NLAP serves as an integral component to NSW’s focus on informing, developing and implementing a reliable and repeatable talent management paradigm. NLAP increases precision and selectivity in NSW’s assignment processes for every milestone of officer and enlisted leadership, putting the right people in the right positions by assessing attributes known to be correlated with successful leaders.
“We place emphasis on superior leadership as our principal asymmetric advantage over the nation’s adversaries and embrace the mission imperative to evolve the ways we assess the character, cognitive and leadership attributes within the force,” said Rear Adm. H. W. Howard III, commander, Naval Special Warfare Command. “We recently accelerated the development of the NLAP pilot to rapidly experiment with an approach that increases officer and enlisted selection precision, development opportunities, and leader pairing decisions – and addresses cognitive biases that can adversely impact selection decisions.”
This round of NLAP pilots consisted of four separate convenings with two in Little Creek, Virginia and two in Coronado. Naval Special Warfare Center, which has been charged with running the assessment program, screened over 90 participants eligible for either executive officer or command master chief positions. In the future, the four-day process held on the premises will apply to all levels of leadership from major command to O-5 command as well as tactical level commanders and senior enlisted advisors.
“To meet tomorrow’s national security objectives, we must improve leader selectivity and assignment precision while promoting a culture of development,” said Capt. Bart Randall, commodore, Naval Special Warfare Center. “We will produce a stronger, more self-aware, lethal NSW force by assessing participants’ leadership potential, cognitive aptitude, communications skills and personality attributes and providing that information to inform selection decisions and the participants’ own professional development process.”
NLAP evaluated the readiness of prospective leaders in a transparent, fair and merit-based fashion. Among other criteria, panel considerations included peer and subordinate surveys completed by service members who have worked with or for each participant. Additionally, participants underwent physical, psychological and writing assessments to establish performance and psychometric baselines. Panel members also conducted double-blind interviews to further assess participants’ leadership potential.
NSW completed its initial NLAP pilot in March 2021, assessing 48 officers across the spectrum of attributes required for strong leadership. This convening, along with other services’ experimentation with similar programs, served as a proof of concept to inform the latest round of assessments.
Altogether, the pilots will form the basis for the implementation of formal policies and procedures to establish the NLAP program as part of NSW leader selection in 2022. The iterative nature of the pilots was by design, a strategy to methodically “build a little, test a little, learn a lot,” according to Howard. Because the program is still under development, results from the NLAP pilots will not be used for future Navy administrative selection panels.
Naval Special Warfare Center, located on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, provides initial assessment and selection and subsequent advanced training to the Sailors who make up the Navy’s SEAL and Special Boat communities. These communities support the NSW mission, providing maritime special operations forces to conduct full-spectrum operations, unilaterally or with partners, to support national objectives. For more information on the NSW pipeline, visit https://www.sealswcc.com/.
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