Army Officer Leadership Qualities: My Top 20 List

In today’s post, I’d like to share what I believe are the most important Army Officer Leadership Qualities.

I spent just over 10-years as an Army Officer. I was blessed to serve with some amazing officers. Unfortunately, I also worked with some “not so good” officers. I learned from both types of officers: what to do and what NOT to do.

Soldiers deserve competent officers. Just because you earned your commission and you are now an officer, your journey to being an effective leader has just begun. You owe it to yourself to be a student of your profession and do everything in your willpower to be an effective leader.

Fortunately, leadership is a learned skill. No one is born a leader. Learning to be an effective Army Officer is also a learned skill. If you decide to “take ownership” of your responsibility and “seek knowledge” to develop your potential, I am 100% confident you will be a great officer and leader in due time.

army officer leadership qualities

Top 20 Army Officer Leadership Qualities

What you see below are my top 20 Army Officer Leadership Qualities, listed in alphabetical order. My hope is that you will evaluate yourself in each one of these areas and identify things you can improve upon.

# 1: Adaptability & Flexibility

To be an effective officer, you must be flexible. Nothing in the Army ever goes exactly as planned. Great officers can go with the flow. They are “set” on their objective, but flexible on their approach.

Flexible leaders have the ability to change their plans to match the reality of the situation. As a result, they maintain productivity during transitions or periods of chaos. Leaders skilled at this competency embrace change, are open to new ideas, and can work with a wide spectrum of people. ~ The Complete Leader

# 2: Big Picture Thinking

As an officer, your primary focus is the PLANNING, big picture, strategic ops, and future operations, while the NCOs run the day-to-day operations. Good officers can separate the minutia from the big picture. Great officers are always thinking ahead, and considering the big picture, as they make their decisions.

Leaders must be able to take a step back from grinding out the daily performance metrics and hand the small projects over to others. Build a team that you can trust to deliver peak results without micromanagement, so that you can invest your energy on a broader focus and higher value tasks. ~

# 3: Competent

Great officers are technically and tactically proficient. They know their job inside and out. They are good at what they do. They take pride in what they do. They also expect their subordinates to be the same way.

Highly competent leaders do more than perform at a high level. They inspire and motivate their people to do the same. While some people rely on relational skills alone to survive, effective leaders combine these skills with high competence to take their organizations to a new levels of excellence and influence. ~ John Maxwell

# 4: Confident

This is one of the most important Army Officer Leadership Qualities. Great officers are confident. They believe in themselves and their abilities. They instill this confidence in others. They understand their followers are looking to them for leadership, especially in critical situations.

Generally, when a leader exhibits confidence, it makes it easier to trust that leader, and people want to work with leaders they trust. When leaders exhibit confidence, they typically: Are happy: They feel positive about their ability to lead people and deal with daily challenges. ~ LinkedIn

# 5: Constant Improvement

Great Army Officers focus on continuous improvement. They set big goals and they focus on improving daily. They know they will never be perfect, but they strive to be better tomorrow than they were today.

As a leader, you set the tone for the entire organization. Whether you realize it or not, everybody is watching the way you lead–if you are authentic, consistent and focused on doing the work to move the business forward. They also see if you are always repeating mistakes, losing your temper and cutting corners. ~ Inc

# 6: Decisive

Great officers are not scared to make a decision, or even the wrong decision. They know their job is to make tough, critical decisions with the information they have at hand. They are not wishy-washy with decision making. They are firm, fair, quick to make a decision, and SLOW to change their mind.

In the workplace, decisiveness is key to effectively executing plans and achieving goals. It is important to balance the costs of continuing to deliberate, gather information, and delay a decision versus the costs of making a poor choice. Most importantly, decisive leaders make decisions that are clear and final. ~ SigmaAssessmentsystems

# 7: Determined

I think of this as the NEVER QUIT attitude. Great officers have follow through. They can make it through tough times, setbacks, and disappointments. Once they set their mind to something it’s a done deal.

The key to successful leadership is determination. Without determination, nothing will come to fruition. The plans, ideas and goals will be stagnant without the perseverance to make them come to life. Often times, traits such as determination is what separates effective leaders from those that are ineffective. ~

# 8: Effective Communicator

One of your most important jobs as a leader is to communicate with your team. This includes verbal and written communication. Great officers develop their public speaking skills, so they can speak confidently in front of others. They also have great writing skills.

Good communication skills help to develop better understanding and beliefs among people inspire them to follow the principles and values which their leader wants to inculcate in them. Asking for conformation or understanding of the message indirectly is one of the key note qualities of a good leader. ~

general eisenhower quote

# 9: Empathy

This is something I’ve always struggled with. I’m a results oriented guy and I don’t normally accept excuses. Maybe you can relate, maybe not. In either case, if you want to be an exceptional officer, you must understand your Soldiers are HUMAN. People will disappoint and let you down from time-t0-time. It happens. Learning to be empathetic is vitally important if you want your followers to respect and trust you.

