Leadership Advice for Every Army Leader: 10 Tips

Today, I want to share some of my leadership advice for every Army leader, whether you are a brand new Corporal or an experienced General Officer.  These are “lessons” I learned while I was in the military, and after I resigned.  These concepts are pretty simple, but they can be completely life changing if you embrace them.  They are listed in no particular order.

1.  Be a student of your business.  You need to be a student of your business.  Learn everything you can about your MOS, your duty position, your unit and the Army.  The more you learn the more you will realize that there is a lot you don’t know. Always keep an open mind on how things you do can be done and try to learn something new every single day.  Attend lots of schools, read FMs and manuals, find a mentor, and ALWAYS BE LEARNING!

2. Be a servant leader.  Most leaders really mess this one up.  Just remember this; if you have five people reporting to you, you work for those five people.  They don’t serve you.  YOU SERVE THEM.  Pardon the caps lock, but I really had to get that point across.  Don’t let your title or rank go to your head and make you think that your you know what doesn’t stink!  If anything, the more rank you get the more responsibility you have to serve others.

3.  Set high standards and focus on continuous improvement.  No one is perfect.  Yes, I know some people think they are.  But we are all humans and will never be perfect.  The key to success in your own career, and in leading your unit, is to set high standards and focus on improvement.  If you set high standards and get a little bit better every single day, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in just a short period of time.

4. Set a strong personal example. People are watching you all the time, when you are in uniform and when you are not. Always lead from the front.  Stay in shape, set a good example, master your craft and be the best leader you can.  Many of your followers will model your behavior, so make sure it is worth modeling!  Remember, the speed of the boss is the speed of the team.

5.  Take pride in everything that you do.  Whether you are a janitor, the lowest ranking cook, or the Commanding General, your job is important.  Whatever task you are given, whatever it is that you do, take pride in it and do the best you can do. Remember, the Army is a team effort.  Everyone must do their job so the team can succeed.   Don’t think the position makes the person.  If anything, the person makes the position.  Always go the extra mile and do the best that you can.

6. Admit when you are wrong.  I’ve made my share of mistakes in my Army career and I know you have too.  When you are wrong, just admit it.  Let your ego go.  You have a team of people helping you and supporting you for a reason.  Listen to them and seek their input.  Make the best decision you can with the information you have, and if you make a bad decision, just admit it and move forward.  Your people will respect you for it and it definitely won’t make you look like a weak leader.

7. Keep the main thing the main thing.  You need to establish crystal clear priorities.  Always do things in order of importance.  Don’t confuse busy work with being productive.  Make a “to do” list everyday, find out what your boss’s priorities are, and do the most important things first.  Do that and you will become known as a doer, a productive person who adds value to the unit.

8. Don’t make excuses!  This goes hand in hand with admitting when you are wrong.  Excuses are like you know what; everyone has them.  The truth of the matter is this: you can either make excuses or you can make things happen, but you can’t do both!  At some point, you need to man up or woman up and accept responsibility for your own career, for your unit, and for your actions. Until you do that you will never really be a leader.  When you mess up, just admit that you messed up, learn from it, and move forward.

9. Live the three E’s: Effective, Excellent and Efficient.  The three E’s are what guides my life.  I used these during my time as a Company Commander and it worked very well.  The first E is to become effective at your job.  You must know what to do and how to do it.  Next is excellent.  This means having high standards and never settling for the minimum.  Once you master those two things, you need to look for ways to improve your efficiency.  This last step is the most time consuming and where most Army leaders (and government employees) fall short.

10. Purpose and Direction.  Not only do you need purpose and direction for yourself, but you also need it for your team members. Everyday, both you and your team members should know what your purpose is and where you are headed.  You must share your vision, let people know why they are doing what they are doing (not just because you said so), and tell them how their actions contribute to the greater good of the team.

Final Thoughts

In summary, these are ten of my best tips for every Army leader to follow.  Following these ten things will really help you succeed as a leader.  What are your thoughts?  What do you think about my leadership advice for Army leaders?  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)
Publisher, Part-Time-Commander.com
Email: mrchuckholmes@gmail.com

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10 thoughts on “Leadership Advice for Every Army Leader: 10 Tips”

  1. All of these examples, especially #4 really reflect what a good Army leader is. People always try and copy what they admire and believe to be good. So, if an Army leader (or any leader in any field) is considered good by those under him/her, they will more likely be mirrored. #6 is equally as important, and by being honest you’ll not only encourage the best in your soldiers to come out but also serve as a moral example.

  2. I had to pipe in again on this excellent post. Something that really hit me as I read it again today is the Don’t make excuses tip. It reminds me of an old line my Father would say every time my brother or I would make an excuse. I will tame down the words slightly, but it goes: Excuses are like butt holes, everyone has one and they all stink. Usually the only excuse we really have is ourselves.

  3. People with an excellent sense of right and wrong will know exactly what you are talking about. To be an efficient, effective and excellent leader one needs to be humble enough to know their faults, accept and embrace them, and be willing to make changes. I love the three Es too! I was lucky enough to attend a convention and a wise woman said these words that I live by, “Do the right thing ALL the time.” Sometimes it is hard, sometimes we do not want to, but in the end we must. We must in order to be an example to those who come after us.

  4. Everyone of these tips can also be used in civilian life too. Thanks for these Chuck. We need to see, and hear them often to remind us. Sometimes our egos can get just much too large to accept we are just humans and we need reminders to do what is right.

    I find that if we totally abide by living #9, all the rest will fall into place. I love the 3 E’s and I think I need to make an item that has that to put on my bathroom mirror.

    I have also found that #6 can be a hard thing to do, but so relieving once you have just admitted you are wrong.

    Thanks for this post Chuck.

    1. Candace Ginestar

      I agree that the three Es are extremely important, and if you implement them into your life, you will be a better leader. I admit that sometimes I focus most on efficiency, when I should focus more on the other two.

  5. Candace Ginestar

    Chuck, thank you for writing this. I think my 10 would basically be the same as your top 10.
    These are things that apply to every level of leadership, no matter how long or short you’ve been in the military. I hope people read this and take it to heart. I know I have!

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