Leadership in the Army is a concept often embedded in Soldiers very early on in their career and is discussed in professional development classes, doctrine, and other military forums. Leadership appears to be a fairly easy concept to understand and implement on a daily basis. Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 6-22 (2012), states that Army leadership is “the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improve the organization” (p.1). It’s imperative for Army leaders to continuously strive to lead by example and get to know and understand their Soldiers on a personal and professional level to influence the climate and moral of the organization.
Having the knowledge of what drives Soldiers and how to motivate them to accomplish any task at hand, is a daily process that tests Army leaders. Every Soldier responds in a different manner to teaching, coaching, mentoring, and administering of punishment. As leaders we are bred to know every aspect of each individual Soldier, where they were born, hobbies, interests, dependent information such as spouse and children names. Being in touch and knowing your Soldiers is a term embedded in The Non-Commissioned Officer’s Creed. The NCO creed states, “I will know my Soldiers and always place their needs above my own.” This is a highly important aspect to leadership as it applies to actually caring for Soldiers. If a leader treats his role as more of a management role than a professional Army leader this could be detrimental to unit cohesion and trust in leadership. How could a leader influence their Soldiers to perform high risk duties if that leader does not know what actually makes that Soldier tick or the climate of their home life, that may contribute to their work performance or state of mind. As an Army leader the recommendation of punishment or corrective action for each Soldier differs depending on how the Soldier responds to punishment or disciplinary actions. The vast majority of today’s generation of Soldiers do not respond well to yelling or aggressive corrective action. Simply pulling a Soldier off to the side and explaining what their deficiency is will often solve the problem, and others may only respond to Uniformed Code of Military Justice or other means of creative corrective action. Many issues can be mitigated and likely will not occur if leaders focus on instilling discipline in their Soldiers from their very first interaction with them. Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) Dailey was quoted in the ArmyTimes (2015) as identifying leadership tip number six as, “Don’t be the feared leader. It doesn’t work”. Soldiers should want to come to leaders when they have issues, when they are seeking guidance, or simply to just have a conversation. Always yelling at Soldiers could make them closed off and unmotivated, and the leader unapproachable. It’s very common for today’s generation of Soldiers to act out because they are dealing with some type of personal issue at home or at work. This is why it is detrimental for Leaders to interact and stay involved with their Soldiers on a daily basis. Leader’s continuously engaging with their Soldiers could assist in resolving any problems early on and help a young Soldier come up with a positive course of action for their current issue or personal matter.
According to ADP 6-22 (2012), the Army defined leadership as a process (p. 11). All processes can be learned, observed, and improved. As leaders evolve, they will learn that the concept of leadership is more than just authority over subordinates and managing personal. It paints a clear picture of what right looks like and how standards are up held. Leaders need to be proficient and competent in their craft and always seek self-improvement. Eventually, leaders develop their own style of leadership over the years from past experiences. “Leadership style consists of the behavior pattern of a person who attempts to influence others.” (Northouse, 2016). It’s important for today’s generation of Leaders to understand that it is no longer the era where Soldiers adapt to each leadership style, but where the leader adapts their leadership style to each Soldier. Being able to influence the behavior of other people is a pivotal role in effective leadership. Learning how to be an effective leader requires daily checks and balances, the understanding of each individual Soldier, and how he or she responds to an individual’s leadership style.
Leading by example is a very important characteristic of being an effective and efficient Army Leader. Army Field Manual (FM) 6-22 (2015) states that Leaders can influence others by acting in a manner that provides others with an example by which to measure and model their own behavior. When Soldier’s have their first interaction with an Army Leader, they should see a mentor to look up to and aspire to be just like them. More importantly, they should see everything that they want to become and a goal to strive for. Army Leader’s should not only display the example for these Soldier’s to follow on a daily basis, but should consistently teach, coach, and mentor their Soldier on how to become a better Soldier and leader. As stated, earlier Army leaders should provide purpose, direction, and motivation while striving to accomplish the mission and improve the organization. Providing purpose is explaining to a Soldier why they are actually executing a task not just telling a Soldier to do the assigned task with no explanation, or reasoning. Providing direction is making sure Soldiers understand what exactly is being asked of them, and ensuring that they know how to execute the task at hand. Lastly, providing the motivation for Soldiers by expressing how their hard work and sacrifice impacts the organization on a level they may not understand or see. Motivating Soldiers should also include recognizing their accomplishments by rewarding or giving time back to Soldiers for their hard work and accomplishments. When Soldiers realize leader’s set the example for rewarding positive actions, they are likely to do the same when they become a leader themselves, this is why leading by example is so crucial to overall success and mission accomplishment.
In conclusion, to be an effective and successful Army leader one must lead by example, be in touch with Soldiers, and realize once they were in their shoes. Leadership is also an evolving process and can change depending on the current situation and different generation of Soldiers you lead on a daily basis. To be an effective leader, it’s imperative to have an adaptable leadership style. Leading Soldiers is much more than just a job or a management position, it takes a lot of hard work and patience to be a successful leader.
- Army, U. S. (2012). Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 6-22: Army leadership. Washington: US Army.
- Army, U. S. (2015). FM 6-22: Leader development. Washington: US Army.
- McNamara, C. (n.d.). What Makes for An Effective Leader? Retrieved from https://managementhelp.org/leadership/traits/leader.htm
- Tan, Michelle. (2015, November 23). SMA Dailey’s top 10 leadership tips for sergeants major. ArmyTimes. Retrieved from https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2015/11/23/sma-dailey-s-top-10-leadership-tips-for-sergeants-major/