Situational Leadership for Military Leaders

There is no cookie cutter approach for military leadership.

If you want to be an effective military leader, you must lead different people in different ways.

Everyone has different personalities, skill-sets, and levels of motivation.

Your job is to find the most effective way to lead each person you are in charge of.

This is by no means an easy task.

I’ve found that when we treat everyone the same, we get horrible results.

I don’t think you should ever treat EVERYONE the same.

Please understand I’m not telling you to pick favorites or discriminate.

That is unethical and illegal.

What I am telling you to do is to figure out the best way to lead EACH person you are in charge of.

For instance, you might have some folks who are trained and motivated, and need little guidance (I love these folks).

These are the folks who need little guidance and less supervision.

Simply give them a task and get out of their way.

Or, you might have folks who are new to a job and need some hands on training.

They have the desire to do the job, but don’t know what they are doing yet.

Or, you might have an experienced person who is simply trying to buck the system because he is unmotivated.

Regardless, it’s your job to figure out how to get the maximum performance out of each of your soldiers.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

  1. 12 Common Army Leadership Mistakes
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  3. Being Calm, Cool and Collected: Leadership Tip for Army Leaders
  4. How to Develop Your Military Leadership Skills: 13 Ways to Do It

I’ve found a simple exercise you can do to become an effective military leader.

The easiest way to get started is to take out a sheet of paper.

Make a list of everyone you directly supervise.

Write down their strengths and weaknesses (as you see it) next to their name.

Rate their performance on a scale of 1-10.

Write down what you think motivates the person (recognition, time off, money, etc).

Once you complete this exercise, sit down with each person individually.

Tell them your goal is to help them, and also to find out what you can do to be a better boss.

Ask them questions like:

1. How would you rate your performance so far?

2. What do you like about your job?

3. What do you dislike about your job?

4. What tools or resources (that you don’t have right now) would make your job easier?

5. What motivates you (time off, recognition, etc.)?

6. What could I do to help you take this job to the next level?

7. On a scale of 1-10, rate if you feel appreciated?

8. What can I do to make your life easier?

Once you ask these questions, you will know more about your subordinates than most bosses do.

This will put you in the driver’s seat.

You can now identify ways to improve morale, improve performance and improve proficiency.

You will know how each person ticks and what action steps you can take to improve the work environment.

Final Thoughts

If you would like to learn more about Situational Leadership, feel free to read Ken Blanchard’s book “Situational Leadership and the One Minute Manager.

It is one of my favorite management books of all time.

Check out my recommended reading list for part-time Officers.

Do you have any questions or comments?

Please ask below, and I will answer as soon as I can.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “Situational Leadership for Military Leaders”

  1. If only every leader or officer put as much care into supervising at you did. I can't tell you how many people barely know who their supervisors are or the proper chain of command. This goes in the other direction as well. The supervisor knows his troop and basically what they do, but if you ask them for details they can't provide them. You need to be involved in your people's careers.

  2. I believe I have mentioned it before chuck, but I must reiterate: leadership is a lot like parenting. Well, actually parenting is leadership.

    Every child is different. We have to use different approaches for each child. One great example I have is: my first wife (RIP) and I had 3 children. In discipline we found that a swat on the rear for the eldest would work in most cases. With our middle boy, a spanking wouldn’t solve anything, but 5 minutes in a corner and he was tamed. Our daughter usually was just a simple talking to, and it was solved.

    Soldiers are the same. We need to discover how they tick, and use what works. Throw away what doesn’t work.

    Great post Chuck. Hopefully leaders read and learn from it.

  3. These are great questions to ask someone on your team. It really gets them thinking about what they need to succeed in their job, which is empowering, and also casts the leader in a good light as someone who is helpful, listens and can work with them to get them to their next step. Good tips!

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