Three Tips to Effective Military Leadership

One of my favorite leadership books is “The One Minute Manager” by Dr. Ken Blanchard.

In the book, Dr. Blanchard provides three helpful tips to be an effective manager/leader.

I’d like to share my thoughts on these three ideas when it comes to military leadership.

His three tips for success as a leader include (1) setting goals for your followers, (2) providing praise when people do a good job, and (3) reprimanding poor performance.

We’ll cover each idea in more detail below.

Step 1: Set Goals

A goal is a specific task or objective with a deadline.

As a military leader, you need to take the time to set goals for your team members.

This begins when you conduct your initial counseling with your subordinates.

You must clearly outline their job description, what you expect of them, and their personal and professional standards.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Each week (or each month for Army Reserve/National Guard folks) you should set goals for/with your subordinates.

If the person is new to their job, you should set goals for them.

If they are experienced in the job, you should let them set their own goals, but have them share their goals with you.

In both cases, both you and your subordinate should be clear as to what the goals are this week, month, quarter and rating period.

I’ve found that most folks don’t have written goals.

When was the last time your boss helped you set some goals for your job?

Probably never.

Whether your boss helps you or not, it’s still your responsibility to help your subordinates set written goals, so they know what is expected of them.

Make sure the goals are written down, specific, attainable, and clearly understood by everyone involved.

one minute managerStep 2: Provide Praise and Feedback

Have you ever noticed that people train their pets by giving them a “treat” when they do a good job?

I’ve found that it’s much easier to improve someone’s performance by rewarding good behavior, rather than just reprimanding bad behavior.

As a leader, you should provide constant feedback to your followers.

Whenever they do something good, you should give them an ‘atta boy’ or pat on the back.

Everyone loves praise and feedback.

Most people only hear from their boss when they mess up.

They can do 99 things right and hear nothing, but if they do one thing wrong they get punished.

Personally, I think that’s horrible leadership.

Make sure you take the time to constantly provide feedback with your followers.

This includes written counseling, praise through email, awards, certificates, praise in public, an occasional free meal, thank you cards, etc.

Whenever possible reward good behavior.

And do it often!

Never make your followers “wonder” what you think about their performance.

Instead, let them know what you think.

Step 3: Reprimands

Your job is to enforce the Army standards equally and hold your followers accountable for their performance.

If team members know what is expected of them (goals) and you provide feedback and praise when they do a good job, I’ve found that it’s very easy to reprimand someone when they mess up (without them getting angry).

The key is how you do it.

I’ve found that if someone is messing up, your key to fixing the behavior is to pull them aside in private and talk with them.

Remind them of what is expected of them, tell them what they are doing wrong, and tell them what they need to do to fix it.

I also recommend you dig a little deeper and ask questions, especially if they are normally a good performer.

Make your reprimand quick and end on a positive note.

Use the sandwich technique of saying something positive, addressing the issue at hand, and then closing on a positive.

Most importantly, reprimand poor performance immediately.

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  4. George Washington: His 20 Best Leadership Tips
  5. The Top 10 Tips for Future Army Officers

Final Thoughts

In summary, I recommend that all military leaders follow these three simple steps, in order to be effective military leaders.

The key to success is to (1) tell people what you expect of them, (2) provide feedback and praise when they do something right and (3) reprimand poor performance.

I hope that helps.

What are your thoughts?

What leadership tips can you share with other military leaders?

Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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3 thoughts on “Three Tips to Effective Military Leadership”

  1. You have three tips and you have to hope the first two eliminate the need for the third one. If you set high, but reasonable standards and give quality feedback and leave a line of communication open with your troops you hope that reprimands won't be necessary.
    However, you can't be afraid to nudge (or shove) your people back into line if it becomes necessary.

  2. Being an effective leader is very important. The tips you provide are excellent. At the end of the day, you need a clear purpose, good people skills, knowledge in your specific field and a willingness to learn. You also need to be able to admit when you are wrong and learn from your mistakes.

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