Leadership and the Army Profession
Leadership is not only a quality that is taught, but one vital to the Army’s mission. The Army consists of a multitude of skillsets, all serving one purpose: The Nations interest. Leadership is expected of us to serve those interests with tact, expertise, and effectiveness. Despite position, soldiers are expected to carry out missions with the Army values in mind. The ability of the Army to maintain customs and courtesies has only strengthened its foundation of leadership. Though not exclusive to servicemen and women, soldiers separate themselves from society through professionalism in leadership.
As described in AR 600-100, the Army defines leadership as” influencing by providing purpose, direction, and motivation”. By following the framework of the Army values, LDRSHIP, we can identify what leadership entails. Loyalty: allegiance to the oath of enlistment, your peers, and the objectives of command. Duty: being bound to the welfare of yourself, your soldiers, and your mission statement. Respect: extending the understanding that everyone, Private and above is essential to the totality of mission effectiveness. Selfless Service: understanding and accepting that the needs of the many, will often outweigh the needs of the few. Honor: living in virtue, knowing the distinct difference between right and wrong, and acting accordingly. Integrity: being honest and direct with your actions and intentions; never using means to deceive your audience. Personal Courage: the ability to drive on through self-doubt or fear, and being steadfast during difficult times.
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It is important to not only understanding good leadership, but toxic leadership as well. Beginning with the soldier as an individual, toxic leadership is fostered through a negative environment. When a solider cannot trust, rely on, or follow their leadership, a negative environment arrives. Incompetent, insensitive, criminal, and self-centered leadership all add to the slowing or prevention of growth within a team, squad, or platoon.
Beginning from initial entry, following throughout a soldier’s career, leadership is embedded into our brains. The Army has sustained professional culture through five essential values: trust, military expertise, honorable service, stewardship, and esprit de corps. Trust is the confident expectation of your superiors and subordinates, it builds the base for all values. Military expertise is the expert know-how of your service, occupation, and military custom. Honorable service is serving in a capacity that exemplifies the entirety of the Army values. Stewardship is the ability to remain careful and tactful in the responsibility of your soldiers. The unity of yourself and your element is esprit de corps, the ‘spirit of the corps’. Through cadence of action, learning the Army’s culture, and effective training, synchronicity is established. Strong command is not attained through an ‘iron fist’, but rather communication, attentiveness, and respect. Demonstrating respect to all ranks is what fosters the nature of unity, and individual development. This development is the lifeblood of the entire profession of the Army.
To establish a foundation, it is important to provide Soldiers with dynamic ways of thinking. The Army is made of many parts, those parts, being individuals from all experiences of life. These experiences that blend together to form one functioning machine are all factors in molding potential leaders. The first thing taught upon entry into the army, is professionalism in uniform: how to be a Soldier. Professionalism in uniform leads to a pride in service, and aligns nearly directly with military bearing. In equipping soldiers with cultural and technical knowledge of the Army, self-confidence is developed. Confidence is key to making your soldiers open and willing to trust you without hesitation. Soldiers begin to take more calculated risks through this developed confidence.
Soldiers utilize their confidence learned to identify risk versus reward, a critical thinking tool. Critical thinking allows soldiers to navigate matters of social, moral, and professional importance with the tools of Army ethic at hand. Rewards of critical thinking, through commendations and certification, further validates soldiers by reinforcing confidence gained. Soldiers earn validation of military expertise through promotion, graduating professional military education schools, etc. Validation of duty also provides subordinates with a visual, attainable goal as seen through leadership. Demonstration of commitment to the goals of Army, provides standards a soldier should strive to achieve.
In the Army, we can conclude that professionalism and leadership are not mutually exclusive, but synonymous. We can truly see how by examining both the Army values and the five essential values. The common theme identified in these values, are the attributes a leader should have. At its core, the Army cultivates the followership that blossoms into strong leadership. If leadership is the trait an individual carries, then professionalism is that soldiers ability to execute those traits.