[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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”