Archive for critical thinking

Plan For Failure

Posted in Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2015 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

“I don’t lose any sleep at night over the potential for failure. I cannot even spell the word.”

General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis

We all strive for victory.  Each one of us hates to lose.  After all, it is essential for us to succeed in our daily lives.  We are obviously not living life to fail.  But, fail we will.

As important as it is to plan for victory, it is just as important to plan for failure.  Every ‘battle plan’ should consider all contingencies.  But, victory, of course, hangs on the details, and behind those details are hidden the pitfalls that can spell disaster and defeat.  We often take our eye off the potential negatives and ultimately find ourselves facing the unexpected.  This can easily be avoided.

Last week, we again saw another data breach hitting Anthem Blue Cross.  And, again, many experts are saying that this ‘disastrous’ data breach was avoidable.  When I first heard about it, my first thought was how something like this could happen again.  Haven’t these major organizations learned from other data breaches, such as to Michaels Stores, Home Depot, Kmart and ebay?  Aren’t major corporations taking steps to prevent these kinds of disasters from happening to them?  I can understand maybe not recognizing the unknown, but I cannot accept these companies blatantly ignoring what is going on around them, and to their peers in various corporate circles.  Again, planning for failure is just as important as planning for success.

In a recent blog post on The Military Leader, entitled 5 Questions That Can Save You From Disaster, author Drew Steadman discusses how failure can be avoided by not getting caught off guard by things that could have been anticipated.  As he states in his article, “A few moments of reflection can cue you in to the key indicators. And asking hard questions will force you and your team to acknowledge the situation you face.”  But, what I take away from Drew’s article is that you cannot wait for things to happen, or circumstances to change, before putting into place a plan that could work to avoid failure.  It is important to be quite aware of the peripheral things, because failure or victory are contingent on how (or if) you recognize and react to them.

One thing that I am certain of is that there will be a lot of uncertainty when planning for any outcome.  In essence, failures and miscues can be avoided by taking action based on our anticipation of the known’s and the unknowns.  And, doesn’t that sound familiar:

Recommended Reading: “The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld

Part 1: Three Reporters

Part 2: The Known and the Unknown

Part 3: A Failure of Imagination

Part 4: Absence of Evidence Isn’t Evidence of Absence

As my youngest daughter, Kassandra, when she hears something so profound, says, “what does that even mean?”  When Donald Rumsfeld first uttered this statement during a press breifing in February 2002 about the lack of evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, he was making a point that there are various levels of certainty and uncertainty based on our knowledge of the facts as we know them, and the facts that aren’t yet clear. [View video of Donald Rumsfeld’s comments HERE]

To better define this, I found an article on SmartOrg by Don Creswell that defined the 3 Basic Sources of Risk and Uncertainty, which came out of a presentation by Kelvin Stott.

My take:

  • We must remain cognizant of those things that we know, while not discounting the possibilities that we think aren’t likely to happen.
  • We need to open more widely the avenues of communication, encouraging everyone to say something if they know something; share knowledge.  Nobody can assume the other knows what they know, nor can they think the information isn’t important.
  • Be Inquisitive and curious.  Ask questions and challenge the status quo.
  • We need to use our imagination, as well as look at the intelligence that is available, to make the best decision possible at the time.

Bottom line: Think outside the box, and don’t ignore the obvious.

“Failure is in a sense the highway to success, as each discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true.”

John Keats (1795-1821) British Poet

In the military, disasters could be due to bad planning, bad execution, bad weather, general lack of skill or ability, the failure of a new piece of military technology, a major blunder, a brilliant move on the part of the enemy, or simply the unexpected presence of an overwhelming enemy force.  But, what bothers me is when defeat and failure occur as a result of a known and preventable cause.  There are many military disasters throughout history that you can spend hours researching and realizing that they could have been avoided.

Recommended Reading: The Five Biggest Disasters in American Military History

I’m not suggesting that we are always going to be perfect.  What I am saying is that paying attention to certain details can make the difference between success and failure.  Being aware and prepared, innovative and imaginative, proactive and intuitive, can all make a big difference.

“When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.”

Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) American speaker and motivational writer

As you look around at the people and organizations who are facing critical issues, problems, and crisis,[i] you should view those situations as instructive and constructive. They should, for you, act as lessons learned.[ii]  We can learn as much from other people’s failures, as we can from our own.  Try to recognize what took that person or organization into the direction of failure, and plan to do the things necessary to avoid them happening to you or your organization.

Don’t be smug thinking that these things cannot happen to you, or that they are rare or isolated incidents.[iii]  And, don’t be arrogant in the thought that these things can’t happen to you … Or, that ‘things just happen.’[iv]  Don’t let things happen because you failed to prepare, or you grew over-confident with success. Plan for failure.[v]  Don’t fall to complacency or laziness.

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Inspired by five consecutive Tweets (#5Star #5Tweet) I posted on Friday, February 13, 2015:
[i]     Tweet 1 of 5
[ii]    Tweet 2 of 5
[iii]   Tweet 3 of 5
[iv]   Tweet 4 of 5
[v]    Tweet 5 of 5

Improvise, Adapt and Overcome ~ Changing Plans, But Not Changing Vision

Posted in Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

*The following was inspired by a post by the late Timothy F. Bednarz on his blog, Leaders to Leader, entitled, “Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance.”

Footnote (in advance of reading this post):  In the context of this article, when I speak of a ‘leader,’ I am referring to a leader at all levels; not necessarily the commander, CEO or department head.  Empowered followers are the key to implementing and accomplishing plans at all levels of the organization.


Plan for Victory ~ Expect to Win

A vision or goal (short-term / long-term) is where the organization sees itself in the future.  It is a desired result that an organization plans and commits to achieve.  To move towards these results requires planning and goal-setting.  These time-targeted plans should be specific, measurable, realistic and attainable to achieve each objective along the path towards the vision.  The anticipated results guide reactions, according to various successes and failures, as the organization maneuvers towards the objective (vision).  From these plans, a leader must ensure that participants have a clear awareness of what they must do to achieve an objective.

In the military, they call this the Commander’s Intent; the stated description of the end-state as it relates to forces (entities, people), the purpose of the operation, and key tasks to accomplish the mission.  This blog will discuss, more specifically, Commander’s Intent, and mission planning & accomplishment, After Action Reviews (AAR’s), etc., another time.  But, the blog, PurpelINK, defines and discusses Commander’s Intent very well:

A soldier’s every move is predicated upon hours of forethought and planning. After the commander-in-chief approves the order of battle, a soldier will find his personal orders specifying the scheme of maneuver and field of fire. Each battalion is told what to do, what materiel to use, and how to set up supply lines to replace its munitions.

