When chicken leaders get together, they strut around, preening their feathers, and bragging to their contemporaries about their organization's achievements or their own upcoming promotion or latest high level connection. When their superiors enter the arena, the chickens quickly cluster around him or her, jockeying for face time. They are anxious to impress their boss with loyalty and concern for the current mission. Whatever their boss says, they cluck in enthusiastic agreement, whether it makes sense or not. The chicken leader has his/her eyes honed in on the prize, which is advancement and enhanced fame. Looking good and making a name for themselves are their top priorities.
If all they did was cluck around in flocks, it would be bad enough, but unfortunately these chickens also have supervisory roles to fill. If it happens to be an administrative or staff job, that is bad enough. However, because of their boot-licking talents, they are often selected for key leadership positions. In civilian organizations, they become the CEO, the manager, the principal, or the shift leader, while in the military they become commanders, directors, first sergeants, and sergeant majors. It is here that their avoid controversy and please the boss at all costs style wrecks havoc.
Barring any serious bump in the road, or God forbid, a disaster, the chickens contentedly cluck along until they achieve their goal, which is promotion to the next higher level. But when the proverbial shit hits the fan, their antics are downright laughable, that is unless you happen to work for them. Then they are Olympic level athletes at the games of Not It and I Didn't Do It. For example, a premier chicken effectively relieved a well-respected subordinate by promoting her to an administrative position. When questioned, he replied, "I have made a promise to myself that I will not speak badly of any person. Therefore, I cannot answer your question."
While chicken leaders often attempt to imitate eagles, they can't carry out that role for long. Sooner or later their inner style emerges, feathers, cock combs, waddles, and all. Eagles are willing to take a chance. Not so with chickens. They innately fear that taking a chance could plunge them into failure. Eagles take initiative and soar. They also fail occasionally, but unlike chickens, eagles are quick to pick up the pieces, learn from their mistakes and move ahead.
Recognize chicken leaders when you encounter them. You cannot change a chicken, although there might be times when you would like to chop them up, roll them in batter, and fry them in hot oil. No matter how hard you try or how well you do your job, their personality mold is firmly set. If there is a good part about working for this kind of leader, it is that they rarely get out of their offices. As a result, if you tread carefully, you can often run your shop the way you think is right, provided you don't cause the chicken to lose face.
In the long term, though, you have to decide what is best for you. While this is not always true in the civilian sector, in the military sooner or later either you or the chicken leader will get transferred, and this can be the solution. Take a careful look at the overall culture in your organization. If the culture streamlines chicken leaders to the top as a general rule, then you may want to consider changing organizations. Changing jobs and organizations is never easy, particularly for military members, who are steadfastly loyal to the greater team. Your sanity is important and so are your skills. There is a whole world beyond your current organization. Sometimes you have to be the eagle and fly away to new horizons.