“You will always be what you have always been, if you always do what you have always done.” This is a quote that has stuck with me over my years in the military and come to think of it, it does not only apply to personal growth. As leaders our job is to take our Soldiers where are now to where they have the potential to be. We are always seeking growth and improvement at all levels of our organization. That all being said, everyone has their own approach and strategy for improving their Soldiers and their units. However, the basics principles should be followed. Here is my list of 5 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Army Unit.
1. Have a Vision and Articulate that Vision: “There is no more powerful engine driving an organization toward excellence and long-range success than an attractive, worthwhile, and achievable vision of the future, widely shared.” Remember this simple formula: VISION = PURPOSE + ENVISIONED FUTURE + CORE VALUES and you have the building blocks for developing a vision for your organization. Ask yourself, “What kind of unit would I be excited to be a part of?” The answer to that question is your envisioned future. Couple that with supporting core values and your unit’s doctrinal purpose and you have a vision. Now, integrate that vision into every aspect of what you do. Use words and images that are meaningful to your Soldiers to reinforce your vision. Refer back to it during AARs, training meetings, during challenging times, etc. Eat, breath and live your vision.
2. Conduct Organization Surveys/Assessments: Before you can improve a unit, you have to understand it. Conducting a unit survey establishes two-way communication and will begin to lay the foundation for trust simply because you care enough to listen. Ask provoking questions such as:
- What do you think our purpose is as a unit?
- What do you like about our unit?
- What are the things that are keeping us from being the best?
- What words would you use to describe the unit?
- What would give you more satisfaction as a Soldier?
Asking questions and having that two-way communication helps us to assess what problems exist and hinder our growth as an organization. Additionally, make sure to take the time to discover the real, underlying causes to problems identified by your Soldiers. Same “problems” may just be “symptoms” or purposely misleading.
3. Be Passionate as a Leader…Motivate and Inspire Others: The best organizations emerge when the people and leadership of that organization are passionately committed and motivated to what they are doing. On the one hand, there is the leader—you—and on the other hand, there are the followers—your Soldiers. We have all heard that, “A smile is contagious”. Well, so is passion and motivation. Always root your passion in setting and demanding adherence to high standards, concentrating on fundamentals, and creating a unit climate where every Soldier is comfortable providing feedback focused on improving everything, including their leaders!
4. Recruit, Develop and Demand Strong Leaders: The success of any organization, whether it be a squad, platoon, Company or even a Division hinges on leadership. In my opinion, the strength of any organization is a direct reflection of the strength of its leaders. Weak and toxic leaders equal weak organizations. Strong and mature leaders mean strong organizations. Remember, though, that leadership is a process that continues to develop everyday…provided that you invest in your leaders and commit to leadership development.
5. Know Your Limits: Before you can lead others, you first be able to lead yourself. That starts with a real assessment of you, as a person and a leader. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Who are those whom you can surround yourself with you fill the gaps created by your weaknesses? Surround yourself with others who have been in your shoes. Why go into a situation on your experiences alone when you can utilize the collective experiences of others? Never take a moment to seek out help as a moment of weakness.
In summary, these are five things that YOU can do to improve your Army unit. Whether you are a Team Leader or Division Commander, you can make a difference. Everything rises and falls on leadership. Your unit will always be a reflection of you so focus on improving you.
What are your thoughts about how to improve your Army unit? Leave a comment and let us know.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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4 thoughts on “5 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Army Unit”
I have to also mention that many people, including leaders in the Army, do not want to teach others all they know. I believe there is an inner thought that if they teach others all they know, that person will take their job, or be better than them. That mindset is sick. I believe that we look even better if we train others to be even better than we were. When leaders realize they are servants, they become great leaders.
The best motivators and leaders aren’t always those who are in command. A passionate and committed soldier within a unit can be a motivating force among his peers. But a good leader ‘leads from the front’ so to speak. If you want your soldiers to work hard and be dedicated, you must behave in the same manner. They will follow your lead and take their cue from you. No one is the best at EVERYTHING, and a little humility goes a long way. Give one in your command the opportunity to step up if they excel in an area that you as a leader don’t. It will inspire your squad and they will respect you for it.
Like Mara said, the fifth point, in my opinion, should be number 1. If we cannot lead ourselves first, all the other points are essentially worthless.
Justin, this is a very good post. Visions and dreams are real and without them, we go nowhere. A vision is the first step to achieving greatness. I also believe assessments are great, along with suggestions from others. Team meetings with an open forum can be good, as long as the understanding that not everything said will be implemented. It is just suggestion time, and the leader always has the final say.
If you are “passionate” as you say, others will want to follow your example. You can then develop the best of the best.
People who are successful and achieve their goals have true passion – and this goes for a military unit as well. By integrating passion with leadership, an Army unit can do great things, become a single entity and reach immeasurable heights. When a leader, commander or someone in charge of an organization holds passion with what he or she does, they produce an energy that trickles down the line to others; the followers.
Recruiting, developing and demanding strong leaders takes some “digging”. Search for someone who drives themselves with a vision, leads to ignite others, raises influence and provides potential to grow the squad, platoon, company, or what have you.
I found the fifth point to be interesting, especially when it was stated that, “Before you can lead others, you should first be able to lead yourself.” Taking a self-assessment test is something that really helps you to discover true underlying leadership. Finding out what your strengths and weaknesses are is important; it helps the individual to build upon what they lack or seem to have a flaw in.
Great post to read, whether it be for an Army unit leader, or an organization in general!