Three Pillars of Effective Military Leadership: The Three E’s

Today, I want to talk about what I consider to be the three pillars of effective military leadership.  During my time in the military, and during my time as an entrepreneur, I’ve lived by what I call the “Three E’s.”  Simply put, these are three simple things I do to be a better, more effective leader.  Whether you are a Team Leader or Division Commander, I truly believe the “Three E’s” can transform your organization.  I will cover more on this below.

The “Three E’s” stand for effectiveness, excellence and efficient.  I truly believe that every organization (and leader) inside and outside of the military should live by the “Three E’s.”  The benefits of doing so are huge, some which include better retention, morale, leader development and of course, performance.

Your starting point is effectiveness.  Your first goal is to become an effective leader and be effective at your job.  You also want your organization to be effective at their mission.  You (and your organization) need to be technically and tactically proficient and you need to know the ins and outs of your job.  This means you can get the job done, on time, and done right.  If you can’t be effective, none of the other E’s even matter.

So, how do you be effective?  Well, here are a few things I recommend.

  • Trained in your MOS or officer branch
  • Develop your job skills
  • Know what your mission is (or job) and have the ability and motivation to get it done and get it done right
  • Maximizing your resources and people
  • Having the “mission first” mindset

Once you are effective at your job, your next major goal is excellence.  This means that you do two things.  First and foremost, you have high standards for everything you are do.  You never do the minimum.  You always go above and beyond and strive to be the best you can be.  It also means that you focus on continuous improvement.  You try to get better at your job, and improve your team every single day, week, month and year.

You never settle for mediocrity.  The Army standards are the absolute bare bones minimum.  Your personal standards are much higher.  In addition to high standards, you must always focus on continuous improvement.  The truth is, you can always improve.  So can your organization.  Even if you are good at what you do, you always want to get better.  This is what being excellent is all about.

Once you are effective and excellent (which take time to do), your final step is to become as efficient as possible.  This is one area where the government and military really sucks at.  In the military, we tend to waste money and resources.  As a leader, your job is to run your organization (whether a Fire Team or Division Commander) as efficiently as possible.  Your goal should be do to do more with less, to save the government money and to have  a finely tuned organization.  How do you do that?  Here are a few tips be improve your efficiency.

  • Reward good performers
  • Punish poor performers
  • Establish policies, SOPs and standards
  • Always look for ways to improve
  • Think outside the box
  • Act as if your organization is a for profit business

You can always improve your efficiency.

Final Thoughts

I believe the “Three E’s” apply to both individuals and organizations.  And I believe that the “Three E’s” are the three pillars of effective military leadership.  As the leader, you should live by the “Three E’s” in everything you do.  In addition, you should ensure your organization and people in your organization do the same thing!

What are your thoughts about the “Three E’s” of effective military leadership?  Leave a comment and let us know.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “Three Pillars of Effective Military Leadership: The Three E’s”

  1. I agree completely that the three E’s apply to both individuals and organizations, both military and civilian organizations alike, large and small. Every time I’ve ever found myself frustrated with someone in leadership, or a subordinate, it’s because somewhere along the line someone dropped the ball in the area of being effective, efficient, or excellence. Taking the time to embody these values and lead by example is vital to seeing a positive payout.

  2. Great post, Chuck. You summed up some key points of military leadership in a memorable way. Efficiency is my favorite, especially because of the lack of it in how our government attemtps to run things. The military is often faced with picking up the slack by, as you stated, do more with less money, which means less resources. Can you imagine how well things would run if our government adhered to the principles military leadership adheres to? Effectiveness and efficiency alone would make a tremendous difference.

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