In today’s post, I want to share my top 10 ways to be a better Army Leader. Most of these tips are simple, easy things you can do to start improving your leadership effectiveness right away. Let’s get started.
Tip # 1: Learn to Listen More
We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Make it a point to listen more. Be an active listener. When someone else is talking, put down your cell phone, look away from your computer and look the other person in the eye when they speak. Don’t think about what you are going to say. LISTEN to the other person. Your people will respect you for doing it, because very few people do this anymore. We live in a distracted, short attention span society.
Tip # 2: Read More Books
One of the best things I ever did to improve my leadership skills was deciding to establish a reading program for myself. Initially, I started reading one professional development book each month. Now I read two books a week. Read books on communication, conflict resolution, leadership, military history and other topics. Read Army Regulations and Field Manuals, too. Read books that will teach you new skills and help improve your current skills. If you don’t want to buy the books, go to your library. If you don’t like to read, get the audio version. If I could credit one thing to my success in life, it is my love for reading books.
Tip # 3: Do the Work Your Soldier’s Do
You’ll be a much better Army leader when you’ve been in the same shoes of the people you lead. That’s one of the reasons prior service enlisted Soldiers often make great Officers. If you don’t have the luxury of being an enlisted Soldier before you became an Officer, you have another option. Every once in a while at least once a week, or once a month for Reserve Soldiers, do the work your Soldiers do. Roll up your sleeves and spend 20 minutes doing some of the physical work. Watch the Soldier do their job and ask them questions about their job. This will help you connect with your Soldiers and it might give you ideas on what resources the Soldier needs to do a better job.
Tip # 4: Always Give a Task and Purpose
Whenever you tell someone to do something, always give them a clear task and purpose. Tell them why you are having them do their job. Let them know how their job fits into the bigger picture. The days of “do it because I told you so” are long gone. Even though the Army is not a democracy, the best Army leaders always let their subordinates know “why” they are doing what they are doing.
Tip # 5: Provide Constant Feedback
One of the easiest things you can do to improve your leadership effectiveness is to provide constant feedback. Let your Soldiers know where they stand with you whenever possible. If a Soldier does a good job on a mission you assign him/her, pull them aside and praise their performance right away. The sooner the better. If they messed up on something, pull them aside and tell them what went wrong. The more feedback you can provide, the better you will be as a leader. Your Soldiers should never wonder where they stand with you.
Tip # 6: Send Thank You Cards
Sending thank you cards WILL have a huge impact on morale. So few leaders write a hand written note. I received two in 15 years of service and I value those two notes 10x more than any award I have ever received. Make it a point to write at least one thank you card each week. During drill weekend, take notes of who is doing a good job and make it a point to write one or two thank you cards on the last day of drill weekend. Get some custom stationary with your name and rank on it.
Tip # 7: Challenge Your Followers to Grow
Another great leadership tip is to challenge your Soldiers to grow. You want to help your followers learn how to set goals. You want to teach them the importance of reading and personal and professional development. You want to assign them challenging tasks and get them to stretch out of their comfort zone. Do whatever you can to stretch people out of their comfort zones.
Tip # 8: Get To Know Your Followers Personally
You should get to know your followers on a personal level. You don’t want to (or need to) become friends, but you should show a genuine interest in them as people too. Find out about where they are from, how they are wired, what makes them tick, what they are passionate about, what motivates them, etc. When you know these things, you can do a better job as their leader. Please note I am not telling you to become “buddies” with your followers. You don’t need to be on a first name basis. You aren’t friends. But at least show them that you value them as a person to, not just as a Soldier.
Tip # 9: Teach Your Followers to Set Goals
Learn how to teach your followers to set goals. Sit down with them and help them map out their career. Teach them to set long-term, mid-term and short-term goals so they can decide what they want to accomplish in their career. Most people have never had a class on goal setting. Teaching your subordinates how to do that is very important.
Tip # 10: Reward Good Behavior
Don’t forget to reward good behavior. Of course, you have to punish bad behavior. That’s part of your job. But don’t forget to invest a lot of time taking care of, helping and rewarding your people who constantly exceed the standards. Put people in for awards, unit coins, certificates of achievement, time off, etc. Take care of the people who take care of you and make you look good. Let them know that you appreciate their extra efforts.
There are many ways to improve your effectiveness as an Army leader. You should always consider yourself a “work in progress” and look for little things you can do to be a better leader. This article provides 10 helpful tips to be a better Army leader, but there are many other things you can do.
I’d love to hear from you. What are some of your best leadership tips? Just leave a comment to share your best leadership tips. Also, if you have any questions, you can ask them below and we will attempt to provide an answer.