Top Army Officers: 5 Things They Have in Common

Today, I want to talk about top Army Officers and what they have in common.  When I say the term “top Army Officers” I’m not just talking about high ranking officers.  I’m talking about the quality officers that go the extra mile and make a difference.  I’m talking about the movers and shakers in the Army who have excelled in their careers and have bright careers ahead of them.  I’m talking about the top five to ten percent of all Army Officers, the above center of mass folks!

Study the most successful officers and you will find many differences.  They have different ethnic backgrounds, religions, experiences, branches, skills, personalities and traits.  Despite these differences, they also share a few things in common.  It’s what they share in common that I want to talk about today.

# 1 Talent – Talent is the starting point to success in your military career.  Without talent, nothing else really matters.  You will only make it so far in your military career without talent.  You’ll probably peak out at MAJ or LTC without much talent.  And you’ll seldom get the “high profile” jobs if you don’t have much talent.  Talent alone is not enough to be ultra-successful in your career, but it is the most critical thing to start with.

When I say the word “talent” I am referring to technical and tactical expertise.  This means that officers know their craft inside and out.  They are students of their profession and they are damn good at their jobs!  Most people can do their job, but only a few can do it extremely well! Even fewer can do ANY job extremely well.

# 2 Heart – Heart is a close second place to talent.  I’ve met lots of talented officers who stagnate in their career because they don’t have heart! Heart means that you are proud to wear the uniform.  You care about the people you lead.  You place the needs of others above those of your own.  You are extremely PASSIONATE about what you do.  You see the military as more than a job or profession.  You’re not just sticking around for a pension or paycheck.  You are serving because there is NOTHING ELSE you would rather be doing.

# 3 Vision – Top Army Officers are visionaries.  They base most of their career decisions on the LONG-TERM.  They are strategic about what jobs they take, who they work for, and what they do.  Not only do them have a vision for themselves, and their own career, but they also have a vision for their unit and for the people that they lead!  They communicate this vision with others.  Ask any top Army Officer what their vision is and they will be able to tell you.  It’s not just something on a piece of paper.  It’s who they are!

# 4 Leadership – I have to add leadership to the list.  I learned a long time ago that your title does not make you a leader.  Nor does your rank. You might be in a leadership position in the military, but you have to EARN the title of being a leader.  I’ve met Field Grade Officers that wouldn’t succeed as a Squad Leader and I’ve met young officers that could lead a Battalion or Brigade successfully.  Top Army Officers are natural leaders.  They enjoy responsibility and leadership.  They’re always looking for opportunities to lead others.

# 5 People Skills – I’ll admit, not EVERY single top officer has great people skills, but most do.  Some people think you have to kiss ass to excel in your military career.  I disagree.  You don’t need to kiss anyone’s ass, but you do need to know how to get along with others.  Good people skills makes a huge difference.  I consider people skills your ability to get others to know you, like you and trust you.  At the end of the day, all other things being equal, it’s the person with the best people skills that will get the job.  One of the first things someone will think to themselves before they hire you or select you for a certain duty position is “will people like him?” and “will others follow her?”  As a leader, you are in the people business.  Never forget that.

Final Thoughts

There you have it folks.  This is my list of the five things that top Army Officers have in common.  Those five things are talent, heart, vision, leadership and people skills.  What do you think about this list?  What qualities or skills do you think that the best Army Officers have in common?  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.  I look forward to hearing from you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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8 thoughts on “Top Army Officers: 5 Things They Have in Common”

  1. This was a wonderful post.

    I especially like the quote you made under leadership about some who are in leadership positions that couldn’t lead a squad and privates who lead a whole company. This is so true; rank doesn’t make a leader, leading properly makes a leader.

    I am also a huge fan of not kissing ass as you say. Here in Puerto Rico, they call it licking eyelids. Nothing turns me off more than someone who thinks they can get ahead by licking eyelids. This world is full of them. Now there are times when it may seem a person is doing that, but that just may be a case of following orders. We need to properly judge it before we make the call.

  2. Theresa Williams

    I agree that all the top army officers I know have these 5 traits in common. I’m also really glad you specified talent as tactical and technical expertise. This is a talent that many can achieve and refine their skills in yet it is also distinctive. Some people are born with a natural talent in these areas, which gives them an obvious leg up and predisposition to jobs requiring those skills, but they are not unreachable to everyone else.

  3. These five traits are critical to any leader in any profession. Including heart in the list is great; you want to separate the people who are there because it’s the only they COULD be doing and those who are there because there’s nothing they’d RATHER be doing. A great Army officer knows that the Army is where they want to be and that is enough motivation for them to pursue greatness. Also applicable to leaders in all professions is VISION. A true visionary will have people fall in beside and behind them to help them achieve their vision, because in the end it will benefit them all.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree with this post… All of the Army officers have a set of characteristics that some simply don’t have – and these go beyond the ability to lead. It takes heart, it takes dedication, it takes perseverance, and it definitely takes talent to be able to successfully lead a group of men/women, and Army officers certainly have what it takes given this set of traits.

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