There’s only one problem: no plan survives contact with the enemy because the enemy always gets a vote. Consider the variables; [a weather change], a key military asset is destroyed after it is deployed [etc]. In short, the enemy is unpredictable.

The beautiful thing about knowing the [Commander’s Intent] is that it means your plans are never rendered obsolete by the unpredictable. You may lose the ability to execute the plan (involving the timing of men and materiel), but you never lose the responsibility of executing the Commander’s Intent.

[Commander’s Intent] manages to align the behavior of soldiers at all levels of the army without requiring detailed instructions from the High Command. If you know the intention of the order, you are free to improvise to arrive at its fulfillment. If people know the intent, they can engineer their own solutions to accomplishing the task.


An organization’s history of past accomplishments (or failures), and the acquisition of desired (or poor) results, obviously influences the plans and strategies of the future.  When we are successful, we build on the plans that made us successful in the achievement of certain goals and objectives.  But when we fail, we tend to throw away those plans.  Sometimes we even adjust our overall objective; subtly, or sometimes dramatically.  But, changing our vision and our ultimate goal is the wrong thing to do if you intend to grow, improve and become successful and victorious.

For example, an Army might put their efforts into creating plans that become useless once the enemy is engaged.  Companies do the same thing when they implement initiatives and strategies that are poorly planned out or executed.  But, one should be reluctant to throw aside entire plans because of those failures, or by falling short of mission.  On the contrary, using lessons learned, one should assess the capabilities of their resources (people, material, finances, etc.) that contributed to those results, correct the weaknesses and gaps in performance, and then adjust the plan, re-allocating and reassigning resources to be better utilized for future actions and plans.  Maybe the people, or the team, responsible for certain results were not afforded all of the tools necessary to succeed.  Or, the people were not properly appointed the right tasks to drive towards the desired results; individuals weren’t assigned tasks according to their talents.


Improvise, Adapt and Overcome

The United States Marine Corps calls it, “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.”  The Marine Corps has been successful employing this concept mostly because of the creativity of its people and their success-based attitude.  During the chaos of battle and the implementation of plans according to the Commander’s Intent, they must find what works, or people die, equipment is lost, and the battle is lost.  For the Marine Corps, the whole notion of improvise, adapt and overcome becomes second nature.  For companies and organizations, what worked last year does not work this year, and what works now is a radical departure from what worked last year.  They must improvise, adapt and overcome.

My point is that past results should never change your vision.  Yes, you should plan according to past lessons learned.  But, a good leader will never hesitate as a result of, or be intimidated by, past failure.  And, a good leader will never change their vision for the future as a result of those failures.  The future vision or goal must remain the same, never changing because of the past.  One must have the courage to change according to those failures, yet not change their mindset because of those failures. The past can tell you a lot.  But don’t let it tell you to reverse course.


A good leader will:

  • Align the capabilities of people and resources based on the past, not in spite of it.  They will match the people to the tasks according to skill level and proficiency
  • Manage and monitor time to efficiently and effectively achieve the planned mission
  • Adjust milestones & short-term goal targets, and determine the feasibility of certain objectives
  • Frequently assess, reconsider and change according to the circumstances they are facing
  • Improvise according to the availability and reliability material (supplies, equipment, etc.)
  • Acquire and/or properly allocate the tools needed to achieve short and long-term results
  • Teach, and at the same time learn, the knowledge necessary to improve and succeed, sometimes based on the conditions at the time; gaining feedback, recommendations and reviewing solutions, etc.
  • Implement the plan by breaking it down from a big job into little jobs, and delegate those jobs accordingly

Finally, throughout any situation that requires action and/or change, it is important for any leader to remain optimistic, to be proactive and to cultivate passion.


Here are my recommendations for making plans based on past performance:

1) Set tasking according to capabilities

2) Your vision (Commander’s Intent) should never change, but your plans must

3) Don’t let short-term setbacks blur your long-term vision

4) ‘Change’ is the only thing that remains the same throughout an organization

5) You might miss your target, but as long as you’ve adjusted and improved your tactics (based on Improvise, Adapt and Overcome), you’re making progress.

6) Remain motivated.  Failure is a hard thing to deal with, but the taste of success (victory) is sweet.

7) Never give up.  You may have failed to reach your target, but as long as you have learned from your mistakes and have acknowledged the lessons learned, you’re making progress and one step closer to victory!

*Inspired by a post on Timothy F. Bednarz‘s blog, Leaders to Leader, entitled, “Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance.”


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Sources –

“Problem Solving: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome” – Posted Tuesday, February 1, 2011 – – Accessed 23 July 2012 – Chris Martenson’s Peak Prosperity –

“Commander’s Intent” – Posted Friday, August 1, 2008 – – Accessed 23 July 2012 – PurpelINK –

“Goal” – Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia) – Last Modified on 21 July 2012 – – Accessed 23 July 2012 – Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia) –

“Commander’s Intent” – Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia) – Last Modified on 24 March 2012 – – via “Intent (Military)”  at – Accessed 23 July 2012 – WikiPedia (The Free Encyclopedia) –


Related Articles –

BookLink: Army Leadership (Organization and Strategic Leadership) {Book 1, Wk. 3}

Posted in Army Leadership, BookLink with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Last week, I took a brief departure from BookLink and our weekly review of The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual.  Instead, I posted Leadership Effects (A Guest Blog Post from the Front Lines), which originated from a comment to this series about the Army’s leadership field manual.  From a weekly reader’s standpoint, it amounted to a virtual field trip to the front lines of military leadership.  If you haven’t taken the time to read that post, please set aside some time to do so.

Our previous assignment had been to read Chapter 10 thru Appendix A (pages 107 thru 155).  But, we are only going to summarize Chapters 10 thru 12, leaving Appendix A (pages 145 thru 155) for next week.  If you are new to the BookLink series, and you want to catch up on our reading of The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual, you can find links to the recent posts below.  Also, below, I have included links to the field manual found elsewhere on the internet for you to view and download.

