This morning I met a friend for coffee. The topic of our conversation was leadership and personal growth. We were acquaintances when we met this morning but now I’d like to call us friends. The common bond we share is that we are both veterans. Both of us had served in the Army so our conversation orbited around Army leadership. Another common bond is that both of us were NCO’s (Non-Commissioned Officers), both of us retiring as E7 Sergeants First Class and both of us spend time in a “school house”. When I say school house I’m referring to the Army’s TRADOC (Training and Doctrine Command). If a soldier attends any schooling while serving, they attend a TRADOC course. In the civilian world you could refer to it as college or tech school.

PLT SGT Meeting Hohenfels Germany
First Sergeant Michael J. Kennedy was one of the greatest mentors I ever when I was a young Platoon Sergeant.

Since both he and I were Army instructors we have been involved with senior Sergeant courses we talked about leadership. I made the comment that what’s interesting is that all great modern military leaders were taught leadership by NCO’s. General Mattis, General Schwarzkopf, General Franks, General McMaster all attended courses where the classes were taught by a Sergeant. Why? Because Sergeants are the SME’s (Subject Matter Experts) in GSD or Getting Shit Done. While we attend Primary, Advanced and Senior leadership schools ourselves, we are forced into leadership roles. We have all been leaders at some point in our careers. Good or bad, we led. We were directly responsible to young lives as well as our own. My friend and I also discussed the Army Values. I remember during General Shinseki’s reign as the Army Chief of Staff, the Army Values were pushed out Army wide. We had a tag to wear on our dog tags as well as an Army Values card. The Army Values were an acronym, LDRSHIP. I’m sure you can see it, “Leadership”. They stood for Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Sacrifice. Those were drilled into us and to this day I still remember them and try to live by them.


The Army’s definition of leadership is: The process of influencing others to accomplish a mission by providing purpose, direction and motivation. Jay and I talked about this a bit. We discussed how “motivation” is crap. Anyone can be motivated but without action it’s worthless. Then we went on to discuss how to teach this to the civilian sector. We were taught the 3 Leadership Styles; Delegating, Participating and Directing. Each style may be a part of someone’s personality, but a GOOD NCO should be a chameleon. Certain situations will dictate the type of leadership required at a given time. Me? I tend to lean more on the “Participating” style. I like to be in the trench with my troops. That falls under the whole “Be” of the “Be, Know, Do”. I like to BE the example or set the example or bar. The problem with that is that you set expectations. As we all SHOULD know is that “Expectations lead to hurt feelings”, as I like to tell my kids. I believe it’s FM 25-101 Battle Focused Training that teaches the 9 Principles of Training. They are:

  • Train as combined arms and services team.
  • Train as you fight.
  • Use appropriate doctrine.
  • Use performance-oriented training.
  • Train to challenge.
  • Train to sustain proficiency.
  • Train using multiechelon techniques.
  • Train to maintain.
  • Make commanders the primary trainers.

Granted, this is geared towards the military, but the civilian sector could use a tall glass of leadership training. “Train the Trainer” is a concept that you hear a lot in the military. It transitions over very well to the civilian sector. That falls inline with having a system that duplicates. Keep training simple and duplicatable. The trainees eventually become the trainers.



I’m beginning to digress a bit, so I’ll wrap it up. Here’s one more thing I’ll leave lingering in the air like a crop-dusted fart. “Seek responsibility and accept responsibility for your actions”. That’s another Sergeant Promotion Board question. I’ll finish with this. Here are the 11 Army Leadership Principles. If you’re a leader, in the military or in the civilian sector. Write these down and post them up. Strive to follow these principles and you’ll do alright.

  • Know yourself and seek self-improvement
  • Be technically and tactically proficient
  • Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions
  • Make sound and timely decisions
  • Set the example
  • Know your soldiers and look out for their well-being
  • Keep your subordinates informed
  • Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates
  • Ensure the task is understood, supervised, and accomplished
  • Build the team
  • Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities

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