Everything we do in the Army is about leadership. Mission success, as well as the future of the Army itself, depends on how well we develop our junior leaders, both officer and non-commissioned officer. Think about these two statements. Are they true? If so, then we need to think long and hard about whether we are doing the right things to develop our junior leaders. Consider your own leadership skills for a moment. Then, here are some questions to ask yourself:
Are you letting your junior leaders take on the big tasks? Sure, you are the best mission planner ever, and you can execute like clockwork, but what happens when you move on? Is the next leader behind you ready to fill your shoes, or have you been so busy getting things to run just right that you have forgotten to teach and train your subordinates? The very best learning is learning by doing. If you don’t let your junior leaders do, you are not planning for the future. Teach yourself out of a job!
How do you feel about failure? Sometimes the very best learning comes from failure. Nobody likes to fail, and that’s why failure is such a great teaching tool. If a junior leader messes something up, assuming that nothing illegal, unethical, immoral, or unsafe occurred, can you put the failure into perspective, teach the lessons learned, then forget about it? Do you have the leadership skills to turn that failure into success the next time around?
Are you actually focused on developing your junior leaders, or are you looking somewhere else? Are you being an effective teacher and mentor? Do you know what schools your junior leaders need? Do you have a plan to get them to those schools? Have you taken the time to understand what they want to do with their Army career? Are you always on the lookout for opportunities to let them go “hands on” with challenging tasks? Knowing your Soldiers and understanding their needs is absolutely critical to being an effective leader, and to developing your junior leaders.
Are you being the example? If you want to lead, you have to show the rest of your team what right looks like. Your junior leaders are watching everything you do. If your words and your actions don’t match, they’ll know it. There’s no faster way to lose credibility than to say one thing, but do another. Actions always speak louder than words.
Quality leadership creates success, and all of us want to be better leaders. Think about the questions in the paragraphs above. Be honest with yourself. Are you doing the things needed to be the leader you should be?