testing we give our students at CGSC during in-processing week. Then, assuming adequate lesson hours were available, we could then process their survey results with our students during a respective C100 lesson. In my opinion, the VIA Survey of Character Strengths would be a good addition to the MBTI, LSI, and MSAF that we already conduct.
–LTC John K. Russell is an instructor in the Center for Army Tactics at the Command and General Staff College