The Five Types of Army Leaders

During my career in the Army, I worked with many different types of leaders.  Some were great, most were okay and others were downright incompetent!  Through the years, I found that there are five types of Army leaders.

# 1 By the Book

This type of leader focuses exclusively on the regulations.  They want to make sure that everything done under their command is 100% by the book 100% of the time.  Whenever there is an issue, they quote what the regulation says.  To some people, this might sound like a good idea.  Unfortunately, anytime you involve humans into the equation, things rarely will go ‘by the book.’  Most of a leader’s important decisions are not in a book.  Whenever the book doesn’t tell the leader what to do, they normally lack the judgement to make a good decision.

# 2 The Micro Manager

This is the boss that is a perfectionist and doesn’t think anyone can do as good of a job at something as they can.  As a result, they often micro-manage their subordinates and step out of their lane.  Instead of “leading” an organization they stay busy doing the work that they should be delegating.  Also, many micro-manager bosses don’t know what their real job as a leader is, so they stay busy trying to do other people’s jobs.  These types of bosses are very common in the Army.

# 3 The Dictator

The dictator is the person who has let their duty position go to their head.  They think that because they are in charge, they have to walk around balking out orders and bossing people around.  These leaders lead with brute force and ignorance and rarely do anything to inspire their followers.  Their mindset is “I am in charge and you will do what I say.”  These leader very seldom advance their career very far.

# 4 The Weenie

This is another type of Army leadership style.  These are the leaders who are scared to make a decision or accept responsibility for anything.  They constantly have to go to their boss for a decision.  They spend all their time trying to stay out of trouble.  They are scared to make decisions because they don’t want to make the wrong decision or look bad.

# 5 The Mavericks

This is a rare type of leader, but generally the most effective.  The mavericks are the ones that are doers.  They are hard workers.  They inspire their followers to greatness.  They can succeed at any job.  They take pride in everything they do and are constantly in the top 5%.  They think progress and high standards.  These leaders normally get promoted well above their peers and advance to the senior ranks in the Army.

Final Thoughts

What type of Army leader are you? What can you do to improve your effectiveness as an Army leader? What are your strengths and weaknesses? I highly encourage you to evaluate what type of Army leader you are and look for ways to constantly improve.

What do you think about the 5 types of Army leaders? Feel free to give your opinions, and if you have any questions, ask. Thanks.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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10 thoughts on “The Five Types of Army Leaders”

  1. This is a great post! I love the titles.

    I do have to disagree with your assessment of the Dictator style. I worked for a few of those during a long stint in a certain j-o-b. One in particular was a real bully. She advanced to a rather high position in the company, very quickly and at a young age, mostly because she was so good at being a bully and making it clear that complaints would be met with firm consequences. Fortunately, she finally picked on the wrong person: a subordinate with a tape recorder. She was fired within a week.

    You might think that she got what she deserved, but within a few short months, she began showing up in marketing paperwork for a HUGE organization in the next state over, with a long title after her name. She has been rewarded time after time for her abilities to dictate to others.

  2. This is such a funny post! I literally was laughing when I thought of a “Weenie” Army Leader – hilarious, and never thought of. I am not a part of the Army, but if I were I feel that I would probably fit under the “By the Book” Leader, simply because that is how I was brought up and how we do things in our household – by the rules, and by the book. But I do find it to be a weakness, like you said, because people are that – people and human, they are not perfect, nor will they live up to every standard, obey every rule and follow every guideline set before them, no matter how perfect they may seem!

    I asked my husband which leader he was in the Air Force and he said “The Maverick”. His reasoning was because he expected results and got results :) He is also very laid back, but when it comes down to getting things done, he gets things done with his crew. A great team leader!

  3. Reading this blog post made me laugh because I can think of numerous platoon sergeants, first sergeants, company commanders, and so on that fit the description of each one of your classifications. The only one I can’t really remember running into is “The Weenie” but the rest are right on the money. My least favorite is “By the Book” though. Some leaders will do things by the book at the cost of reason and it just doesn’t work that way.

    1. Sometimes the “weenie” leader isn’t always obvious. They might appear confident in front of their Soldiers, but when it comes to making decisions they have to always run to their boss to get approval. And I agree with you, the “by the book” type of leader is my least favorite too. Leaders have to make their own decisions based on the information available. The regulations are a guidepost, but there are lots of things not in regulations.

  4. At the beginning of my first deployment, I had a platoon leader who was a micromanager. He was a good guy, and very intelligent, but he had to directly control everything and would not let his NCOs do their jobs. For example, during the dismounted phase of our Bradley Table XII, he spent so much time running to each of his squad leaders’ positions (instead of having them come to him and then trusting them to execute his directives) that his RTO went down as a heat casualty. I knew the company commander who trained him as a new second lieutenant, and to this day I’m convinced that a lot of that officer’s problems came from the fact that his first CO would rip him a new one over the smallest error. Consequently, he was so afraid to fail that he wouldn’t trust anyone else with what had to be done–and therefore ended up failing anyway. As a leader, you must always allow your people to make mistakes as long as those mistakes are “good mistakes.” That means they made a decision with the information available (and rarely can you wait to have “all” the information) that didn’t work out. (“Bad mistakes” are the ones that result from negligence, laziness, or failure to think, and those are never OK.) Having an organizational culture in which people are punished for every mistake leads to time and effort spent on CYA, avoiding blame or trying to throw others under the bus, and an unwillingness to make a decision in case it turns out to be the wrong one. It’s easy to see how these things are corrosive to morale and unit integrity.

    1. Personally, I think mistakes are a good thing as long as we learn from it. As leaders, we must realize that we will make mistakes and everyone working for us will make mistakes at some point or another. It’s part of growing and developing your leadership skills.

      The secret is to (1) learn from each mistake and (2) never make the same mistake twice.


  5. I would like to think that I am a mix of all (except the “weenie”). I believe that a well-rounded leader is the best. Being strictly a BY THE BOOK or a MAVERICK can be bad. I would say that my biggest weakness is my inability to practice exactly what I preach. I often times reflect at the end of training or at the end of my day and think, “wow I handled that completely opposite the way I should have and I know better.” However, the more I read and create little “reminders” the less and less this happens. Even Ben Franklin carried a notebook around with his virtues in it recording as he violated them. As the years went by, he was violating his own rules less and less.

    1. Good points, Justin.

      Most of us are a combination of these different types of leaders, not one exclusively.

      Your point about practicing what you preach is very important. To some degree, we are all hypocrites. Our goal is to minimize that as much as possible and always be a good example. Sometimes that is very difficult to do!

      I also like your idea about carrying around the notebook with you and “keeping a log” of what you do right and wrong. This is something I try to do every day.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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