How to Empower Your Subordinate Army Officers, NCOs and Soldiers

In this post, I’m going to share some helpful tips on how to empower your subordinate Officers, NCOs and Soldiers.  I truly believe that empowering your followers is one of the WISEST decisions you can make as a leader.  What you really want is a group of followers who feel appreciated, respected, trusted, and empowered to do their job.  If you can do that, your productivity will increase significantly and you will be an effective leader.

The first thing you should do to empower your subordinates is to SUPPORT your subordinates.  What does this mean? This means that you support their decisions and you trust their judgement.  You encourage them to make decisions on their own.  If they make the wrong decision, you let them learn from it and improve as a leader. You don’t just throw them out to the wolves when they mess up.  You have their back.  You provide feedback and talk about it, but you are supportive (unless it was an illegal or unethical decision).

Another tip to empower your subordinates is to give clear guidance.   Whenever something needs to be done, make sure your subordinates know what the standard is.  Make sure they know what you expect of them.  Give them clear instructions and get them to back-brief you on those instructions.  Don’t make them try to read your mind or figure out what you want them to do.

Furthermore, you should delegate work whenever possible.  Your subordinates what you to challenge them to step out of their comfort zone.  The best way to do this is to delegate as much of your work as possible.  Don’t hoard all of the work yourself. Share the responsibility and the work load.  Your good subordinates will appreciate it and they will rise to the occasion. Remember, the Army pays you to get things done through other people.

Next, you should provide constant feedback.  People need to know where they stand with you at all times.  Provide feedback when people do things right and when they do things wrong.  Never make people wonder where they stand with you.  Share your thoughts about what went right and what went wrong whenever possible.  Spend a few minutes each day providing feedback to the people you lead.

Furthermore, you should recognize their achievements.  What does this mean?  In addition to providing feedback, you should submit your subordinates for awards, for time off, for the schools they want, for promotions, etc.  Spend the time to find out how each person functions and find out what is important to them.  Reward them based upon what is important to them.  It will make a big difference in how much EXTRA they do for you.

And of course, one of the best things you can do is to lead by example.  No one wants to work for a dirt bag or a slacker. Make sure you are setting high standards for others to follow.  Be a good leader, a hard worker and someone with a good attitude. Be someone worth looking up to!

Final Thoughts

People want to be empowered.  Your Soldiers want to work for someone that they admire, trust and respect.  Be a good leader, set a strong example and empower your people.  The most important thing to do is to give clear guidance, to support your people, provide feedback, reward and recognize their performance and lead by example.  Do that and you will have a great group of people to work with.  Mess it up and things will be much harder than they need to be.

What are your thoughts about empowering your subordinate Officers, NCOs and Soldiers?  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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5 thoughts on “How to Empower Your Subordinate Army Officers, NCOs and Soldiers”

  1. These are all great tips on how to empower your subordinates Chuck. Support is quite important and delegating responsibilities. Trust is a must.

    I must add something else that wasn’t mentioned. If you notice a mistake or error that a subordinate committed, do not call them on it in front of anyone else. Sure, you may be upset, but never, never confront them in front of anyone else. It is best to have a one on one with them with no one else present. Explain to them that you did not say anything at the moment because of other people being present. This will show them that you respect them enough to wait until others were not in earshot.

  2. This is excellent advice for any workplace, not just the military. Like another commenter mentioned, this post should be printed out and stuck on the wall of every supervisor/leader’s office wall. It would serve as a great reminder of how to treat subordinates and get them to work their hardest. No one is motivated to do a job they don’t understand, so give clear instructions and concept check your subordinates to make sure they understand the direction of the assignment. Also, make all your subordinates feel valuable. Don’t only give tasks to the experienced, make the newcomer feel valued by assigning him or her a task. And, when that task has been finished, acknowledge their achievement. A great leader in any profession should follow this subordinate-treatment advice!

  3. This post could be printed out and placed on the wall in most work centers. There are many ways to be a bad supervisor, but the two I'll point out are clear guidance and constant feedback. Many supervisors give vague or no instruction and then are shocked when their troops find themselves ill-prepared for the job at hand. Most troops, especially new troops, need some guidance to stay on the right track and to know that their supervisor is involved in their careers. Feedback is the second step as that allows your troops to know in no uncertain terms what is expected of them and if they are meeting that standard.

    1. I agree. There are few things worse than being given very vague advice from your boss and then getting chewed out for not doing things a certain way. And there are few things I hate more than ONLY hearing from a boss when I mess up. Feedback is vitally important. Thanks for the comment.

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