BookLink ~ The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual – Posted 01/23/2012

BookLink: Army Leadership (BE ~ KNOW ~ DO) {Book 1, Wk. 1} – Posted 01/30/2012

BookLink: Army Leadership (Lead ~ Develop ~ Achieve) {Book 1, Wk. 2} – Posted 02/06/2012

This coming week, our assignment is to finish reading the field manual; Appendix A thru the end of the book (pages 145 thru 216).  Then, on February 27, I will have a post for discussion on what we have read.


Army Leadership FM 6-22 (FM 22-100) (Paperback) ~ US Army Cover Art

There are many influences and challenges that affect leadership.  Some of these are predictable, based on experiences.  Some are unpredictable, surfacing because of the situation.  As General Dennis J. Reimer, Chief of Staff of the Army (1995-1999) once said, “The role of leadership is to turn challenges into opportunities.”  Obviously, many of the challenges a soldier in the Army may face are a result of evolving threats, and their ability to adapt to those ever-changing challenges.

Stress –

In all walks of life, both military and civilian, stress is a human dimension we all have to deal with.  Leaders play a significant role in managing the stress levels of their subordinates.  The mental discipline and resilience to overcome the contributing factors of stress, and implementing countermeasures to confront it, becomes the responsibility of both the leader and follower.  Here are just a few of the ways to handle stress, as discussed in FM 6-22:

–          Admit that fear exists

–          Ensure communication lines are open between leaders and subordinates

–          Do not assume unnecessary risks

–          Provide good, caring leadership

–          Recognize the limits of a soldier’s endurance

Although the emphasis of FM 6-22 is on Army leadership, and applies to soldiers, there are obvious parallels to managing stress among people in the civilian community.  Stress is a result of varying levels of fear.  Dealing with fear and anxiety is vital to remaining focused and strong; easier said than done, I know.  But, good leadership will recognize the signs of stress among their people and teams, and will employ the necessary measures to manage those stress levels.  As General George S. Patton, Jr. said, “All men are frightened.  The more intelligent they are, the more they are frightened.  The courageous man is the man who forces himself, in spite of his fear, to carry on.”  (War As I Knew It, 1947).


As a leader grows in knowledge and experience, they are preparing themselves for greater responsibilities, and will become organizational and strategic leaders.  These leaders lead by example, have a wide range of knowledge, and apply their competencies to build teams of teams with discipline, cohesion, trust and proficiency.  They focus their organizations down to the lowest level on the mission ahead by disseminating a clear intent, sound operational concepts, and a systematic approach to execution.  In some cases, these leaders may lead complex organizations, where they would have to apply elements of direct, organizational, and strategic leadership at the same time.  These leaders must be agile.

Now that they’re in charge of a larger organization, these leaders’ influences are more often indirect than direct down the chain of command.  They rely more heavily on developing subordinates and empowering them to execute their assigned responsibilities and missions.  They visualize the larger impact on the organization and mission when making decisions; they look at the big picture.  Lower level personnel and leaders look to their organizational leaders to set achievable standards, to provide clear intent, and to provide necessary resources.

A fitting quote to encompass the leader’s ability to drive the organization and lead by example is a quote by General Gordon R. Sullivan, author of Hope is Not a Method:

“If you are the leader, your people expect you to create their future.  They look into your eyes, and they expect to see strength and vision.  To be successful, you must inspire and motivate those who are following you.  When they look into your eyes, they must see that you are with them.”


Organizational leaders play a critical part when it comes to maintaining focus.  They are at the forefront of adapting to changes and exploiting emerging opportunities by applying a combination of intuition, analytical problem solving, systems integration, and leadership by example.

Organizational leaders ensure clear and understandable communication.  They share as much information as possible with their subordinates, and allow for a two-way exchange of information to ensure a clear understanding of intent, priorities, and thought processes.  Within the organization, there should be a coordination of communication through multiple channels, creating a more complete picture.  With reliable information, staffs at different levels can productively assist in turning policies, concepts, plans, and programs into achievable results.

Middle level organizational levels also interact with the next-higher staff to gain a better understanding of the superior’s priorities and impending shifts.  This helps set the conditions for their own requirements and changes.  Constantly sensing, observing, talking, questioning, and actively listening helps to better identify and solve potential problems, or to avoid them.

Organizational leaders take a long-term approach to developing the entire organization.  They create a positive environment, they prepare themselves for the future, they develop others by building team skills and processes, they encourage initiative and acceptance of responsibility, and they choose talented staff leaders (middle managers).  Ultimately, they empower their organization to be prepared to take initiative and to make decisions, while holding them accountable for their actions.  They tell their people what needs to be accomplished and why, and leave the details to them.  Known as Pushing Smarts Down, soldiers today have better intellect and education and don’t need to be told how to do certain tasks, or be guided by step-by-step processes.  It is truly the elimination of micromanagement and the establishment of empowerment.


Strategic leaders are high-level thinkers who sustain an organization’s culture and envision the future of the organization, and then convey that vision to the entire organization.  Strategic leaders apply knowledge, experience, techniques, and skills beyond those required by direct or organizational leaders.  They must think in multiple time periods and apply more adaptability and agility to managing change.  They operate in intricate networks of overlapping and sometimes competing constituencies.  They participate in and shape endeavors extending beyond their span of responsibility.  Strategic leaders must concentrate on the future.  They spend much of their time looking toward long-term goals and positioning for long-term success even as they often contend with mid-term and immediate issues and crises.

The constantly changing World challenges strategic leaders’ decision-making abilities.  Despite the challenges, strategic leaders personally tell the organization’s story, make long-range decisions, and shape the organization’s culture.  Like direct and organizational leaders, strategic leaders lead by example and exert indirect leadership by communicating, inspiring, and motivating.  Providing a clear vision is vital to the strategic leader, and they share this vision with a broad audience, gaining widespread support, and use it as a compass to guide the organization.  Strategic leaders identify trends and opportunities, and threats that could affect the organization’s future and move vigorously to mobilize the talent that will help create strategic vision.

Strategic leaders are skilled at reaching consensus and building coalitions.  They apply these skills to tasks, and routinely bring designated people together for missions.  Using peer leadership rather than strict positional authority, strategic leaders carefully monitor progress toward a visualized end state.  They focus on the health of the relationships necessary to achieve it.  Interpersonal contact sets the tone for professional relations: strategic leaders must be tactful.

