The Principles of Military Leadership [Day 3]

Today, let’s consider some input from General Colin Powell, as well as the classic list of Armed Forces Leadership Principles that most of us grew up with. There are clear overlaps, like “Set an example” and “Know your people and look out for their welfare.” But, how can we update and refine those principles to give leaders a more accurate picture what is necessary in today’s military? I welcome your thoughts and suggestions!

The 11 Principles of Armed Forces Leadership

  1. Know yourself and seek self-improvement.
  2. Be technically and tactically proficient.
  3. Develop a sense of responsibility among your subordinates.
  4. Make sound and timely decisions.
  5. Set an example.
  6. Know your people and look out for their welfare.
  7. Keep your people informed.
  8. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions.
  9. Ensure assigned tasks are understood, supervised, and accomplished.
  10. Train your people as a team.
  11. Employ your team in accordance with its capabilities.

For an expanded discussion of this list, check out the Combat Leaders website post, 11 Timeless Principles of Military Leadership.”

Wisdom from General Colin Powell

You can find the below comments in Powell’s autobiography, My American Journey.

  • “Leadership is solving problems. The day Soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.”
  • “Stop, Look, Listen – then strike hard and fast with all the power you need.”
  • “Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it.” (More on this quote.)
  • “Never believe the first thing you hear.”
  • “The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise.”

His advice is clearly powerful, but is it universal enough to make the list? Remember, we are looking for overarching principles, not just useful leadership adages. Add your thoughts in the comment section.


The Principles of Military Leadership [Day 3]

  1. Nothing happens without example…even if the example is your own.
  2. Teach the basics…then teach them again.
  3. Take frequent moments to acknowledge and recognize the sacrifices your service members and families are making.
  4. There is nothing more important than accomplishing the mission…except for taking care of your people.
  5. The best leaders are able to show, when appropriate, both confidence and humility.
  6. Good ideas have no rank.
  7. Leadership is not a thing; it is a relationship.
  8. Never let the sun go down on a soldier’s pay problem.
  9. Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.
  10. A core function of every military organization is to develop leaders.
  11. Everything takes 8 times as long as you think it will.

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