Leadership Lessons from a Lieutenant (Part 1)

By | July 21, 2021

[July 21, 2021]  In an article from several years ago, U.S. Army First Lieutenant Scott Ginther provides us with junior leadership lessons from his experience as a Platoon Leader in Afghanistan.  They are worthwhile and stand out as an example of learning the right way.1  Here are the first eight of them:

  1. You are still not a trigger-puller: As leaders move up in their organizations, they transition away from direct leadership and more towards system management.  The responsibilities, often called staff work, are not glamorous, but they keep Soldiers (your employees) moving forward safely and effectively.
  2. Just being a leader is no longer enough: You are expected to start building leaders instead of just leading followers.  This means you will be solidifying your leadership style and character.  In essence, you are investing in the future, so make an effort to build the type of leader you would want to work for.
  3. Your performance starts to impact families: Your decisions and the quality of your leadership start to affect your worker’s families.  How you treat them will have a ripple effect in their personal lives.  If you neglect the family component as a leader, not only will you suffer as a leader, but more importantly, you’ll likely prevent your Soldiers from staying in the Army.
  4. The consequences of your actions increase exponentially: The further you progress in your career, you will be a bigger cog in the wheel.  Your failure begins will now be catastrophic to the mission and Soldiers.
  5. Rehearsals can save an operation: A well-rehearsed operation can make up for inadequate planning.  Critical and vulnerable points of an operation can now be rehearsed to precision.  Rehearsals will teach folks synchronization, patience, and coordination.
  6. Maximize adjacent power: When it comes to creative genius, you are often it.  Engage other leaders often and share your ideas.  This not only increases your collective knowledge and improves the unit as a whole, but it gives you a sanity check on your ideas and your interpretation of your boss’s intent.
  7. Be a team player: Your boss will judge you on whether or not you are a team player.  As a leader, when the chips are down, you are in the spotlight.  Your boss will want leaders who support one another and not those who try to outshine one another.  Share your ideas, tools, and lessons from failure.
  8. Lose the attitude: There is nothing more frustrating than a talented subordinate who has the attitude that everyone owes him something.  You’ll have to prove yourself, and you don’t want people to think you’re entitled or holier-than-thou.  As the saying goes, “It ain’t what ya done, it’s what ya done lately.”


  1. https://themilitaryleader.com/lieutenant-lessons-continued/
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.

13 thoughts on “Leadership Lessons from a Lieutenant (Part 1)

  1. Laughing Monkey

    “You are still not a trigger-puller: As leaders move up in their organizations, they transition away from direct leadership and more towards system management. ” I would add that leaders are rarely “trigger pullers.” That means to me that a good leader is the one making sure all is going according to plan and that the workers / soldiers have all they need to get the job done.

    1. Pooch T.

      Well said, LM. There is a lot to be said and contemplated here. The #1 you quote is also my favorite.

  2. Pink Cloud

    I’m looking forward to Part 2. Hey, Gen. Satterfield. More “lessons learned” for us. Thank you.

  3. Max Foster

    Not that long ago, I too was a Lieutenant and, I believe, successful. I too adopted a number of lessons from the old Korean War vets who I learned from. They were great. Tough, focused, and would not take any crap off anybody. These were the kinds of men (yes “men” not women) who win wars. You can’t win against enemies of our nation (or any other) when your efforts go to “equity” as defined by SECDEF Lloyd Austin. Shame on him for destroying our military’s ability to fight and win wars.

    1. H. M. Longstreet

      Lloyd Austin is an idiot who is sucking up to Biden. I have zero respect for either.

    2. Greg Heyman

      Great comment Max and yes, I do think that having hard men to do the bidding of our nation when we are threatened is a good thing. But, don’t throw them away during peacetime. This lesson we seem to have to relearn over and over.

      1. Lynn Pitts

        Agreed! 👍👍👍👍👍
        Like many of us here who are regular readers of what Gen. Satterfield writes, I would suggest that we do not let idiots define the narrative. If someone says something ignorant, speak up and push back … do so politely if you wish but I plan on being down right rude.

    3. McStompie

      Max, once again you hit the nail on the head. All large orgs tend to be corrupted over time and that is why great leadership is required. Just like our FBI and intel agencies where corruption is rampant. Don’t trust ’em. Ever.

  4. British Citizen

    Much thanks to Gen. Satterfield for introducing us to 1LT Ginther. Cheers to all my US mates here on this important leadership website.

  5. Army Captain

    Great list from a combat experienced junior leader.

    1. Bryan Z. Lee

      We should also note that much of what we read here in these lessons applies also to more senior leadership positions as well. Don’t discount them if you are a CEO.

      1. José Luis Rodriguez

        Always good to wake up to read Gen. Satterfield’s website. Gets me going in the morning.


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