And, strategic leaders lead and inspire institutional change.  They accept change in proactive, not in reactive fashion.  They anticipate change even as they shield their organizations from unimportant and bothersome influences.  Ultimately, good strategic leaders can effectively shape change to improve the institution while continuing to deal with routine operations and requirements.  They know that institutional change requires influence grounded in commitment rather than forced compliance.  Commitment must be reinforced consistently throughout the multiple levels of the organization.  While all levels of leaders lead change, strategic level leaders make the most-sweeping changes and ones that focus on the most distant horizon.  Strategic leaders guide their organizations through eight distinct steps if their initiatives for change are to make lasting progress.  The critical steps of the leading change process are:

  • Demonstrate a sense of urgency by showing both the benefits and necessity for change.
  • Form guiding coalitions to work the process of change from concept through implementation.
  • With the guiding coalitions and groups, develop a vision of the future and strategy for making it a reality.
  • Clearly communicate the future vision throughout the institution or organization; change is most effective when all members embrace it.
  • Empower subordinates at all levels to pursue widespread, parallel efforts.
  • Plan for short-term successes to validate key programs and keep the vision credible.
  • Consolidate the successful programs to produce further change.
  • Ensure that the change is culturally preserved.

The result is an institution that constantly prepares for and shapes the future environment.  The strategic leaders’ fundamental goal is to leave the organization better than they found it.  They create a positive environment to position the institution for the future.

When providing direction, giving guidance, and setting priorities, strategic leaders must judge realistically what the future may hold.  They incorporate new ideas, new technologies, and new capabilities.  From a mixture of ideas, facts, conjecture, and personal experience, they create an image of what their organizations need to be and where it must go to get desired results.

The strategic leader’s vision provides the ultimate sense of purpose, direction, and motivation for everyone in the organization.  It is the starting point for developing specific goals and plans, a yardstick for measuring organizational accomplishment, and a check on organizational values.  A shared vision throughout the organization is important for attaining commitment to change.  A strategic leader’s vision for the organization may have a time horizon of years, or even decades.

Fundamentals of Naval Leadership

Posted in Books, Naval Leadership, Reading Room with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

by Department of Leadership and law, U S. Naval Academy ~ Karel Montor

The Navy defines leadership as the art, science, or gift by which a person is enabled and privileged to direct the thoughts, plans, and actions of others in such a manner as to obtain and command their obedience, their confidence, their respect, and their loyal cooperation.  Simply stated, leadership is the art of accomplishing the Navy’s mission through people.[i]  To accomplish this, the Navy leader employs the principles of leadership, core values and the qualities that lead to success.  A Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, a student participating in an ROTC program, or an individual going through Officer Candidate School (OCS) are introduced to the fundamental leadership skills necessary to become a successful Naval and Marine Corps officer.

“Fundamentals of Naval Leadership” is a Naval Academy text book, and is the companion piece to “Naval Leadership: Voices of Experience – Second Edition.”  In essence, the book builds from the discussion of the concepts of leadership; human behavior, motivating people (and ourselves), conflict resolution, evaluating performance, the structure and function of groups.  In the second half of the book, it transitions into discussion of the dynamic qualities of leadership that are required to be successful; moral leadership, leading by example, and virtues & traits.  It finishes with the topics of personal relations with people, counseling & interviewing, discipline, training, and organization & administration.  Of course, as a military academy text book, it covers aspects of being a Naval (or Marine Corps) Officer in the greatest Navy in the World; rights, responsibilities, code of conduct, traditions & customs, etc.  The parallel to managing and leading in the business world are obvious, and it is easy to interchange military and branch-specific references to themes, situations and experiences in a civilian corporate environment.  At the end of the text book, there are case studies, again geared toward leading in the Navy.  The situations and scenarios are comparable to day-to-day experiences to any manager in any field of expertise.  The book goes back to basics, and presents the many aspects of leadership at almost an introductory level – approaches to and styles of leadership, examples of effective leadership, the psychology of leadership, and the factors and traits of the effective leader – to teach its readers to become more effective leaders.[ii]

The Naval tradition places special emphasis on the development of leadership ability. This emphasis is found with regard to both institutional efforts and individual efforts. Elaborating on the responsibility of naval officers to develop leadership skills,[iii] Admiral William V. Pratt (Chief of Naval Operations – 1930 to 1933) said, “The greatest problem facing the career naval officer is leadership.  Yet this most important factor in a man’s life frequently is allowed to grow like a flower in a garden surrounded by rank weeds.  So many feel that if they follow the average course of naval life, experience will finally give them the qualities of the great leader, and opportunity may reward them with high command.  Few realize that the growth to sound leadership is a life’s work.  Ambition alone will not encompass it, and if ambition alone be a man’s sole qualification, he is indeed a sorry reed to lean upon in time of stress.  The path of qualification for leadership is a long, hard road to travel.  It is a path of life.  It envisages all of a man’s character, his thoughts, aims, and conduct of life.  It requires the wisdom and judgment of the statesman, the keen perception of the strategist and tactician, the executive ability of the seaman; but above all, it requires sterling worth of character and great human understanding and sympathy.[iv]

In his Forward to the second edition of Naval Leadership, Admiral Arleigh Burke (Chief of Naval Operations – 1955 to 1961) wrote, “No matter what mark an officer may leave in history by his deeds in battle, or in intellectual contributions, or in material inventions, his greatest legacy to his country will be the example he has given as a man and as a leader of men.”[v]
United States Naval Academy page banner

The Naval Academy has a unique clarity of purpose, expressed in their mission:

“To develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.”[vi]


This was one of the books I listed in last week’s “The Development of a Reading Program,” and is the second book I will read from my 2012 reading list.  I encourage you to go online to order a copy for yourself and add it to your library.  If you are interested in learning more about this book, and would like to acquire it, please visit this link at
 Copyright © Dale R. Wilson
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Footnotes –

[i] Montor, Karel, Anthony J. Ciotti, and Malcolm E. Wolfe. Fundamentals of Naval Leadership. The Department of Leadership and Law, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute, 1984. page 1. (The definition of leadership is adapted from Naval Leadership, U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, MD, 1939, page 1, and Frederick Ellsworth Wolf, A.M., Leadership in the New Age, U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, MD, 1946, page 3)

[ii] ibid.

