24 July 2014

What it is to be a Leader

Before we delve into what it is to be a leader, we must first define and understand what leadership truly means. 

Dwight D. Eisenhower once defined leadership as “the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” This is close to the definition we’re looking for but I think it could still use a bit of tweaking.

Leadership is the ability to inspire the desire in others to do something that needs to be done out of respect for both your character and position.

So how do we inspire that desire in others?

Well, there are countless books on leadership that we could read but mostly it boils down to using common sense when looking for this answer.

Leaders do not demand respect – they exemplify the actions of one who deserves it. Your rank or position is meaningless if your Soldiers don’t respect your character.

Those who operate under the “they may not respect me but they’d better respect my rank” mentality are not leaders. They are managers of personnel. Just because a Soldier stands at parade rest for you does not mean that they respect you.

Soldiers respect leaders who look out for their wellbeing in the face of injustice – even if it means putting your neck on the chopping block as you stand up to superiors who have made a poor decision. Nobody respects a “yes man.”  Your troops respect leaders who don’t ask them to do something that they themselves wouldn’t do or haven’t done before. They respect your tactical and technical proficiency – your honest tactical and technical proficiency, not the things you make up because you don’t know the answer to their question. Admitting that you don’t know something is far better than your Soldiers not being able to take you for your word when you’re giving them instruction and thinking that you have no idea what you’re talking about. 

That being said, they also won’t respect you if you never know any answers to their questions. Take the time to seek self-improvement in areas you fall short. Convey yourself as a professional. Sending emails and text messages like a 16-year-old using the latest internet slang, poor spelling or broken English isn’t doing you any favors. If your Soldiers feel that they are smarter than you, they will have a hard time taking you seriously when you do have knowledge that they could benefit from.

Soldiers respect leaders who can effectively pass on information so that it is understood. Those who can readily find how best to work with their subordinates, in order to help them grow, are a fine commodity indeed. If you can find a way to communicate your instruction to them in a manner that is best conducive to the way that they, as individuals, learn, you’re already halfway there.

If you can earn the respect of your Soldiers, being their leader will be made much easier and rewarding. How do you show leadership? What qualities do you look for in a leader?

Comment below or share advice here and connect within the military community.

*These opinions belong to the writer and in no way reflect the views of the DoD or other departments of the US government.

1 comment:

  1. I agree 100% with this post. But I am finding it difficult to leave post here as well. Very strange OZ