Talk about organizational bureaucracy, the military embodies an expansive, top-down hierarchy with thousands of personnel across multiple locations and divisions. Whether your workforce is the size of an army or is lean and flat, you can still benefit from understanding and adopting the best leadership principles of the US Armed Forces.
From enlisted service people to trained officers, the military has a remarkable track record of developing leaders who achieve their goals and lead others to success. They assess their candidates thoroughly before promoting them and continue to invest in the development of high potentials as they rise up the ranks.
Let's look at 11 leadership principles of the US Armed Forces that can help you to become a more effective manager and a better leader:
1. Know yourself and seek self-improvement. Properly evaluating and striving to improve your own strengths and limitations will continually enhance your abilities and performance. Modeling this significant trait for your staff will benefit each individual and your unit.
2. Be technically and tactically proficient. Keep current with the latest technical developments in your field of expertise and know how to deploy your resources for the maximum return on investment. This is another great development principle for your staff.
3. Demonstrate and Motivate responsibility among your staff. Drive accountability. Make sure your staff knows that you will hold them accountable for their actions and assignments.
4. Make sound and timely decisions. Ensure that your decisions are well thought out and that you've taken into account all relevant information. Don't act rashly or out of anger, desperation, or any other emotional state.
5. Set an example. Lead from the front - make sure that your staff sees you as a role model. Be visible in your daily activities and hold yourself to a higher standard - this will motivate staff to improve themselves.
6. Know your staff and look out for their welfare. Only by demonstrating that you are genuinely interested in and concerned for your employees' welfare will you win their loyalty. A good leader is a compassionate listener and understands what motivates the team. Which attitude do you convey? "I'm in it with you" or "I'm looking out for myself and you are on your own"?
7. Keep your staff informed. Information is key to any organization and only good if it is shared across the widest possible spectrum. Be sure to communicate promptly - good information received too late can be the same as bad or no information at all. Share your ideas and knowledge with your staff - this will make them feel included, respected and valued.
8. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions. Be prepared for your next assignment and take charge of all areas of responsibility. If a mistake is made, stand up and take the heat. By doing so, you will demonstrate a key principle of leadership: we are all fallible and make mistakes, but it is how we respond to our mistakes that separates the professionals from the pretenders.
9. Ensure assigned tasks are understood, supervised, and accomplished. Trust your employees to do their jobs, but verify that assignments have been completed to your standards. Don't hover and micro-manage tasks, but also don't wait until a deadline to discover that the work was done poorly or improperly. The military excels at giving briefings and status reports. When your staff is able to provide you with positive, comprehensive updates, they'll feel encouraged and you'll know that the project is on track. If it's not, you can offer advice and guidance on how to get back on track.
10. Train your staff as a team. Have your employees work together as a team and cross-train on each other's responsibilities. This allows them to utilize each other's strengths and to feed off of the team synergy. Teamwork develops a sense of shared responsibility and commitment to the objective. You'll also have backup in the event of a team member's prolonged absence.
11. Engage your team according to their capabilities. Knowing your drawbacks and those of your staff and department, and not taking on more than you should, will add to the wisdom of your leadership. You'll know when to call in reinforcements or when to say "no."
Despite some bad examples and stereotypes of negative leadership in the military, there is something to be learned from them: Character. What type of boss are you - would your troops look for an opportunity to "frag" you, or would they loyally follow you into battle no matter the circumstances?