[iii] Al-Harbi, Toraiheeb. Navy Definitions of Leadership and LMET/NAVLEAD Competency Clusters Compared to Selected Leadership Theories. Thesis. Naval Postgraduate School, 1995. – Accessed 7 February 2012.  The Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC®) –

[iv] Montor, Karel, Anthony J. Ciotti, and Malcolm E. Wolfe. Fundamentals of Naval Leadership. The Department of Leadership and Law, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute, 1984. page 77. (from Selected Readings in Leadership, U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, MD, 1957, page 1)

[v] ibid. page xviii. (from the Forward to the second edition of Naval Leadership, the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD, 1959)

[vi] Mission of USNA – – Accessed 7 February 2012 – United States Naval Academy | Home Page –

BookLink: Army Leadership (Lead ~ Develop ~ Achieve) {Book 1, Wk. 2}

Posted in Army Leadership, BookLink with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

BookLink continues with review and summary of the second week of reading the The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual.  Our assignment this past week was to read chapters 6 thru 9 (pages 54 thru 106).  Below, you can find links to the recent Command Performance posts discussing The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual, which have an embedded version of the field manual.  Also, below, I have included links to the field manual found elsewhere on the internet for you to view and download.

BookLink ~ The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual – Posted 01/23/2012

BookLink: Army Leadership (BE ~ KNOW ~ DO) {Book 1, Wk. 1} – Posted 01/30/2012

This coming week, our assignment is to read chapters 10 thru Appendix A (pages 107 thru 155).  Then, on February 13, I will have a post for discussion on what we have read.


Army Leadership FM 6-22 (FM 22-100) (Paperback) ~ US Army Cover ArtFrom this week’s reading, the book goes a little further into leading people, leaders developing themselves, subordinates and organizations, and achieving mission accomplishment.

Leader intellect is what you know and think. How you act or what you do in a situation depends on your mind. What you’ve learned ahead of time and what you are thinking will drive your actions.  A leader must utilize their mental agility, judgment, innovation, interpersonal tact, and their tactical and technical knowledge.

Leaders serve to provide purpose, direction and motivation.  Leaders go about this by: 

  • Setting a clear direction 
  • Enforcing standards 
  • Taking care of their people to ensure they remain productive and successful in their duties 
  • Working alongside various levels of an organization, where many departments and cross-functional teams are directly and indirectly tied to the project, but may not be under their authority 
  • Leading by example, serving as a role model to all of the people they encounter 
  • Communicating their intentions so that it is clearly understood to achieve the goals and tasks necessary for mission accomplishment.

Within the Army’s competency-based leader model, there are core leader competencies that fall into three main categories derived from the basic parts of our leadership definition:

  • Leads
  • Develops
  • Achieves

Each of these categories has within it competencies that a leader must possess.  Remember that these competencies are mutually supporting.  You need to do some of each of them.  As a leader (and a follower) you need to find the right balance—different leaders in different jobs and organizations will allocate different attention to competencies depending on the situation.

The leader who leads provides vision through purpose, motivation, universal respect, and direction to guide others to inspire action.  They extend one’s influence beyond the chain of command to build trusting partnerships and alliances to accomplish complex work.  Leaders build consensus among individuals within and outside the organization, while resolving conflicts.   is conveyed by communicating and setting the example, while enforcing standards and instilling discipline.

A leader leads by displaying character at all times, putting the organization and subordinates above personal self-interest, career and comfort.  They project confidence, especially under adverse conditions, displaying the moral courage to stand firm on values, principles and convictions.  Leaders who take full responsibility for their decisions and actions display such moral courage.  And, along with moral courage, the leader demonstrates competence; tactical and technical knowledge.

The results that the leader achieves through their people depend on good communication.  Communication is not a one-way street.  While the leader must clearly state the goals for action, they should also be an active listener.  To be effective in their communication, the leader and the followers should ensure that there is shared understanding about what needs to be done, what the desired results should be, and the progress towards those results.  Good leaders keep their finger on the pulse of their organization by getting out to coach, to listen and to clarify.

The leader who develops leads organizations by creating and maintaining a positive environment that fosters teamwork, promotes cohesion, and encourages initiative and acceptance of responsibility.  A leader should also maintain a healthy balance between caring for people and focusing on the mission.  A positive climate is developed through fairness & inclusiveness and open & candid communication. 

Developing includes assessing needs to improve self, others and the organization.  The leader must seek self-improvement, mastering their profession at every level.  They must make a full commitment to lifelong learning and self-improvement, ultimately acquiring new skills necessary to adapt to changes in their environment.  Preparing for expected and unexpected challenges and developing self-awareness, the leader should strive to expand their knowledge. 

The leader must invest adequate time and effort to develop individual subordinates and build effective teams.  Success demands a fine balance of teaching, counseling, coaching and mentoring.  The Army, after all, is a learning organization, gaining strength from the experience of its people and organization to improve the way it operates.  The leader should, therefore, develop the learning environment that supports learning among its leaders and people.

A leader develops others by: 

  • Assessing developmental needs 
  • Developing them on the job 
  • Supporting professional and personal growth 
  • Helping them learn 
  • Counseling, coaching and mentoring 
  • Building team skills and processes

“Soldiers learn to be good leaders from good leaders.” – Richard A. Kidd, Sergeant Major of the Army (1991-1995)

The leader who achieves focuses on what needs to be accomplished.  They have an expeditionary mindset and can adapt to unanticipated, changing, and uncertain situations.  Achieving in the short-term is about getting results.  But, in the long-term, it is about setting the vision to obtain objectives. 

Getting results embraces all actions to get the job done on time and to standard; planning, preparing, execution.  The leader provides direction, guidance, and clear priorities, considering intended and unintended consequences, guiding teams in what needs to be done and how.  Developing and executing plans for mission and task accomplishment involves anticipating how to carry out what needs to be done, managing the resources used to get it done, conducting the necessary actions, and adapting to changes that might occur.  Accomplishing missions consistently and ethically involves monitoring organizational, group, and individual performance to identify strengths and correct weaknesses.  A successful mission requires the reinforcement of good performance.  And, of course, a failed mission requires a little more evaluation and review to assess what may have gone wrong, learning from those lessons, and improving performance for the next mission.

Leaders who have the competencies to lead, develop and achieve also have the “BE – KNOW – DO” necessary to be successful in today’s United States Army.  And, when these leaders apply these competencies, the Army wins America’s wars.  As General Gordon Sullivan, retired former Chief of Staff of the Army (1991-1995), said to Third Army staff following the Operation Desert Storm victory in 1991, “The American People expect only one thing from us: That we will win.  What you have done is no more than they expect.  You have won.”


