Military Leadership has always been highly regarded by many as having some of the best leaders in history. This is why many believe that in order to serve as president, you should have first served in the military. Higher-level leaders in the military have more responsibility than any CEO of any company. The accountability that a military leader has is tremendous, and this is not just regarding personnel. Military leaders, even at a squad leader level, are held accountable for millions of dollars of equipment that includes sensitive items that could cost them their rank or career if they were ever lost or misplaced. This is why the military has so many different leadership courses (such as WLC for young NCOs, ALC, and so on). Military officers have very stressful jobs, especially company commanders, and you’re held to a higher standard, even at the lowest level team leader. This is one of the reasons why civilian employers (or most of them) prefer to hire current or former military members. The leadership qualities that they possess are far greater than current or potential employees.
Military Leadership Has Changed
Over the years the military has made changes in their leadership. There was a time when a leader could correct or discipline a soldier with pushups or flutter kicks and you can bet the soldier got the message after a while. I am not saying this was always right or done properly. However, it was an effective discipline tool to reinforce to a soldier that they have done wrong. Today, we have sensitivity training to make sure nobody’s feelings get hurt when they get yelled at in front of others for doing something stupid, such as leaving their weapon in a porta-potty in Iraq. We as leaders spend more time now writing out counseling forms for soldiers than we do on training them. I highly doubt that the enemy cares if they hurt the feelings of you or one of your soldiers. We spend more time in sensitivity class than we do correcting the lack of discipline in our units.
Soldiers used to not question the orders they were given, but this is now the norm. Questioning everything is very frustrating for leaders because it negatively affects the unit as a whole in its morale and effectiveness in completing the mission. What happened to the part in the soldier’s creed that says we always place the mission first? I will agree that some leaders did go overboard with discipline and needed some sensitivity training because we deal with so many different personalities. You have to discipline each soldier differently and what may be effective for one isn’t for another. The military will always produce better leaders no matter what for one simple reason; we are and always will be held to a higher standard of discipline, honor, and integrity. If you ask anybody, they will tell you these qualities are what it takes to be a great leader.
The One-Minute Manager
I had the opportunity to take a civilian course taught by a military leader many years ago. I continue to use what he taught every day. It doesn’t matter if you are a team leader or the VP of a company; it works. It is called the one-minute manager. When you are counseling a soldier or employee, focus on any negative issues for only one minute then move on to positives and always end on a positive note. The discipline or corrective action that a soldier or employee takes will never be enjoyable. However, if you can end any counseling positively, if will be much more effective.
Make It a Learning Experience
I teach the NCOs and soldiers under my command that when disciplining soldiers, make sure it’s a learning experience. If they leave their weapon unaccounted for, no matter what the circumstance, I will have them write essays on things such as accountability, responsibility, the soldiers creed, or the NCO’s creed. You don’t always have to put a soldier or NCO on paper.
Get Rid of the Negativity
One of the hardest things to deal with as a leader is the constant complaining and negativity. One of the ways I deal is that I give each soldier or NCO one minute to complain, and I even ask them for a way to fix their complaints. There are always those few that will sit around and whine no matter what the situation is. This affects everybody’s morale and their ability to complete any mission safely and in a timely manner. You as a leader need to recognize this and fix it quickly to always be prepared.
There are many different styles and TTPs; we can’t all be like Bobby Knight. You have to develop your own style and techniques that make you a good leader. One of the things I have done over the years is taken what I have learned from many different leaders and used what I feel will make me most effective then developed my own style of leadership from all of that. You can sometimes be Bobby Knight, but other times you can be Andy Griffith. As a military leader, you’re always going to held to a higher standard. You must continue to develop, learn, and hone your leadership skills to make yourself a better and more effective leader.