Leadership Lessons From America’s Army

America’s Army, by necessity and by design, operates in an uncomfortable space, a space many people readily judge and condemn, however, it is a space relatively few are willing to venture into. It is a space of danger and risk, hardship and sacrifice, uncertainty and ambiguity. The space the Army inhabits is the same space all great leaders are found.

Combat zones and battlefields are not sterile environments offering black and white distinctions. Good and evil, right and wrong are often not clearly defined. Life and death choices are routinely made with limited information. Operating in this sphere requires special attributes and talents – skills most people possess but are unwilling to employ. Surviving the crucible of combat requires courage, preparation and discipline. Succeeding requires vision, tenacity and wisdom. Great leaders exhibit all these characteristics and succeed.

Despite how a military mission is framed (securing the peace, protecting the populace, destroying the enemy), soldiers presume the charge is worth the risk and the potential cost. American soldiers swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. They trust, explicitly, that if they are ordered into action their leaders and the American people have thoroughly weighed all options and have fatefully determined that the circumstances demand risking the lives of those sworn to serve. With this confidence America’s Army sets out to achieve its assigned task. Whatever the anticipated risks, the Army must succeed. It is the responsibility of leaders to ensure success.

As an instrument of power America’s Army is employed to change things. The Army is a harbinger of change. It deploys to influence circumstances and change outcomes. Leaders drive change.

Despite the size and reach of America’s Army and the awesome force it controls, this seemingly anonymous and nondescript entity is actually a system made up of flesh and blood. The Army consists of emotional, feeling, and physically limited human beings. Those imperfect individuals are forged by capable leaders into determined teams that produce extraordinary results.

The mysterious power the Army wields is the collective strength of men and women of common values, focused toward the same ends, acting to achieve the same results. Individuals provide the strength while leaders guide and direct the effort.

Just as action springs from the seed of a solitary thought, a single individual – a leader – controls the fate of a unit, the fortune of an Army, and the destiny of a nation. When you lead, your thoughts and your actions not only influence your own success, but the success of every element you influence. The success you enjoy or the failure you endure are felt by your family, your community, your nation and the world. The impact of an Army leader, the impact of every leader, is far reaching and long lasting. Learn the lessons of leadership well.