Army Leadership Principles for Officers and NCOs

Today, I want to share some basic Army leadership principles with you. I found these 11 Army leadership principles on a little cardboard tri-fold brochure published by the 1st Army, sometime around WW2. I read it several times and realized the information is just as relevant today as it was nearly 70-years ago.

These Army leadership principles are time-tested.  They will benefit any NCO or commissioned officer.  What I will do in the paragraphs below is share each of the 11 Army leadership principles with you, and also provide my own two cents on each one.  Each principle is in bold and italics.  They are listed in order.

Top 11 Army Leadership Principles

These are the principles that guide effective military leaders.  Be sure to evaluate yourself with each principle and see what you can do to improve as a leader.

army leadership principles# 1 Be Technically and Tactically Proficient

As an Army leader, you need to know how to do your job effectively.  You must be competent at what you do.  Your soldiers deserve an effective leader.  This includes your technical and tactical work.  Read the relevant Field Manuals, go to the required military schools and seek to master the skills required of your job.  You should also have a basic understanding of ALL of your direct report’s jobs, so you can mentor and teach them.

# 2 Know Yourself & Seek Self Improvement

Make it a goal to get a little bit better every single day.  Figure out your strengths and weaknesses and come up with a game-plan to improve each area of your life.  Be a student of your profession.  Read books about leadership, tactics, military history, communication and auto-biographies of successful military leaders.  Find a mentor to learn from, listen to tapes and CDs, and attend seminars that will help make you a better person and leader.

# 3 Know Your Men and Look Out for Their Welfare

Know what motivates your team members.  Know their hot button.  Get the mission done, but don’t forget to take care of your team members.  If you take care of them they will naturally take care of you. You don’t need to be your soldiers’ friend, nor should you, but you do need to know them on a personal level so you can lead them effectively.

# 4 Keep Your Men Informed

You can never communicate too much with your team.  Some leaders think hoarding information is how they retain their authority and power. I disagree.  As you share information, and communicate with your team, you empower them to step up and help get the job done.  Always make sure your team knows the task, condition and standard.  It would be beneficial to explain to them how THEY fit into the big picture, and what their role is specifically.

# 5 Set the Example

Lead from the front at all times.  Be the first out of the foxhole and the last one to eat.  Never ask your troops to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself.  Inspire people by your actions.  Be a coach, not a dictator.

# 6 Insure the Task is Understood, Supervised and Accomplished

The Army pays you to get things done through other people, not to do everything yourself.  Set clear objectives, ensure your people know what is expected of them, and then stay out of their way so they can get the job done. Make sure they have the resources they need to succeed.  And, be sure to give them periodic feedback, so they know where they stand with you.

# 7 Train Your Men as a Team

In addition to knowing their individual tasks, soldiers must know how to work together.  The Army fights as a team, not as individuals.  Spend a lot of time on collective training.  Master the battle drills and collective tasks your unit is responsible for, whether it be a squad or a brigade.

# 8 Make Sound and Timely Decisions

As a leader, the Army pays you to make decisions.  98 percent of your decisions are easy to make.  It’s the remaining 2 percent that make a difference.  Be decisive.  Collect the facts and information on hand and make a decision.  Be quick to make a decision and slow to change your mind.  Making the wrong decision is better than making no decision at all.  If you make a mistake, which you will from time to time, admit it and move forward.

# 9 Develop a Sense of Responsibility Among Subordinates

Empower your subordinates to step up to the plate and step out of their comfort zone.  Encourage them to do things they might not normally do.  Teach them to accept responsibility for their own actions. Let them know that they are an important part of the team and you are counting on them.

# 10 Employ Your Command in Accordance with Its Capabilities

Know what your team is capable of.  Know the team’s (and individual soldiers) strengths and weaknesses, so you can utilize them effectively.  Know each team member on an individual basis (two levels down).

# 11 Seek Responsibility and Take Responsibility for Your Actions

As a leader, the buck stops with you.  When your soldiers mess up, take responsibility yourself.  When they do a good job, give them the credit.  Great leaders don’t seek recognition or credit.  They realize they are only as good as their team.

Final Thoughts

There you have it folks.  I hope you enjoyed these time-tested Army leadership principles that were published by the 1st Army, sometime around WW2.  What are your thoughts?  Do you think these are still relevant?  Why or why not?  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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