Leadership Essentials

11/19/2019  |  By CSM Robert Potts Commanding, 95th Training Division (IET)
From the 95th Command Sergeant Major
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As leaders we learned early and throughout our military education what leadership is and how it should be implemented. Soldiers will follow a good leader anywhere and under any conditions. While many factors decide the outcomes of a successful mission, leadership is often the most important. The perception we receive from our formation as a leader is also very important. 

All leaders have different characteristics, we all have different approaches, and we also have different leadership styles. The approaches and styles leaders use will impact the outcome of unit morale and how they accomplish the mission.

As you look at our 108th Training Command formation, 90 percent of it consists of Sergeant and above. That means 90 percent of our formation is made up of leaders. Keep in mind, a Sergeant is not born great, they must work hard for it. No one comes into the Army ready to lead; they must be trained how to do it.

It all started at an early stage in our careers—during our military education—we sat in a classroom with a small group of peers, and our educators taught us about leadership and how to implement it. We would go out and hold formations, get accountability, conduct a physical training event or lead a squad through some Situational Training Exercise Lanes and if you did well you received a first time go on that performance exam. As we progressed through the ranks, we continued to receive more advanced training on leadership and to develop strategies to guide efforts to train the Army and grow leaders. Some of the best training we received is what we learned from the leaders above us and their actions. Maybe it was that Platoon Sergeant, Company Commander, or a Command Sergeant Major that we will never forget, and we would follow them to hell and back. It may have been the total opposite and you were trying to figure out how to just make it long enough to get through their tenure. Most Soldiers view their leaders as positive individuals that balance the needs of the Soldiers and mission requirements.

We cannot look to the manuals or regulations to provide us with all the answers on how to lead. Leaders must use their own knowledge and experience to determine what they must be, know, and do to lead effectively.

Leadership is a combination of principles and character (beliefs, values, and moral fiber). It is not something you can touch, see, or measure, but it is something that your Soldiers will sense after being in your formation.

General Raymond Odierno, former Chief of Staff of the Army, said it best, “Leadership is paramount to our profession. It is integral to our institutional success today and tomorrow. As we transition to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex and uncertain environment, our Army requires intelligent, competent, physically and mentally tough leaders of character. Decentralized operations require leaders at all levels that understand their environment, learn quickly, make sound decisions, and lead change. Because there are no predetermined solutions to problems, Army leaders must adapt their thinking, formations, and employment techniques to the specific situation they face. This requires an adaptable and innovative mind, a willingness to accept prudent risk in unfamiliar or rapidly changing situations, and an ability to adjust based on continuous assessment.”

The most important leadership lesson I ever learned in my career is very simple: Being an NCO or leader is not about you, it is about everyone else around you. It is especially about the Soldiers and families who the Army trusts me to care for.

I want to highlight three simple things to think about when leading Soldiers.

  1.  - Know your Soldiers, know what they are doing, have an understanding of what they are going through, because you are making decisions that will affect their lives. If you do not have an appreciation for what they go through and their problems, you could make the wrong decision.
  2. - Communicate constantly and effectively in today’s environment. Communication is extremely important and is dependent upon your ability to work as a team. You need to communicate “south” to the Soldiers under your care and ensure them that you are clearing obstacles for them to succeed. You need to communicate “north” by influencing leaders by highlighting successes and possible issues. You also need to communicate “east” and “west” by influencing and assisting your peers.
  3. - In my opinion, is the most important -Lead by Example. Your Soldiers will watch every move you make. Always lead from the front and DO NOT forget where you came from; you will be the example of the standards you will enforce. Their personal devotion is very desirable but can only be gained by treating your Soldiers fairly, justly, and by setting the example yourself in your actions, appearance, outward behavior, and overall knowledge. They will look to you for action; do not require them to do anything that you will not do yourself. In their eyes, you are the epitome of what right looks like.

I want to thank all the military families for their support. Not all who serve wear a uniform. Thank you for keeping our military strong.

IRONMAN 7

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