Army Leadership Principles for Officers and NCOs

In today’s post, I want to share 11 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 when it was published in the 1940s.

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 bold. 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.

# 1: Be Technically & Tactically Proficient

As an Army leader, you must 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 for 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 improve daily. 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 podcasts and videos, and attend seminars that will help make you a better person and leader.

army leadership principles

# 3: Know Your Men and Look Out for Their Welfare

Know what motivates each of 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

Always lead from the front. 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 with your actions. Be a coach, not a dictator.

# 6: Ensure 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 and unimportant. You are paid for the remaining two percent.

Be decisive. Collect the facts and information on hand and make your 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, learn from it, and move forward.

# 9: Develop a Sense of Responsibility Among Subordinates

Empower your subordinates to step up to the plate, step out of their comfort zone, and be responsible for their own actions.

# 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). When possible, focus on what your soldier (and unit) are good at.

# 11: Seek Responsibility and Take Responsibility for Your Actions

As a leader, the buck stops with you. You are responsible for EVERYTHING that happens in your unit. When things go wrong, take more responsibility. And when things go right, take a little less credit. This is what effective leaders do.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, these are 11 time-tested Army leadership principles that were published by the 1st Army, sometime around WW2. What are your thoughts? Do you think these Army leadership principles are still relevant? Why or why not? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.

Recommended Reading
  1. Army Leadership Field Manual
  2. Be, Know, Do: Army Leadership Manual
  3. U.S. Army Leadership Handbook
  4. Toxic Army Leadership
  5. Army Officer Leadership Qualities
chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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