Next assignment (February 6 to February 13) is to read chapter 10 thru Appendix A (pages 107 thru 155) – Discussion post will be on February 13

Forthcoming BookLink Leadership Reading Series schedule is as follows:

February 27, March 5, 12, 19 and 26 – Leadership Lessons of the Navy Seals – By Jeff Cannon and Lieutenant Commander Jon Cannon

April 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 – Leading Marines – By The United States Marine Corps

BookLink: Army Leadership (BE ~ KNOW ~ DO) {Book 1, Wk. 1}

Posted in Army Leadership, BookLink with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

If you have seen my recent posts introducing BookLink (“BookLink ~ An Introduction to the Leadership Reading Series” and “BookLink ~ The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual“), you know that it is a leadership reading series that provides you the opportunity to have direct and complete access to military-oriented leadership books, pamphlets, field manuals, and other resources of information.  BookLink will be a weekly “book club” where I will provide you a link to the full text of a book, and together we will read and discuss its content.

Last week, we started with The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual.  Below, you will find an interactive embedded version of this book.  You may also go directly to at to view or download it.   Also, The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual can be found and downloaded for free at The United States Army Combined Arms Center (Fort Leavenworth, Kansas), Center for Army Leadership, website at

This past week, our assignment was to read Chapter 1 thru 5 (pages 1 thru 53).  I hope you had the opportunity to read this first section of the book, as it introduced the foundations of leadership in the Army; BE – KNOW – DO.  I have provided a summary below of these chapters for your review.  I am eager to get our interactive discussion started, and I would like to hear from you on your impressions and opinions about chapters 1 thru 5 of The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual.

This coming week, our assignment is to read chapter 6 thru 9 (pages 54 thru 106).  Then, on February 6, I will have a post for discussion on what we have read.

View this document on Scribd


The United States Army leadership doctrine, through the U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual (FM 6-22), establishes the framework of leadership for all soldiers.  It discusses how Army values form the basis of character.  The values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage build the foundation of an Army officer, and are most of the virtues that make up any officer in the military.

There are two reasons why leadership is important to someone in the United States Army.  The first was expressed eloquently by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur in a 1962 speech:

“[Y]our mission…is to win our wars…[Y]ou are the ones who are trained to fight.  Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed…”

Every organization has an internal culture and ethos.  On the shoulders of an Army leader rests the mission ‘win our wars.’  The desire to accomplish that mission despite all adversity is called the Warrior Ethos, which is as follows:

I will always place the mission first.

I will never accept defeat.

I will never quit.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

This statement represents the professional attitude, selfless commitment, discipline, pride and belief that characterizes the American Soldier’s winning spirit.

The second reason one must strive to become the very best leader they can be: your people deserve nothing less.  “The most precious commodity with which the Army deals is the individual soldier who is the heart and soul of our combat forces.” (General J. Lawton Collins, VII Corps Commander, World War II).  As a leader, in any walk of life, taking care of people is a primary function.  There are many aspects of this that the U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual discusses to include understanding human behavior, motivating people, mentorship, along with other people management skills.

From the moment an Army leader takes the oath, they accept many responsibilities.  The foremost of those responsibilities is the leadership of people; the most precious resource in their care.  These people deserve competent, professional, and ethical leadership.  They expect their Army leaders to respect them as valued members of effective and cohesive organizations and to embrace the essence of leadership.  An ideal Army leader has strong intellect, physical presence, professional competence, high moral character, and serves as a role model.

Being a good leader also means being a good follower.  With the same expectations a leader has of their subordinates, there is always someone who has similar expectations of them.  Therefore, the people’s success is the leader’s success – the leader’s success is their boss’ success – all the way up the chain until the entire organization benefits from everyone’s performance and success.  The teamwork throughout this chain of people contributes entirely to the organization’s success, and is vital to accomplishing the mission.

None of this occurs without competent leadership.  The Army Leadership Field Manual answers many questions about how to lead.  Among those questions are:

1)      How do you prepare to be a leader?

2)      How do you learn and embrace those values and skills that will enable you to meet the challenge?

3)      What makes a good leader and person of character?


There are things that a leader must BE, KNOW, and DO.

Leadership begins with what a leader must BE.  The values and attributes that shape a leader’s character.  These are the internal qualities that a person possesses, and are no different from one leader to another, regardless of position.  These qualities continue to develop and strengthen through experience and increased responsibility.  A leader must BE!


                 VALUES                           ATTRIBUTES                            

                Loyalty                               Mental

                Duty                                   Physical

                Respect                              Emotional

                Selfless Service



                Personal Courage

Skills are the things a leader must KNOW.  Everything from the technical side of one’s job to the people skills becomes the knowledge that leaders should use when leading people.  Again, as one moves through their career, this knowledge contributes to their ability to make decisions and take appropriate action.  A leader must KNOW!







A leader cannot be effective until they apply who they are (their values and attributes) and what they know (skills).  The leaders actions (what they DO) are influenced by their personal character and knowledge, and DO things that are morally and technically correct.




  • Communicating
  • Decision-Making
  • Motivating


  • Planning & Preparation
  • Executing
  • Assessing


  • Developing
  • Building
  • Learning


Leadership is the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization.  Leaders Influence their people to do what needs to be accomplished, while providing a clear purpose and reason to take action.  They communicate what tasks need to be accomplished and they assign the responsibility and the standards for accountability.  The leader’s ability to convey a clear vision and intent allows followers the freedom to modify plans and orders to adapt to changing circumstances.

Motivation plays a significant role in the leadership function, and is a key ingredient in the completion of tasks.  Although motivation comes from within each individual, it is affected by external influences.  The leader needs to understand their people; to know what they need, what their desires and aspirations are, and to know what motivates them.  Also, a good leader will learn about their people’s capabilities and what their limitations are, and then align the tasks and responsibilities to those abilities, while providing them increased challenges.

Learning from mistakes and improving performance is an ongoing, never-ending process.  The Army has this down, literally, to a science.  The Army is accustomed to performing an after-action-review (AAR), which is a professional discussion of an event, focused on performance standards.  Consider it a team’s self-assessment of what happened, why it happened, and how to correct mistakes and improve.  This feedback identifies strong areas, and how to improve on weaknesses.


