Platoon Leader InformationBy
What You Will Learn as a Platoon Leader:
As a Platoon Leader, you will establish your military leadership foundation. You will spend 9 to 18 months working with a senior NCO, probably a Sergeant First Class or senior Staff Sergeant. He or she will teach you what “right” looks like; hopefully.
Ultimately, you are responsible for everything in your platoon. But don’t be fooled. The NCO is the one running the show. You are there to lead and manage. Most importantly, you are there to learn how to lead from the NCO. If he or she is doing their job right, you won’t even know you are being taught.
As a Platoon Leader, you will oversee 20-50 Soldiers. You will learn the ropes about training management, time-management, decision making, counseling, discipline, meetings and so forth.
Your primary goal as a Platoon Leader is to learn the basics about the Army and learn about your Soldiers. You’ll also develop your own management and leadership style, based upon your personality, strengths and weaknesses.
You will deal with military discipline issues, Soldier issues and get experience drafting Operation Orders. You will attend Company Training Meetings and host your own Platoon Training Meetings. You will also learn about collective training, Mission Essential Task Listing (METL) development and much more.
Once you have completed 9-18 months as Platoon Leader, you should have a clear perspective about your own personal leadership style, how a platoon operates and how things work in the military.
For career development, you should look for a Company Executive Officer or Battalion Staff Officer assignment. These positions will help round out your development.
Advice for New Platoon Leaders:
So, you’ve just been commissioned and you are now going to be a Platoon Leader. Congratulations! Serving as a Platoon Leader is an awesome experience.
I was fortunate to spend just shy of 24-months as a Platoon Leader. The lessons I learned during that time continue to benefit me today (9 years later).
That being said, I’d like to share with you some words of wisdom to help you succeed as a Platoon Leader. Here it goes:
1) Be Confident: Trust yourself. Act confident. When you talk with your Soldiers, your Company Commander or Battalion Commander, look them in the eye. Walk with your head up at all times.
2) Don’t be Over Confident: This goes with number one. Confidence is good. But, don’t be a know it all. No one knows it all. And, no one likes arrogance.
3) Listen to Your Platoon Sergeant: Trust the guidance of your Platoon Sergeant until you have a reason not to. 99% of the time, new Lieutenants are fortunate to have a good NCO. Don’t follow them blindly, though. If something sounds crazy or unethical, pull them aside and talk with them.
4) Work with your Peers: As a Second Lieutenant, I made a mistake. I thought I had to prove myself better than my peers. I often competed against them. Looking back, I would have tried to help them more. Always be a team player. When possible, help your fellow Lieutenants.
5) Read: Read one book each month. Study your profession. Find books about military history, military leadership, tactics, etc. Take notes and study them from time to time.
6) Find a Mentor: Find someone you trust. Your Company Commander is your leader, but he or she might not be your mentor. Talk with the Company XO. Ask questions from Battalion Staff Officers, other Commanders and Lieutenants. Meet with that person once each month to overcome obstacles, set goals and manage your career.
7) Learn Something New Each Day: Make it a point to strive to learn something new each day. If you keep an open mind, you will learn something new every day.
8) Keep a Journal: I know this sounds corny, but keeping a journal is a great way to learn. If you keep notes of your trials, tribulations and successes, you will become a better leader. Refer to your notes from time to time and spend some time reflecting on your experiences.
9) Enforce the Army Standards: As the leader in your platoon, the buck stops with you. Your job is to lead by example at all times and enforce the Army Standard with everyone in your platoon. This includes your Platoon Sergeant, Soldiers and yourself.
10) Don’t Try to Be Your Soldiers’ Friend: You are not your Soldiers’ friend. You are their leader. One of the most common mistakes new leaders make is thinking they have to become friends with your followers. You don’t. You should get to know your Soldiers and earn their respect, but that’s it. Don’t jeopardize your authority by becoming to close with your Soldiers.
By following this advice, you can set yourself up for success.
Company Commander & Platoon Leader Relationship:
As a Platoon Leader, your Company Commander will be your mentor and primary trainer. Your Company Commander is not your friend. She is your mentor. Please know that upfront.
As a new Lieutenant, you might think you know what you’re doing. But, you don’t. You have a lot to learn. And, your Platoon Sergeant and Company Commander will teach you what you need to know to succeed, if you let them.
Always be professional towards your Company Commander. Show him or her the respect they deserve. Even if you disagree with some of their decisions (or dislike their leadership style) you have an obligation to obey and follow their orders.
You can learn tons of helpful advice from a good or bad Company Commander. If you have a squared away Company Commander, you can follow their lead. If you are unfortunate and have a bad Company Commander, you can also learn a lot from them too. Seek your Company Commander’s input and guidance when needed. It shouldn’t bother them at all. If you have a question, ask it. It’s the only way to learn. The secret to success is to establish a solid relationship with your Company Commander based upon mutual respect, loyalty and effective communication.