Empathy is critical skill for effective leadership for one, simple reason – trust. If your employees don’t trust you, you are not a leader; you are just a manager. A key component for building trust with others is empathy. ~ Colleen Seward Ryan

# 10: Focused

Great officers are focused. They keep the main thing the main thing at all times. They stay on point and do not get distracted. They also make sure the focus is NOT about them. They focus on the mission, the unit, and others.

Executives who can effectively focus on others are easy to recognize. They are the ones who find common ground, whose opinions carry the most weight, and with whom other people want to work. They emerge as natural leaders regardless of organizational or social rank. ~ Daniel Coleman

# 11: Good Listener

Effective officers are great listeners. They do more listening than talking. They know they can’t learn anything by talking but they can learn a lot by listening. This is one of the top Army Officer Leadership Qualities.

We can always learn from those around us, including our direct reports. Effective listening gives you knowledge and perspectives that increase your leadership capacity. Being open to feedback and new ideas from your team helps you learn and grow as a leader.

# 12: Integrity

Integrity means doing the right thing, even when people aren’t looking: especially when people aren’t looking. You must be a person of your word. Say what you do and do what you say. This means you live by the Army Values at all times.

Integrity builds trust, has great influence, facilitates high standards, creates a solid reputation, and produces credibility. ~ John Maxwell

# 13: Leader

As an officer, you are a leader. Well, you should be. Leadership is about influence. It’s also about accomplishing the mission through the work of others. Ultimately, that’s what the Army pays you to do: to lead others.

Leadership is the ability to inspire a team to achieve a certain goal. It’s usually discussed in the context of business, but leadership is also how you, as an individual, choose to lead your life. The true leadership definition is to influence, inspire and help others become their best selves, building their skills and achieving goals along the way. You don’t have to be a CEO, manager or even a team lead to be a leader. Leadership is a set of skills – and a certain psychology – that anyone can master. ~ Tony Robbins

# 14: Loyal

Loyalty is very important in the military. Great officers are loyal to their boss, their unit, and their Soldiers. They put the needs of others ahead of their own needs. Other people can count on them, knowing their officer has their back.

Why is loyalty so important to a leader? Finding good people with excellent skills in the business world is extremely difficult. Every manager will tell you that finding top performers, keeping them happy, and keeping them from leaving is their top priority. As you work throughout your career, if you want to become a big leader, you need to build a loyal following. The reasons for doing so are fairly obvious. You want the best and brightest people to follow you from place to place, but even more importantly, you want your most loyal employees (assuming they are average to above average workers) to come along, as well. They help you build instant credibility and typically give your teams a can-do attitude that is contagious. ~ Marc Moskowitz

# 15: Military Bearing

Great officers have a strong military bearing. They look the part. They stay in shape, their attitude is great, and their uniform is sharp. They are polite and professional. Most importantly, they have the “command” presence.

Military bearing is conducting oneself in a professional manner to bring credit upon oneself and the Army at all times. It is the ability to project a commanding presence and confidence, uphold standards, and doing the hard right over the easy wrong in both good and bad situations both on and off duty. ~ Army U Press

# 16: Open Minded

Great officers are confident, but they do not act like a “know it all”. They seek advice from their personal advisors whenever possible. They are always looking for ways to improve and do things better. They know that ANYONE can give them a good idea.

Leaders need to be open-minded. They need to break out of their normal thinking patterns to find innovative ideas. Being open-minded allows leaders to see things from a different perspective or how things can be applied in new and novel ways. ~

# 17: Resilient

Great Army Officers thrive under pressure. They can bounce back from any situation. Nothing keeps them down. They never quit or fold.

Resilient leaders have the ability to sustain their energy level under pressure, to cope with disruptive changes and adapt. They bounce back from setbacks. Resilience is a crucial characteristic of high- performing leaders. Leaders must cultivate it in themselves in order to advance and thrive. ~

# 18: Results Oriented

Great officers are results focused. They know that results mean everything. They can produce and get the mission done on time and to standard. Without results (mission accomplishment), nothing else on this list even matters.

A results-oriented leader is one who tends to be decisive and confident in taking charge. They are focused, logical, and organized. Typically, they are task-orientated and will set high expectations for yourself and those around you. They are likely to be confident speaking out and direct with their language. ~

# 19: Team Player

The Army is a team sport. A good Army Officer is a team player. That means that she is a good follower, in addition to being a good leader. She understands that she has a boss and is part of their team.

If a team is meeting targets, it’s because the members are optimally motivated. A leader can only motivate the members when he knows what motivates them. To be a good team leader, a manager must be a good team player first and encourage his team members to become team players too.

general patton leadership quote

# 20: Trustworthy

Your Soldiers, subordinates, peers, and supervisor must be able to trust you. This means you are a person of your word and you are reliable.

When your team trusts you as a leader, it increases commitment to team goals. Communication improves, and ideas flow more freely, increasing creativity and productivity. Perhaps most important, in the hands of a trusted leader, employees are more comfortable with change and more willing to embrace a new vision. ~

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, these are the top Army Officer Leadership Qualities, as I see it. Which quality on this list is most important to you? Which one did I forget? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.

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chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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