The foundations of Army leadership are firmly grounded in history, loyalty to our country’s laws, accountability to authority, and evolving Army doctrine.  By applying this knowledge with confidence and dedication, leaders develop into mature, competent, and multi-skilled members of the Nation’s Army.  Additionally, character contributes significantly to how one acts, as well as knowing what is right and to do what is right.  Army leaders must be those critical individuals of character themselves and in turn develop character in those they lead.

The ingredients of one’s character are the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor integrity, and personal courage.

Loyalty – Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit, and other soldiers.

“Loyalty is the big thing, the greatest battle asset of all.  But no man ever wins the loyalty of troops by preaching loyalty.  It is given to him as he proves his possession of the other virtues.” – Brigadier General S. L. A. Marshall, Men Against Fire

Duty – Fulfill your obligations.

“The essence of duty is acting in the absence of orders or direction from others, based on an inner sense of what is morally and professionally right…” – General John A. Wickham Jr., Former Army Chief of Staff

Respect – Treat People as they should be treated.

“The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment.  On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army.  It is possible to impart instruction and to give commands in such manner and such a tone of voice to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey.  The one mode or the other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander.  He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.” – Major General John M. Schofield, Address to the Corps of Cadets, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, 11 August 1879

Selfless Service – Put the welfare of the Nation, the Army, and subordinates.

“The nation today needs men who think in terms of service to their country and not in terms of their country’s debt to them.” – General of the Army Omar N. Bradley

Honor – Live up to all the Army Values.

“What is life without honor?  Degradation is worse than death.” – Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson

Integrity – Do what is right – legally and morally.

“The American people rightly look to their military leaders not only to be skilled in the technical aspects of the profession of arms, but also to be men of integrity.” – General J. Lawton Collins, Former Army Chief of Staff

Personal Courage – Face fear, danger, or adversity (physical and moral).

“The concept of professional courage does not always mean being as tough as nails either.  It also suggests a willingness to listen to the soldiers’ problems, to go to bat for them in a tough situation, and it means knowing just how far they can go.  It also means being willing to tell the boss when he’s wrong.” – Former Sergeant Major of the Army William Connelly

Leadership is therefore values-based, relying on impeccable character and professional competence.

Attributes are what a leader is:

1)      A leader of character with values, empathy and the Warrior Ethos

2)      A leader with presence; military bearing, physically fit, composed, confident, resilient

3)      A leader with intellectual capacity; mental agility, sound judgment, innovation, interpersonal tact, domain knowledge

Core Leader Competencies are what a leader does:

1)      Leads: leads others, extends influences beyond the chain of command, leads by example and communicates

2)      Develops: creates a positive environment, prepares self and develops others

3)      Achieves: gets results

Leader competence develops from a balanced combination of institutional schooling, self-development, realistic training, and professional experience.  Over time, leaders develop their competencies through experience, and they become increasingly proficient in those competencies where they can apply them to increasingly complex situations.  To excel at the core leader competencies, a leader must:


1)      Leads others by providing purpose, motivation, and inspiration; enforcing standards; balancing mission and welfare of soldiers.

2)      Extends Influence beyond the chain of command by building trust outside lines of authority; understanding sphere, means, and limits of influence; negotiating, building consensus, resolving conflict.

3)      Leads by example by displaying character; leading with confidence in adverse conditions; Demonstrating competence.

4)      Communicates by listening actively; stating goals for action; ensuring shared understanding.


1)      Creates a positive environment by setting the conditions for positive climate; building teamwork and cohesion; encouraging initiative; demonstrating care for people.

2)      Prepares themselves by being prepared for expected and unexpected challenges; expanding knowledge; maintaining self-awareness.

3)      Develops leaders by assessing developmental needs and developing them on the job; supporting professional and personal growth; helping people learn; counseling, coaching and mentoring; building team skills and processes.


1)      Gets results by providing direction, guidance, and priorities; developing and executing plans; accomplishing tasks consistently.

Army leaders also show empathy.  They try to see things from the point of view of their soldiers, can identify with them, and can understand their feelings and emotions.  Competent and empathetic leaders take care of their people by providing them the support they need to accomplish the mission, resulting in troop cooperation, good morale and mission effectiveness.


Becoming a person and leader of character is a career-long process from experience, education, and self-development, as well as from continual study, reflection, experience, and feedback.  Leaders hold themselves and subordinates to the highest level of ethical standards.  Soldiers are expected to do the right thing for the right reasons and with the right goal in mind.  Adhering to the principles that the Army values embody is essential to upholding high ethical standards of behavior.

‘Leadership presence’ is the impression that a leader makes on others.  Some might call this charisma.  A leader’s appearance, demeanor, actions, and words make up this attribute.  It is the image that a leader projects.  Military and professional bearing (image), physical fitness (including health fitness), confidence, and resilience are important when developing one’s ‘leader presence.’


Next assignment (January 30 to February 6) is to read chapter 6 thru 9 (pages 54 thru 106) – Discussion post will be on February 6

Forthcoming BookLink Leadership Reading Series schedule is as follows:

February 27, March 5, 12, 19 and 26 – Leadership Lessons of the Navy Seals – By Jeff Cannon and Lieutenant Commander Jon Cannon

April 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 – Leading Marines – By The United States Marine Corps

BookLink ~ The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual

Posted in Army Leadership, BookLink with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Army Leadership ~ Competent, Confident, and Agile

As I said in my inaugural post, I wanted this blog to not only be informative, but interactive as well.  One of the interactive elements of this blog is to have a virtual reading room for my blog’s readers; where recommended books, articles, etc., would be listed, and where there would be a forum for discussion about what we are reading.

Today, I am introducing a new feature that will provide you the opportunity to have direct and complete access to military-oriented leadership books, pamphlets, field manuals, and other resources of information. The BookLink Leadership Reading Series will be a weekly “book club” where I will provide you a link to the full text of a book, and together we will read and discuss its content. With the rapid growth in e-book popularity, and the ever-increasing availability of books and literature online (in some cases for free), I saw BookLink as a logical forum for delivering valuable information and knowledge, as well as the opportunity of sharing together what we learn from the books and manuscripts I will be presenting.

We start with The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual. For the next four weeks, we will read prescribed sections of the text and then discuss them here. I hope you will join me for this invaluable reader’s journey to increased knowledge and leadership wisdom.

