5 of the Best Traits in New Army Officers

By | January 6, 2021

[January 6, 2021]  Working with great leaders brings many advantages, not all of which are directly related to learning how to think and act appropriately.  First, as an enlisted soldier and then as an officer, I was able to see leadership from two different perspectives.  In my opinion, the U.S. military is the best place to observe and learn from leaders. Today’s article is about what I believe are the best traits are for new, incoming Army Officers.

Yesterday’s article on 5 of the Worst Traits in New Army Officers was written to help junior-level leaders see what senior leaders see in them.  By providing this list, anyone can compare their daily routines and look into their immediate future to see where they stand in the eye of a more experienced leader.

I could give a counterpoint to each of yesterday’s “worst” traits, and this would have been sufficient.  Using those as a starting point, I’ll move into other areas for us to consider.  Here are a few thoughts about what new Army officers bring that are their best traits:

  1. Trustworthiness: If I can’t trust you, I can’t follow you.  A fundamental requirement for any organization or group’s success is for trust to be built and maintained.  Without it, nothing will be accomplished to advance the interests of those individuals inside.  An unfortunate trend in America has been the decline of trustworthiness and, consequently, the advancement of lawyers and detailed contracts, where a handshake in the past would suffice.
  2. Positive and Outgoing Attitude: It should come as no surprise that those leaders with an uplifting attitude attract others to them. Their likability factor is high.  Their ability to attract people to them is measured, in part, by the conviviality. There’s an old love song by the Beach Boys titled “Good Vibrations” (see link for YouTube video, 4:23 minutes) that touches on this same theme; that we are naturally attracted to those that are good for us.
  3. Caring: Win their hearts and you will win all battles.  U.S. Marine General Jim Mattas once said that “As an officer, you need to win only one battle – for the hearts of your troops.  Win their hearts, and they will win the fights.” This similar to the great Chinese General/Philosopher Sun Tzu, who wrote the Art of War.  When people know you are vested in them as a person, their development and well-being, dreams, and families, you are connected to their souls.
  4. Makes sound and timely decisions: Based on relevant experiences and quality training, new officers frequently lack this trait.  However, I have found that those who exercise common sense, have a good moral sense of who they are, and understand people will do well in making sound and timely decisions.  It is justifiable to put this trait on my list regardless of its level of difficulty.  Good leaders are those that are always stretching themselves.  It requires a degree of wisdom, intellect, and knowledge of your weaknesses and strengths.
  5. Reaching their Souls: Money, prestige, and comfort are unimportant to those who have their souls captured by great leaders.  Only those who are genuinely great can reach into the souls of others. Indeed, part of this ability means showing that they care, are competent, and have the conviction to do well.  A leader that can show that he knows what he is doing, demonstrates a real caring for his people, and will stand up for them, is the one who can capture their hearts.

For a view on what I see as Senior Leader Commander Traits that Win and Elements of Strong Leadership, look at these linked articles.  They supplement today’s article.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

18 thoughts on “5 of the Best Traits in New Army Officers

  1. Scotty McD

    Interesting article Gen. Satterfield, but I think many of today’s Army officers are too much into themselves and have grown up in a military environment that has much lower ethical standards than ever before. Just look at the West Point cheating scandal. The West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Williams let them off the hook. He set a new, dangerous, insulting low moral standard. Our military is circling the proverbial drain.
    I too am an American Patriot . That is why I’m sad and angered by this. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

  2. Willie Shrumburger

    Yes, great article, Gen. Satterfield. I enjoyed this short series. I too was not surprised much at your list. I’m a long-time reader of your blog and there are a number of themes here about great leadership. You’ve mentioned these one way or another in the past. I was, however, happy to see what you think are the most important. 👍

    1. Mr. T.J. Asper

      Same here, Willie. I’m just another regular guy who wants to improve myself. What I also like about this blog is that it also shows me the way to be a better person as well. I use this info in the classroom as well.

      1. Nick Lighthouse

        Thanks TJ for your work in the classroom with our kids (or grandkids in my case). Keep up the great work you are doing with them and keeping them away from leftist ideology.

      2. Deplorable John

        Hi Mr. Asper. I would hope that with our nation drifting into leftist ideologies like socialism that we don’t destroy ourselves in the process. We have now mainstreamed cheating. Just look at how the cheating got Joe Biden into the White House. Cheating is okay even if you get caught these days. Look also a the West Point scandal, Gen. Satterfield wrote about. Cheating is okay, esp. if you are an athlete, black, or part of some socially approved ‘victim’ group.

        1. Greg Heyman

          Excellent points, DJ. Thanks. You get a big thumbs up from me. 👍👍👍👍👍

    1. Dead Pool Guy

      Yep, good compliment to yesterday’s article. I sent these both to my cousin who will graduate next year from the Navy ROTC program at Penn State Univ.

  3. Georgie M.

    Got to be clear about what ‘caring’ means in how Gen. S is using it. He means that when you care, you are all in on making sure that your soldiers have everything they need reasonably to get the job done. It’s not about preventing them from getting into risky situations because that is what the military is about.

  4. Max Foster

    Another great article from Gen. Satterfield, to the point, and useful in itself. If I were incoming to any organization, I would be concerned how other, more senior leaders, see me. Do they think I’m just a dud? Most think, wow, I cannot have the good experiences when I’m new. Note what is missing in this list is any mention of race, age, gender, religion, etc. Let’s be clear that the US Army and other US militaries do their work based upon merit. Although with the latest scandal at the US military Academy, West Point NY, that could be changing.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      You are right about the military not considering race, religion, sex, etc. when looking at any one regarding performance. Also not mentioned is whether they are ugly, handsome, tall, short, dress well, smell (ha ha) or not. Altho smelling bad might make a difference. The military is a merit system.

  5. Stacey Borden

    Thanks Gen. Satterfield for another great article and this time on what you saw in these new officers. My question would be, ‘Where do you see them in 5, 10, or 20 years from now?’ In other words, do the ‘best’ traits pay off in the long run or do they make a difference at all?

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      Good question, Stacey and one that we perhaps are just assuming to be true. Good traits today, might not pay off in the long run. By pay off I mean not just successful but good for the institution and for those who are part of it. Good meaning efficient and moral.

    2. Yusaf from Texas

      Good question Stacey. Good of you to ask. I was thinking the same thing. What is the long-term prognosis of these officers. We cannot make the assumption the best new officers (as we see them entering the Army) stay in the service and do great all thru their career.

    3. Eric Coda

      Point well taken. This are times that merit should drive everything we do but the opposite is occuring. And what about how these traits usefulness in the future?

  6. Randy Goodman

    Good complimentary article to yesterday’s “worst” traits you will find with new, incoming officers. Well done!


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