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The Profession of Soldiering is among the most noble of professions as it pulls the best and brightest of our society. Those individuals who have a sense of duty, and a desire to serve a greater good, even though it may cost them their lives. Leadership in this profession is its pinnacle. One of the earliest goals of many Soldiers is to reach the basic level of this pinnacle and become a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO). With the principles of leadership that the Army utilizes to train its leaders, this goal is not only attainable but can prepare them for a future of professionalism in all of their endeavors both inside and outside of the Army.
This same teaching has been able to produce some of the military’s greatest leaders such as SGT Audie Murphy, MSG Raul (Roy) Perez Benavidez and COL David Hackworth who accredits his leadership abilities as an officer to his time as a Non-Commissioned Officer. Although the Army may change the way that it teaches its leaders their attributes and competencies, the basic principle remains the same; make leadership your profession and master it.
“Lead from the front” is one of the most common phrases associated with leadership in the Army but should not be the final description of the leader. The Army leader should also be associated with terms such as empathy, self-preparedness, and tact to name only a few. The image of the Army leader as a grizzled, disgruntled, and unfeeling person is outdated and inaccurate. Army leaders are now instead, assisting their troops behind the scenes with issues such as suicide prevention, sexual harassment and assault. The leader must be ready to address all of today’s complex issues that can affect troop morale and safety.
Society views our Soldier leaders as the highest in moral standards and the example of courage in the face of adversity. The Army leader should therefore feel obligated to live up to this image. Meeting these standards and image begins with upholding a set of values that should be commonplace in the leader’s personal and professional life. That set of values begins for the Army leader long before they reach a position of leadership. Leaders should carry those values at the forefront of their mind throughout their career.
Values such as personal courage and duty are viewed as the standard for a strong and confident military leader. While these values are still more than relative and appropriate, the leader is currently receiving more training to practice values such as empathy and professional stewardship to adjust to the changing climate in today’s Army. The most successful Army leader is the individual who can put all these values to practice in their leadership style as well as their personal lives. When utilizing these values, the leader not only maintains the appearance associated with the military leader but can also more effectively lead Soldiers through the complex array of issues they face. It is imperative that all the values taught to the Soldier leader are held in the highest regard if the leader is to effectively make leadership their profession.
With leadership as a profession being the professional goal for the leader, it is of utmost importance that the leader is always open to learning as a way of developing. The leader will be willing to take time out of their day to devote to professional educational development as well as seek out and participate in military and civilian training courses. Many courses of this style will assist the strengthening of leadership skills by directing the teaching and curriculum toward the subject of leadership. Beginning with the Basic Leaders Course (BLC) the Army ensures that the leader is set on the right path toward professional development by giving future leaders the opportunity to learn the basics of how to conduct themselves in daily leadership situations with their troops. These teachings are taken directly back to platoons where the new leader begins implementing them within their squads. The Army leader now has a set of skills which will enable them to build and improve upon while on their path to making leadership itself their profession.
To fully implement this new set of skills the leader begins applying them immediately in the squad level setting. The Soldier who implements these learned skills to make leadership their profession will be met with some resilience as the skills will be outside of the status quo and will not be embraced by all. After a period of adjustment and possible attempts at direct rebellion, the leader will see changes in discipline. This change in subordinate discipline is a direct reflection of the leader who has applied him or herself to making leadership their profession before proficiency in specific areas. As subordinates will always meet changes with reluctance, leaders should embrace them as learning techniques and opportunities to separate and differentiate themselves.
The conclusion is drawn, that, for the leader in today’s Army to prevail, they must apply themselves to making the action of leadership their profession, and not just a byword. To be successful in this endeavor they must put into practice all of the values that they learn, not only from training, but also from mentorship received, and their own experience. Examples of leadership are taken from fellow leaders, both good and bad, as it is often from the worst examples of leadership that the most important lessons can be learned. Leaders are most competent when they can adapt their leadership style to the Soldier they are in contact with at any particular moment and have the knowledge to provide that Soldier with the assistance that they need. A leader is at their most competent when they can improvise, adapt, and overcome. It is most important, that for the leader to make leadership their profession, they do not become stagnant or complacent in this endeavor, but that they strive for perfection in this goal.
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