Below, you will see an interactive embedded version of this book. You will see that it is easy to page through the document, zoom in & out, expand to the full screen view, etc. You may also go directly to at to view or download it. Also, The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual can be found and downloaded for free at The United States Army Combined Arms Center (Fort Leavenworth, Kansas), Center for Army Leadership, website at

Our reading schedule, along with weekly discussions of what we’ve read, for the next four weeks will be as follows:

January 23 to 30 – Chapter 1 thru 5 (pages 1 thru 53) – Discussion post will be on January 30

January 30 to February 6 – Chapter 6 thru 9 (pages 54 thru 106) – Discussion post will be on February 6

February 6 to 13 – Chapter 10 thru Appendix A (pages 107 thru 155) – Discussion post will be on February 13

February 13 to 20 – Remainder of the book (pages 156 thru 216) – Discussion post will be on February 20

View this document on Scribd

For more than 50 years, The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual has provided leadership training for every officer training program in the U.S. Army. This edition brings the manual’s value-based leadership principles and practices to today’s business world. The result is a compelling examination of how to be an effective leader when the survival of your team literally hangs on your decisions. More than 60 gripping vignettes and stories illustrate historical and contemporary examples of army leaders who made a difference.[i-a]

The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual also provides:

  • A leadership approach based on the army’s core principles of “Be, Know, Do”
  • Hands-on lessons to enhance training, mentoring, and decision-making skills
  • Chapters that focus on the different roles and requirements for leadership[i-b]

This volume is the product of The Center For Army Leadership, which conducts research on emerging leadership trends, and establishes the standards of leaders in the U.S. Army. The Center, located at the General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS, also creates the leadership training curriculum used throughout the Army. This book is known in the military as FM 6-22 (formerly FM 22-100), The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual. It is the single-source reference for all U.S. Army leaders. American army training repeatedly emphasizes moral leadership, character and integrity, as seen in this primary field manual of leadership, which is used by soldiers and officers everywhere.[i-c]

As the keystone leadership manual for the United States Army, FM 6-22 establishes leadership doctrine, the fundamental principles by which Army leaders act to accomplish their mission and care for their people.[ii]

The Army does two things each and every day: it trains its soldiers, and it grows them into leaders. The principles and practices of effective leadership that make the United States Army the greatest land force in the world are relevant, as well, to civilian organizations–businesses, nonprofit organizations, and governmental agencies.[iii]

In the Army, leaders need to lead men into battle, and keep them cohesive in the face of danger and death. How do you do that? It’s not about shouting orders, the book makes clear. It’s about taking responsibility and leading from the front, sharing risks with your people, and forging your own character so that you deserve to lead. This book shows you how to do that, and how that kind of leadership works just as well in business. It doesn’t make this kind of leadership sound easy, because it’s not. But it does show that if you’re willing to do the work and adopt the discipline, you can be a leader.[iv]

Army Leadership describes the character, competence, knowledge, and results-driven initiative that the U.S. Army seeks to develop within every one of its soldiers, regardless of rank.  It teaches to Be of strong ethical and moral character (loyalty, integrity, discipline), Know valuable skills and knowledge (technical and personal), Do utilize the leadership skills to make a difference.[v]

Be– To be an effective leader you have to be the kind of person people want to follow. This comes down to almost the Golden rule, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Other words would be loyalty, integrity, personal courage; a good set of personal qualities that make a good person. Leadership is about character. It is not a pretense. Honesty, discipline, and duty are paramount for a leader.[vi-a]

Know – Every leader must be knowledgeable.  Not only about their job, but everyday things. You have to know what you are asking subordinates to do. It’s hard to lead people into doing things that you can’t do yourself.[vi-b]

Do – The old adage, Follow Me, summarizes the leader’s point of view. You have to do; you have to show the way. Leaders put their skills to good use.[vi-c]

People want leaders who are honest, competent, forward-looking, and inspiring…People willingly follow only those who know what they are doing. One of the quickest ways for a leader to lose trust and commitment of followers is to demonstrate incompetence…Character and competence, the Be and the Know, underlie everything a leader does. But character and knowledge – while absolutely necessary – are not enough. Leaders act; they Do…They solve problems, overcome obstacles, strengthen teamwork, and achieve objectives. They use leadership to produce results.[vii]

Leadership is a deep and complex subject because it requires one to deeply understand oneself and the others. The leadership curriculum at West Point, and virtually all military leadership training schools, repeatedly emphasizes moral leadership, character and integrity. The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual stresses ethics and high moral character.[viii]

The Army teaches leadership at all levels from the squad leader with only a few subordinates to generals with hundreds of thousands. The US Army has determined that in some fashion everyone that reports to you is also a leader and needs to be trained and respected as such. The US Army’s leaders are actively developed at all levels so that they can lead and develop others. The “values” and the “leadership” embodied by the U.S. Army make it one of the most respected institutions in the world.[ix] Learn from the best. The US Army produces the most effective leaders. Ask anyone who has hired a veteran.[x]
Copyright © Dale R. Wilson

Footnotes –

[i-a,b, c] The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual – getAbstract (The World’s Largest Library of Business Book Summaries) – Accessed 23 January 2012 –

[ii] Headquarters, Department of the Army, Army Leadership – Competent, Confident, and Agile, October 2006, page v.

[iii] Eric K. Shinseki (USA Ret.), Frances Hesselbein, Be – Know – Do: Leadership the Army Way: Adapted from the Official Army Leadership Manual. From the Introduction by Frances Hesselbein and General Eric K. Shinseki. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004. Print.

[iv] Be – Know – Do: Leadership the Army Way: Adapted from the Official Army Leadership Manual – Customer Reviews – – Barnes & Noble ( – Accessed 23 January 2012 –

[v] The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual – Customer Reviews – – – Accessed 23 January 2012 –

[vi-a,b,c] Be – Know – Do: Leadership the Army Way (J-B Leader to Leader Institute/PF Drucker Foundation – Customer Reviews – Page 1 – – – Accessed 23 January 2012 –

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual – Customer Reviews – – – Accessed 23 January 2012 –

[ix] Be – Know – Do: Leadership the Army Way (J-B Leader to Leader Institute/PF Drucker Foundation – Customer Reviews – Page 2 – – – Accessed 23 January 2012 –

[x] Army Leadership FM 6-22 (FM 22-100) – Customer Reviews – – – Accessed 23 January 2012 –

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