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NEWS | March 8, 2024

Lt. Gen. Jody Daniels: A thought leader reframing the Army Reserve culture

By Maj. Xeriqua Garfinkel

They say you haven’t met the Chief of Army Reserve if you didn’t get bunny ears in your photo, her signature move most people don’t see coming when they meet a three-star general. Years of education, experience, degrees and titles have preceded Lt. Gen. Jody Daniels for so long that she just wants to cut through to what matters most … taking care of people and the organization she’s entrusted to lead. Ambushing photos with bunny ears is her way of saying, “I’m approachable, I hear you, and I want to hear your concerns!”

READY, SET, GENERAL OFFICER (GO)

Lt. Gen. Jody Daniels serves as the 34th Chief of Army Reserve and 9th Commanding General, U.S. Army Reserve Command. She is the first woman to hold that position in the Army Reserve’s 116-year history and the first woman to oversee an Army service component.

Daniels invested 41 years acquiring the range of experiences and cultivated mindset required to lead an organization of 177,000 Soldiers and 10-11K civilians spread across 20 time zones. She held command and staff positions in military specialties including military intelligence, civil affairs and training. She earned a bachelor's degree, two master's degrees and a Ph.D., worked in the fields of mathematics, computer science and artificial intelligence, deployed to Kosovo and Iraq, spent time in South Korea and Germany and led teams in multiple joint environments.

She put in the work, built relationships and learned as she went. Her journey showed her no one is fully prepared to do a job until they do the job. Daniels opened her signature paper "Changing Culture" by quoting Aristotle, “whatever we learn to do, we learn by doing it.”

Recognizing her chance to make the greatest impact, Daniels initiated a culture change, taking the Army Reserve from routine green, amber, red metrics charts to focusing on readiness and support to our people.

FEMALE FRAME OF MIND

“It’s a big deal that we have the first female CAR, but nothing she’s doing is overtly female.” said Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster, the first Army Reserve female to graduate U.S. Army Ranger School at 37 years old and mother of two. “Being female describes us, but doesn’t define us.”

“We continue to diversify the Reserve. Nearly half of the force identifies as Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander or Native American, while women make up 25% of all Army Reserve Soldiers. Diversity extends to the senior leadership, where women constitute 27% of our general officers,” Daniels said. Among its 29 major commands, the Army Reserve has nine female commanding generals.

Women in senior leadership positions strengthen the Army as a profession with divergent thinking just like the Army Reserve strengthens its formation by leveraging the diversity of thought brought in by its Citizen-Soldiers.

“One thing that makes the Army Reserve so effective is that we leverage our civilian skills and abilities along with our military careers, improving the organization in a way that full-time service cannot,” Daniels says.

"I happen to be a member of the ‘first female to … club’ but we all earn our positions by demonstrating talent, strength, passion and drive.”

DANIELS LEADERSHIP FRAME

Daniels' military experience merged with her civilian career created the foundation of her leadership mindset. With a firm and objective approach, she focused on designing the force to meet the demands of the future fight.

“We spend too much time on metrics that don’t change from week to week. Let’s focus on creative, innovative, purposeful training instead and get troops out improving their skills,” insists Daniels. “Give them something meaningful to do.”

“Lt. Gen. Daniels is a teacher, mentor and coach,” stated Col. Rebecca Richter, Sustainment Integrator, Army Futures Command and previous Executive Officer to the CAR/CG. “She solicits you to think and ask questions that get you to go deeper.”

Meticulously curating her battlefield circulations, Daniels maximizes opportunities for Soldier engagements, townhalls and observing field training without being a distraction. This sets the example for other leaders to get out into their formations and lead from the trenches. The direct approach allows her to accurately assess current issues that hold back progress and growth.

“She wants to fix problems,” Richter said. “She has an immense amount of bandwidth and a good understanding of realistic versus unrealistic tasks.” Daniels challenges her people to excel and leaders at every echelon to support that growth. “She is teaching the Army Reserve to think instead of doing what’s always been done.”

“I’m all about taking out requirements,” Daniels says. In order for unit level leaders to accomplish their mission, higher levels had to stop over tasking them and creating more administrative requirements that did not need to be there. “We need to stop burdening lower echelons with last-minute taskers.”

INVESTING IN THE RESERVE

Daniels’ culture shift has the Army Reserve focused on “tough, realistic training … done safely.”

“Keeping Soldiers proficient in their basic skills and engaged during battle assembly is how we retain our talent and recruit the future force,” she emphasized. “We want our Soldiers to tell their stories, so we need to give them a story to tell.”

“Invest in our Reserve talent so they have a desire to continue to serve,” Daniels continued. “Reward them with timely promotions when they demonstrate potential to serve at the next higher rank, don’t wait until they are fully ready because no one is ready to do a job until they do it.”

Daniels is leveraging Private Public Partnership Office partnerships with civilian businesses to expand job opportunities for Soldiers and their families. She is supporting weekend childcare initiatives to help troops care for their families during battle assembly. She petitions for Reserve pay, health, educational benefits and credentialing on par with other Army components.

INSPIRING A DIFFERENCE

Daniels’ bunny-eared leadership style goes beyond membership to the “first female to … club”. She’s inspired an Army Reserve culture change, introducing a new generation that’s starving for authenticity to meaningful career opportunities.

Her advice to future leaders — “earn your place at the table by demonstrating expertise in your profession. Create advocates in the workplace and develop the mindset of teamwork. Share the Army Reserve story and educate others about the benefits and opportunities of service. Build a reserve force that is Ready Now! Shaping Tomorrow …”