Robert E. Lee

The military of the United States has long studied and taught leadership to its officers and non commissioned officers.

It recognized that some soldiers instinctively have good leadership traits, but most others need schooling to develop traits and techniques of leadership.

Even the “born Leader” needs schooling to sharpen and develop his skills.

A web search recently on “Leadership, principles” returned 7,330,000 hits.

That’s a good bit more than we can go into today, so distilling the ideas to their essence will give us some strong medicine indeed.


The Army lists eleven principles;

  1. Be tactically and technically proficient
  2. Know yourself and seek self improvement
  3. Know your soldiers and look after their welfare
  4. Keep your soldiers informed
  5. Ensure a task is understood, supervised and accomplished
  6. Train your soldiers as a team
  7. Make sound and timely decisions
  8. Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates
  9. Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities
  10. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions
  11. Set the example.

Ulysses S. Grant

It is not hard to convert the military language into civilian words, so there is no point in rewriting them. Let’s see what they are doing with this line up.

I personally think this is a sort of mish mash, it combines exhortation with tasks. In the first one we are exhorted to be all we can be by learning the basic knowledge required by our job.

The next two tell you to get about doing number one, and while  you are at it, you need to get to know who you work with and you need to treat them right.

I am not sure Number four is not already a par to number three.  Then there is more about how to do your job right down to the end.

Perhaps we can work with this a bit to come up with an easily remembered formulation. Let’s start out with this:

  1. