7 Ways to Develop Future Army Leaders

Today, I want to share seven effective ways to develop future Army leaders.  Whether you are an Officer or NCO, one of your primary responsibilities is to mentor and develop your subordinates and prepare them for positions of increased responsibility. Fortunately for you, there are many different ways to do that.

In the paragraphs below, I’m going to share seven simple ways to develop future Army leaders. These are things I did during my career to help develop my subordinates.  I suggest you use a combination of these methods to be the most effective leader possible.  These ideas are listed in no particular order.

# 1 Counseling – Counseling is a big part of your job.  In addition to the initial counseling and quarterly counseling, you should also do additional informal and formal counseling.  You should do career counseling, event-oriented counseling (both good and bad) and developmental counseling. Whenever possible, put things in writing.  And remember, counseling shouldn’t only be used when someone messes up.  Use it when people do a good job, too.

# 2 Job Shadowing – You should teach your direct reports how to do your job.  You need to use job-shadowing whenever possible. Have your subordinate leaders fill in for you from time-to-time.  Involve them with your meetings with higher.  Give them a few tasks that you are normally responsible for.  This will empower them and teach them at the same time.

# 3 Cross Training – Whenever possible, schedule cross-training with your troops.  Move people around, even if just for a day or two, and let them work in areas they don’t normally do.  Have your Supply Sergeant spend a day running the distribution or maintenance section.  Have your cooks work in the S1 Office for a day.  Not only will this teach your troops new skills, but it will also educate them about additional career options they might not have normally considered.

# 4 Schools – Try to get your direct reports to attend a school at least once a year.  Whether it is a resident course or distant learning really doesn’t matter.  You want your subordinates to take career development courses, NCOES and OES, as well as a variety of other schools that will educate them about different things.  Try to encourage your direct reports to take college classes, too.  Learning should be a life-long process.

# 5 Reading Program – One of the best things you can do as a leader is to create a reading program in your unit.  I know it sounds boring, but I have to tell you that my love of reading is one of the reasons I had such a great career.  Your direct reports probably won’t listen to everything you tell them (just like kids don’t listen to their parents), but you can give them a book assignment to teach them a lesson you want to teach them.  Get them reading books about leadership, tactics, and military history, as well as Field Manuals and Regulations.

# 6 OPD/NCODP – Whether you are a Senior Commander or Team Leader, make sure you have some type of OPD/NCODP Program in your unit.  At a minimum, have one for your direct reports.  Teach a variety of classes and have your subordinates teach, too.  This will help improve their public speaking skills and teach them about a variety of things.

# 7 Mentoring Program – One of the best ways to develop future Army leaders is to have a mentoring program in your unit.  You could bring in a respected Army retiree or another leader outside of your unit.  Have your Soldiers get some one-on-one time with these folks, so they can ask questions and learn from the other person, too.

Final Thoughts

In summary, these are my top 7 ways to develop future Army leaders.  Remember, when you mentor someone it’s not about you.  It’s about the person being mentored.  By following any of these seven methods listed above, you will be well on your way to developing future Army leaders.

What are your thoughts?  What do you do to mentor and develop future Army leaders?  Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.

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4 thoughts on “7 Ways to Develop Future Army Leaders”

  1. An excellent list of tips to develop leaders. I find job shadowing particularly important as the most effective away to learn a job is to do a job. Plus it has the bonus of you being nearby if there is a problem or issue that arises. It can build the persons confidence so when you really aren't around they are able to do the job.

    I would also preach counseling and mentoring as incredibly important. You should be trying to guide your troops into not only being great workers, but preparing them to become great leaders.

  2. Hi Chuck! I love your 7 tips. In #1 you stated “whenever possible, put things in writing.” I would say this should be tip #8. Document everything at any opportunity. Your notes can potentially be the handbook for learning or coping with certain situations. I agree with Greg too – a reading program is a great idea. Hopefully the reading is interesting enough to keep them engrossed.

  3. These are all great tips on developing future leaders. I believe in the counseling, it needs to be determined that being a leader is what the soldier truly desires. I am also huge on the reading program. Reading can help teach in many ways. I do also think cross training is also very important. The more the future leader knows, the more prepared they will be in the future.

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