7 Gifts for a Military Leader

Military leaders are hard to buy gifts for. We’re busy, we’ve already got a lot of gear, and we don’t talk about what we need until we really need it. If you’re in a pinch to buy for someone in the military (or anyone else, for that matter), check out these easy gifts. I own each and swear by them.

StrengthsFinder 2.0

No other book in recent memory has had a more immediate and valuable impact on me as a leader. It reframed how I view my own approach to leadership and gave me a valuable framework to teach others. The research-backed concept is simple: discover your strengths, lead through your strengths, and build your team around your strengths. Very powerful!

StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Gallup and Tom Rath

The Best Military Gift You’ll Ever Give

You’ve got a wall full of departure gifts from units past. Framed unit colors…a few coins, badges, and patches…a metal placard with your name and a pleasant inscription. They’re nice, professional…but they’re predictable. It’s time to break the mold…

military gift

Check out the Roman Rudis from Purpleheart Armory.

The Rudis brings to life the 2,500 year old tradition of presenting retiring gladiators of the Roman Empire with a wooden replica of their primary weapon, the gladius. (In the movie Gladiator, Proximo reveals to Maximus the he too was a gladiator, displaying his rudis as the symbol of his freedom.)

military giftPurpleheart Armory expertly crafts this Rudis from domestic hardwood like Oak, Maple, and Ash, then engraves up to 5 lines of customized inscription. Unit logos, service seals, rank, branch insignia, and other tailored images give it a personal but professional feel, and unmatched uniqueness. And of course, the Rudis is 100% made in the USA.

Present the Rudis to celebrate departures, arrivals, milestones, accomplishments, or to reward unit competition. I like giving the Rudis to retiring friends and colleagues to symbolize their “freedom” from military life.

Get 5% Off Your Rudis

Purpleheart Armory has a special offer for The Military Leader community. Get a 5% discount when you use the coupon code:  TheMilitaryLeader. This is the coolest military gift I’ve ever seen and gets a “Wow!” every time it’s presented. If you don’t need one now, be sure to bookmark this post for a future order.

Get Your 5% Discount (promo code: TheMilitaryLeader)

As The Military Leader community grows, so does the cost associated with managing the website. Purpleheart Armory has graciously offered this promotion as part of an affiliate partnership. This means that a portion of the proceeds of orders placed through this post will go directly to funding The Military Leader website. You certainly don’t have to click through this post when you want to buy a Rudis, but I would sincerely appreciate it if you did. And as always, referrals matter. So please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and wherever else you can! Thank you!

What Place Does Digital Learning Have in Our Army?

A Call for Input from The Military Leader

Today, I want to let you know about an exciting opportunity and ask for your help in preparing for it. On October 3rd, I’m honored to participate in a 4-person panel at the Association of the US Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting.


The topic is “digital learning in the Army today” and I’ll be flanked by three fellow writers:  Nathan Finney of Strategy Bridge, Joe Byerly of From the Green Notebook, and military fiction writer Jessica Scott. During this panel, we will discuss the important role that digital media (online and social) is playing in the Army, as well as what it means for future learning.

In preparing for this panel, I would sincerely appreciate hearing what you have to say about digital learning in our Army. And by “digital learning” I mean developing yourself or your team through blogs, social media, online magazines, chat forums, etc. – not the official digital learning tools that the Army publishes.

Some framing questions would be:

Are you using online content to develop yourself or your team?
Do you use social media to complement your Army leadership?
Is digital media a credible forum to discuss professional topics?

I plan to (anonymously) cite your experience and examples as evidence of digital media’s impact on our profession. I am open to all input on the topic but have settled on two broad questions to start the discussion.

  1. In what ways are you using online content and social media to enhance your team’s professional development?
  2. How do you see digital learning affecting the Army profession in the years to come?

Please feel free to comment on this post’s comment section, on Facebook, Twitter, or at the following survey link:

Take Me to the Survey!

Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on digital learning in our Army. If you are interested in reading the latest official guidance regarding Army social media, click here. For the AUSA Annual Meeting site, click here.

Complete Archive of Military Leader Posts

Back to Home Page

The Top Posts from 2015

As 2015 closes, I’d like to thank you for making leader development part of your life. It means a lot that you commit to developing yourself through reflection, discourse, and study. And it means even more that you employ that insight to grow those you are responsible for leading. I hope The Military Leader has been a valuable part of that leader development process.


A soldier provides protection as UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters fly from a landing zone on Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, Dec. 2, 2015. The soldier is assigned to 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon

Do Leader Development Programs Matter?

Question:  Does your unit or company leader development program have an impact on how you lead? Do the leader development activities actually inspire change?…Or are they just intrusions to your own tried and true leadership style?

Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Command Performance Worth Plugging Into

Today, I’d like to highlight the work of military blogger Dale Wilson, the creator of Command Performance Leadership. Dale is a former Navy logistician and has two decades of experience in business management and leadership. He writes on a wide variety of leadership-related topics and is bringing a resurgence to his blog in 2015.

