Shaped by the dynamic nature of its contemporary operating environment (COE), United States Army doctrine demonstrates the critical need for its leaders to possess high levels of adaptive performance (AP). Consequently, it is imperative that all Army systems and norms, from selection to promotion to retention and beyond, are focused on achieving the highest possible AP outcomes. Yet, despite a call from the Secretary of Defense to move away from the Army's seniority-based promotion norm, there remains a dearth of research supporting the move. Consequently, this study was an initial investigation of whether an alternative promotion paradigm—competence-based promotion criteria—is associated with higher non-commissioned officer (NCO) AP outcomes than the current, seniority-based promotion norm. First, correlational analysis was conducted to investigate the relationship between NCO competence and NCO AP. Second, an ANOVA (one-way) was conducted to investigate the similarities and differences between the AP characteristics of NCOs promoted based solely on seniority and those of NCOs promoted based solely on competence. Third, moderated multiple regression was conducted to determine whether the relationship between NCO competence and NCO AP depended on seniority. And fourth, hierarchical multiple regression was conducted to determine whether seniority was incrementally associated with AP above and beyond competence. Active-duty Army officers (first lieutenants and captains; N = 45) from a broad range of military occupational specialties provided NCO ratings across relative measures. AP was measured using the validated, total AP measure comprised of two rating scales; known respectively as the 8-item Army behavior-based AP rating scale and the 24-item Army situational AP rating scale. Competence was measured using the 10-item Army leader behavior scale; a validated, shortened scale of the Army core leader competency model that was developed to drive successful AP in the COE. It was found that NCO competence was positively and significantly related to AP outcomes, and that NCOs promoted based solely on competence had significantly higher AP outcomes than NCOs promoted based solely on seniority. Taken together, this study's findings may serve as preliminary evidence that the Army's NCO promotion norm could be enhanced by moving to a competence-based decision model.