12 Common Army Leadership Mistakes

No matter your level of Army leadership, there are some common mistakes that are made. We really do not have to state this is just Army leaders either. These mistakes happen in civilian leadership channels too.

In today’s post, we are going to look at 12 common Army leadership mistakes. I will also tell you some ways to overcome these mistakes.

There is always the possibility that you have already made these mistakes. I suggest you just recognize that they have been made, and make a conscious decision to change. We all make mistakes. It is how we overcome and move on after those mistakes that judges what type of person we truly are.

These are in no particular order. They are mistakes made by leaders that need to be recognized and overcome.

1: Not Setting Proper Expectations

This is probably one of the most common mistakes that leaders make both in the Army and in the civilian world.

It is easy to recognize where problems are happening, and also easy to say what needs to change to fix those problems, but what often happens with leaders is: they point out both of those items, but they do not give a plan on how to institute that change to fix the issues.

Just as an example, we will say a certain unit has a high percentage of soldiers not up to snuff in the physical fitness areas. The Commander just simply tells his subordinates that their needs to be more physical fitness training, and expects them to institute it.

What that Commander actually needed to do was explain in depth what he expected his subordinate staff to attain, and a plan on how to attain it. By not giving them clear-cut directions, the odds of failure are high.

2: Making Promises That May Not Be Able To Be Kept

This is a very common mistake. When you tell a soldier they are going to get a certain award and then they are turned down by your superiors, who is the one who looks the worst? You are. Unless you really know that it will happen, don’t make promises.

3: Excusing Subordinates From Their Responsibilities

It is a team mission, and if one person is not following through with their responsibilities, it will make the whole team look bad. It must be mandatory that you have every person perform their duties. Allowing one person to get away with less than average tells the rest that you may be playing favorites.

4: Not Delegating

It is common that since leaders were used to doing the work themselves, they tend to figure they will do it better than anyone they would ask to do it. So, the leader turns into a “burned out” mess because they are trying to do it all themselves. The reason why you are a leader is to delegate the responsibilities.

5: Being Their Friend Instead Of Their Boss

This can often happen when you are now in a leadership position of a unit in which you were just one of the men at one time. It is important that you set friendship to the side and realize that leadership is your role now. If you do not do so, you will be seen as a weak leader. You will have to make decisions your former peers will not like, but if handled properly, they will respect them.

6: Not Giving Recognition

If you are seeing a low morale within your unit, this very well may be one of the mistakes being made. I am not saying every good deed needs to have an award, but just a “great job,” with a pat on the back will give a soldier the recognition they need and desire.

What can be even worse is when a leader takes the credit for something one of his/her subordinates achieved.

7: Procrastinating

As they say, don’t put off what can be done today until tomorrow. This is a common mistake of humans everywhere and as leaders, we need to show them that procrastinating is not allowed.

8: Letting Emotions Guide Decisions

This leadership mistake has actually gotten people killed. No matter what emotions you are feeling, you just cannot allow them to guide the decisions you make. If you do, logic leaves and the decision probably will not be the correct one.

9: Comparing Yourself To Other Leaders

You are not General Patton or Colin Powell; don’t even try to compare yourself with these great leaders. The fact is: you may be better than both of them. You are one of a kind, so understand that. There is nothing wrong with learning from them and even emulating them in some areas. Just don’t compare, because you are in for a let-down, because you will only see the negative side.

10: Unwilling To Make Tough Decisions

This is unacceptable for any Army leader. You must be willing to make split-second, difficult decisions. It is better to learn this while you are in a peace zone than when you are trapped in an ambush and need to decide the best course of action. Your Mommy won’t be on the other end of that radio.

11: Not Dealing With Conflicts Quickly And Head-On

As Army leaders, you are going to have conflicts. When you have multiple soldiers interacting you are going to have conflicts. As a leader, you MUST confront these conflicts immediately. You may not be liked for your head-on approach, but trust me, you will gain respect.

12: Dwelling On Mistakes

I spoke about this at the start of this post, but I feel it needs to be reiterated. You probably have made 1 or more of these mistakes, but dwelling on it is not the answer. Just do it different next time. Yes, it is that simple.

Final Thoughts

We are all human, we make mistakes. We will pay for our mistakes too. But we can also learn from our mistakes and find ways to overcome them.

What are your thoughts?

Please leave your comments and questions below. Thank you.


  1. Four Mistakes Leaders Keep Making
  2. Top 10 New-to-Leadership Mistakes (& How to Avoid Them)
  3. 7 Common Mistakes New Leaders Make (and How to Avoid Them)
  4. The Successful Lieutenant
  5. 7 Mistakes Military Officers Make
chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)
Publisher, Part-Time-Commander.com
Email: mrchuckholmes@gmail.com

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