Command Performance

An MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopter passes the USS Chafee while delivering supplies to the USS Carl Vinson during a vertical replenishment mission with the USNS Bridge in the Pacific Ocean, Jan. 2, 2012. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class James R. Evans. Link to photo.

What I appreciate about Command Performance Leadership is that Dale takes great care to thoroughly develop his topics, providing multiple perspectives to consider, and cites other work to support his arguments. He balances the “no rules” nature of online blogging with academic legitimacy, which is refreshing.

My favorite example of this is Dale’s expanded look at Schofield’s Definition of Discipline, where he provides historical context and personal insight.

Here’s an excerpt:

The foundation of discipline is not accountability or punishment, but respect.  A leader must establish trust and credibility, communicate effectively, employ empathy, intimately know their people’s capabilities, and move their people into positions to be most successful.  Nobody should be the ‘bad guy’ when leading people.  No leader should be a bad guy intentionally, or go out of their way to be one.  If a leader is working to perfect his ‘bad guy’ image, he is dishonoring his responsibility as a leader, and is creating a hostile environment for his followers.  If a leader has successfully become a ‘bad guy,’ shame on them.  Their subordinates deserve better than that; and, so does the service they represent and the Command (organization) they are responsible for.[xi]  Ultimately, a good leader will lead through respect instead of leading through fear.  When you treat people right, word gets around.

And this post on toxic leadership tells how to avoid letting self-interested attitudes interfere with quality leadership:

Integrity of character is the foundation of a great leader.  To use a metaphor, it is what you build your very being up from, if you so choose.  The building blocks of leadership are built upon the value of integrity and trust.  Each block represents the values, virtues and principles that will house your team.  It will be built with duty, honor, courage, commitment, selfless service, respect, justice, judgment, dependability, initiative, decisiveness, tact, enthusiasm, bearing, unselfishness, knowledge, loyalty, and endurance.  It will be a strong structure if you build with these traits properly and effectively.  You need to make sure the leadership “structure” your team works in is built with these things.  Within that strong structure, under the strong roof of your leadership, your team will be safe and secure.

Also check out his posts on Leadership Defined and Authoritarian Leadership vs. Democratic Leadership ~ The Officer Corps Explained.

You can find Dale actively developing his 3,000 Twitter followers at @5starleadership.

Question: Do you have a military blog that people need to check out? Leave a comment below!

Subscribe to The Military Leader

Complete Archive of Military Leader Posts

Back to Home Page

8 Myths About HRC Assignment Officers

Some officers serve half their career before speaking with their Assignment Officer at Human Resources Command. Commonly heard beliefs include: “If you get on Branch’s radar, they’ll send you to Korea”; “Just lay low and let your commanders speak on your behalf”; and “I plan to stay with troops as long as I can, so I don’t need HRC’s help.”

I’ve worked as an Assignment Officer for almost a year and I recommend against holding on to such beliefs. Further, I think most people hesitate to engage with their Assignment Officer because they really don’t know who is on the other end of the phone. Hopefully this post provides you some clarity about who is helping you navigate your career.

HRC Assignment Officers

The U.S. Army Human Resources Command (HRC) has completed its Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) move to Fort Knox, Ky. Currently, HRC’s new home in the Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Maude Complex employs about 3,300 military, civilian and contract workers. The nearly 900,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility is the largest office building in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Photo by Robert Stevenson, Fort Knox Visual Information. Link to photo.

Rangers Get a Legitimate Voice in New Book


Rangers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and a multi-purpose canine pause during a nighttime combat mission in Afghanistan. Courtesy U.S. Army. Link to photo.

“Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror”

Veterans often feel underwhelmed by accounts of war that carry a tone of glory-seeking or inaccurately represent the reality of combat. Today’s media landscape affords any veteran the opportunity to publicize his/her thoughts, and only a few of those accounts will be widely lauded. Almost none will be so highly regarded that they serve as a literary memorial to those who served.

Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror will be one of those books. And I want to recommend a review of the book on Task and Purpose, made by a colleague of mine whose prose grabs the heart of the book and does it justice.

Here are some excerpts, but read his review here:

Glory abounds in this piece of work, but it presents as a byproduct of raw honesty; it lacks the familiar omnipresent undertone of self-aggrandizement. Rather, Violence of Action transcends the pettiness that, truthfully, turns so many veterans off from reading first-hand accounts from other “warriors.” Glory here goes to the unit that produced so many fine Americans, their parents, their families, and their hometowns. Rangers don’t seek glory, and only relish it among one another, no books required.

Violence of Action has more healing power than any prescription. This book belongs on the bedside table of so many service members and veterans — Rangers or otherwise — when they wake up in the middle of the night, because there is a story in this book that will help them reconcile. It is so very hard to relate combat experiences to others, even veterans from other wars. Yet it is vital to relate and to connect with those who have shared, suffered, and lost on the same ground.

Read the rest and be sure to leave your comments on the page and on Amazon.

Subscribe to The Military Leader

Complete Archive of Military Leader Posts

Back to Home Page