11 Tips for Succeeding as Aide-de-Camp

by Andy Brokhoff

Congratulations on being selected as an aide-de-camp. This assignment is like no other assignment you have had. You were selected because of the successful career you’ve had thus far, but also for your potential to continue service for years to come. Being an aide is an amazing broadening assignment where you will get a glimpse into senior level military leadership. But it’s also difficult to prepare for.

Before you do anything else, read the Army’s guidance on serving as aide-de-camp:  Officer/Enlisted Aide Handbook. Next, I encourage you to consider the following advice.


U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, walks with Vietnamese Chief of Defense Lt. Gen. Do Ba Ty at the Ministry of Defense in Hanoi, Vietnam, Aug. 14, 2014. Link to photo.

Professional Etiquette in the Digital Age

by James Welch

Perhaps more than any other professional culture, the military demands that Soldiers perform their duties with a particularly high level of decorum and professionalism.  This is manifested in our hierarchical rank structure and our daily interactions with superiors, peers, and subordinates.  While the rise of digital technology has the potential to make these relationships stronger and improve the overall performance of individuals and organizations, it also has the potential to significantly damage one’s image.


Photo Credit: Army Sergeant Christopher M. Gaylord, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

14 Simple Ways to Connect with Your People

Leaders who find ways to connect with their people are the ones who build great teams, inspire the best performance, and rise to positions of influence when others wane. If you look back on your career, you’ll likely observe that the most impactful leaders were the ones who made a personal connection with you.

Maybe it was keen professional mentorship, or timely advice during adversity, or a personality trait that invited trust. Sometimes there’s no pinpointing it…just an intangible feeling that makes it easy to follow a person.

In the culture of busyness that we face today, it’s distressingly easy to ignore the personal side of leadership. But trust will never develop without a personal connection between leader and follower. And without trust, an organization will be confined to a transactional environment of mediocre results and melancholy people.


Sgt. Donald M. Khun, San Gabriel Valley Recruiting Company, right, presents Brooke Willis, spouse of the new company commander Capt. William G. Willis, with yellow roses to signify a bright new beginning at the change of command ceremony Mar. 15. Capt. William G. Willis, the new company commander is sitting to the left of Mrs. Willis, and their son Blake is sitting to her right.
Photo by Mr. Fernando Sanjurjo, U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Los Angeles.

The “Phil-Osophy” of Life

by Phil Walter

On December 17, 2014 I read a post by The Military Leader that outlined General Colin Powell’s Rules. I am no General Colin Powell. However, I do have my own list. I developed this list of principles based upon experiences as an Infantryman, Infantry Officer, and more specifically during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as an Intelligence Officer.

Once complete, I hung this list in my office and jokingly titled it “The Phil-Osophy.” Visitors would read the list, like what they saw, and ask for a copy. Though they may seem overly aggressive, or excessively pragmatic, they work for me and I do my best to hold myself to them during times of weakness.


U.S. Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit Battalion Landing Team transmit messages during an embassy reinforcement exercise at the Arta Range training area near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Oct. 26, 2013. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Erik Cardenas.
Link to photo.

10 Microsoft Excel Shortcuts to Make Your Life Easier

by Dan Hudalla

Microsoft Excel is one of the most widely used software tools in the military.  We use it more than we fire our weapons.  Many a staff officer and commander have spent countless hours creating that perfect spreadsheet to accomplish the mission.  And if you’ve ever frustratingly uttered, “there has got to be a more efficient way to do this,” check out these Excel tips.


Thanks to Army Captain Dan Hudalla for contributing this post!
If you found it useful, also check out “11 Keyboard Shortcuts You Must Learn.”

Leaders Hold the Dominant Terrain

“Remember that when an employee enters your office,
he is in a strange land.”  -Erwin H. Schell

Erwin Schell’s quote is partly about your physical office, which can be a foreign and scary place for everyone you lead. But the statement is also about how you wield power when your people enter the domain of your influence.

When you’re the recognized leader, you automatically hold the dominant terrain at the outset of every engagement. Of course, this is especially true in the military, where command authority is the ultimate trump card and rank is clearly displayed on our uniforms. Your people know who is in charge – you don’t need to restate it.

What will outlive your professional accomplishments is the way you enable individuals to feel capable and powerful, despite the obvious fact that you hold ultimate authority.

Subscribe to The Military Leader

Complete Archive of Military Leader Posts

Back to Home Page

How to Write a Change of Command Speech

Chances are you’ve been in one of the following situations:  a member of a formation suffering under a long change of command speech; an audience member embarrassed for the speaking commander because his speech is really bad; or a soon-to-be ex-commander staring at a blank page on the morning of your own departure speech. Sound familiar?

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. The change of command speech is important but it can sneak up on you in the distracted days before the big event. Here are some thoughts to consider as you prepare for the transition. There are sections for Incoming Commanders, Outgoing Commanders, and some general tips.

Change of Command

Maj. Brian Harber, executive officer for the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, salutes Lt. Col. Jeff Stewart, outgoing commander of the 1-24IN, signifying the Soldiers are ready for inspection during a change of command rehearsal ceremony at Ladd Parade Field here June 29. Lt. Col. Stewart relinquished command of the battalion to Lt. Col. Matthew MacNeilly during a ceremony at Fort Wainwright, Alaska July 2, 2012.
(U.S. Army Photo By: Sgt. Thomas Duval, 1/25th SBCT Public Affairs) Link to photo.

Article: “10 Things You’re Doing at Work That Say ‘I Don’t Care'”

Here’s a thought-provoking article from FastCompany.com that will bring you back to the personal elements of leadership, customer service, and engagement that we often forget. Check out all of the “10 Things You’re Doing at Work That Say ‘I Don’t Care’,” but here are a few that stood out as relevant for military leaders.

  • #1 – You Don’t Touch Base on Projects. One big problem for the military is that staffs don’t coordinate as much as they should. Parallel planning turns into separate planning, and echelons arrive at the deadline only to find that they have been shooting at different targets. Tip: Pick up the phone, confirm details and guidance, ask questions, and share products.
  • #4 – You Don’t Ask About Someone’s Personal Life. I have been guilty of this fault and I feel like a hollow leader when I can’t connect with subordinates/teammates on a personal level. It is a fact that military leaders have more official topics to discuss than there is room in the day to converse about them. It’s easy to leave out personal conversation but the good leaders recognize that connection as a way to not only build cohesion, but to discover important details about individuals, such as motivators and risk factors.
  • #6 – You Wait Until the Last Minute to Ask for What You Need. Military leaders are notorious for taking on a task, retreating to a dark office to plan it, then rushing out at the last-minute to plead for help. The worst offenders are the ones who don’t delegate well and the organization suffers because they don’t ask for help from the team or their boss. Rank is a great motivator; you should use it sometimes. As long as your boss isn’t a toxic jerk, let him know you’re coming up short on a project and could use both his expertise to generate new ideas, and his authority to energize others.
  • #10 – You Forget to Say Thank You or Great Job. Recognition is also an incredible motivator. Tell the team they matter by expressing your thanks in the midst of an event, not just at the change of command. Tip: If you have the authority to give out awards, why not make it your primary method of recognition? Achievement Medals don’t cost anything, so hand them out like candy. 

Questions for Leaders

  • Do you know the first names of the people who work for you?
  • When is the last time you asked your boss for help on a project? Is there a project you need help on now?
  • How much difference would it make if you said Thank You or Great Job at least once an hour every day?

Subscribe to The Military Leader

Complete Archive of Military Leader Posts

Back to Home Page