The Most Common Issues That Military Leaders Deal With

What are the most common issues that military leaders face?  Here are a few common issues that I can think of.

  1. Diversity: The military is very diverse.  We have people from every walk of life, to include different religions, races, values, etc.  Personally, I think that’s a good thing.  The military is like one big melting pot.  That being said, not everyone is used to this diversity, especially new leaders.  I’ve met many military leaders who never really interacted with people outside of their race.  I’ve met white people who never previously interacted with black people, country folks who’ve never interacted with city folks, black people who’ve never interacted with Asians, and much more.  While the only color in the Army is “green,” some people have to get used to working with people with different backgrounds.
  2. Difficult Bosses: Another common issue many military leaders have to deal with is difficult bosses.  I’d guess that nearly 80% of the people I survey say they have a bad boss.  I’m not sure if their boss is really bad or not, but they still think so.  Normally, the issue has to deal with poor communication, different agendas and unclear expectations.  Remember, the military is not a democracy.  It is a dictatorship.  Even if you don’t like your boss, you should respect the rank.  And you should do what you can do to build a good, professional relationship with your boss.  That is your job, not theirs.
  3. High Stress Situations: The military is known for high stress situations, especially in combat.  Even though most soldiers have had similar military training, everyone deals with stress differently.  Some people handle it well and others let it take over their life.  Handling your own level of stress can be challenging.  Managing the stress among your team is just as tough.
  4. Problem Soldiers: This is one of the most common issues military leaders deal with.  While most soldiers are good, there are poor performing soldiers in every unit.  Military leaders must learn how to discipline soldiers effectively, how to motivate soldiers effectively, and how to get rid of the people that shouldn’t be in the military in the first place.  This can be one of the hardest and most time consuming things to do.
  5. The System: This is another word for bureaucracy.  Sometimes the military is to big for its own good.  There can be layers of bureaucracy that sometimes make it difficult to get anything done.  It really boils down to knowing the right people in the right places and knowing who to go to.

These are just a few things that come to mind.  I would love to hear from you.  What are some of the most common issues you’ve had to deal with as a military leader and how did you handle it?  Just leave a comment to this post to share your thoughts. Also, if you have any questions about how to deal with certain military issues, just ask and I will do my best to provide an answer.


chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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9 thoughts on “The Most Common Issues That Military Leaders Deal With”

  1. Military leaders face all kinds of challenges such as:

    Keeping politics out of the military
    Keeping their opinion to themselves
    Dealing with leaders who only care about getting promoted
    Dealing with low quality soldiers
    Dealing with a fast paced, high OPTEMPO

    Being in the military isn’t even close to as good as it was in the 1980s or 1990s.

  2. You could add a rather high turnover of personnel to the list. It is easy to run your organization when you know most of your employees are in it for the long haul and will be under your leadership for multiple years. It’s a bit different when you only have a few years with each one, if you have that. It may be a bit different within the National Guard, but for the most part turnover is high.

    1. Dealing with turnover is a big issue in the military. Unfortunately, you have to play the cards you are dealt. And it isn’t all that easy to fire or move people around in the military. I think this is one of the reasons military leaders thrive in the civilian world. They learn how to deal with so many complex issues.

  3. You’re right that everyone handles stress in their job very differently. No matter the training, you never know what’s going to happen in a combat situation. Even sometimes outside of combat, people can react to stress in very unhealthy ways. The bureaucracy doesn’t help, but I think it’s inevitable when you’re part of such a massive organization.

    1. Great points, Andrew.

      As a military leader, it always surprised me who handled the combat situation the best and who didn’t handle it well at all. Sometimes, my poor performing Soldiers were the best under stress and my superstars sometimes buckled. You just never know how people will react.

      I believe that effective leaders learn how to deal with stress effectively. It is a normal part of work, combat and life. Dealing with stress yourself, rather than letting it control you is the only real solution.

  4. I have to say I’m shocked at the percentage of people claiming to have bad bosses. I’ve had platoon sergeants, platoon leaders, and commanders who might not have been the most active or most capable leaders, but I don’t know that I would have gone straight to “bad” if asked to rate them. At any rate, I have to say our biggest issue is physical fitness. A lot of electronic ink has been spilled on this site (and elsewhere) on that topic, but it is extremely difficult to control soldier fitness levels with two days a month. We even started a program where some of our NCOs ran a PT program during the week at a public place for any of our guys who wanted to attend, but it’s still voluntary. The bottom line today is that the Guard is placing bars to enlistment on those who consistently fail the APFT. Even though it affects some otherwise-good soldiers, we’re now looking at get fit or get out.

    1. I haven’t had many bosses during my military or civilian career, either Daniel. I think a lot of people call their boss a bad boss if they don’t agree with their agenda or have the same leadership or personality style.

      The truth of the matter is that most bosses are good or they wouldn’t have been promoted to that duty position. And before we are too quick to judge others we should look ourselves in the mirror first.

  5. My husband is a higher ranking officer and has had to deal with the very issues you have addressed. He was from a small town in Iowa, so he definitely wasn’t used to how diverse the military really is. To be a good leader in the military, you should follow these tips and remember to always respect your leaders. Like the article says, the military is not a democracy. If you can’t deal with it- perhaps it’s not for you!

    1. Respect is very important, Michelle.

      Even when we have a bad boss, we should still show them respect.

      And I agree with you, the military is not a democracy!

      Thanks for the comment.

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