How to be the change that your unit needs. Toxic leadership has become an acceptable norm in today’s culture. We need a change of culture in leadership. Many people have lost hope in their leadership, doubting that their leadership has their best interest in mind. This is also a problem in the Army, the leadership attributes have been forgotten by leaders who have reached a state of stagnancy, comfortable with where they are at. The change we need will not come from reforms from the Army or senior leadership but from you raising the next generation of NCOs and teaching them to raise the next. Although it may seem impossible, it can be done if we get back to our basics, the Army leadership attributes, which are character, intellect, and presence. With these characteristics, we can make small changes in our units that may seem inconsequential, but in reality, will affect the Army as a whole. So how does one become the change his or her unit needs? We can start with character. Character is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual”.
Character like leadership distinguishes us from others, it gives us a sense of responsibility that is needed for leadership positions. It is the foundation of leadership. Abraham Lincoln once said “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing”. From George Washington to Martin Luther King jr. great leaders were people of character. It is a greatness that overcomes the adversity in this world, something that sees the wrong in the world and doesn’t give up but fights and rights the wrong. Instilling this into our Soldiers will give them the tools to rise above themselves and the world around them. Character is an attitude that puts others first, considering others and their needs instead of your own. At the same time, it gives us the discipline to better ourselves and take care of ourselves so that we can better others and take care of others. It understands the value of others as well as themselves. Soldiers who are taught their worth take care of themselves to take care of others. Our Soldiers need to know that they can rely on us, that they can trust us. When they see our character we show them that they can trust us and that we will be there for them.
Which brings us to our next attribute, presence. As stated before presence is being there for your Soldiers. Soldiers have needs, being present is being available to them and being approachable. It is being someone they can comfortably bring their issues to. Being present is building healthy relationships inside and outside work and being a positive and active part of their lives. This shows that you care for them and when they see that you care for them, they will start to care. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care”. By caring Soldiers let us into their lives allowing us to become mentors. As mentors, we set the standard for them by leading by example. We can’t just tell them who they need to be as leaders, we have to show them. We have to show them we care and we have to show them we are competent and knowledgeable in our profession. If we don’t know what we are talking about or what we are doing how can we be an example to them? This is why we need intellect, the third attribute. We can be trustworthy, take care of them and be there for them but to mentor instead of just a good Samaritan we need intellect. With intellect we can have confidence in ourselves, knowing that we are competent and understand what is going on and how to deal with it. It is gained by learning new things and past experiences.
We experience and learn by being humble and knowing that we don’t know everything. Then we push ourselves to be better, find opportunities to learn and place yourself in it. We are always learning and we are always learning from others whether we know it or not. With this knowledge, we can make critical decisions and tackle the problems that come to us and our Soldiers. Intellect is also about knowing your Soldiers. To care for them we need to know what is going on in their lives and know how they will react to them so we can take care of them. Healthy relationships come from knowing each other with no one hiding something from each other. It is also important to know your soldiers so that you can know their strengths and weaknesses so that you know how they work and who is best fitted for the different parts of the team. When intellect is tied into the other attributes we can teach our soldiers and teach them how to teach. This is how we can bring change to our unit. We may not have the rank to change those above us, but we can change those we were given responsibility over. As we continue to develop them, we change the entire culture. The next leaders will be Soldiers of strong moral character who will be there for their Soldiers and are competent and knowledgeable. This is because they will have us to guide them. We will be the cultural shift that will make the Army better
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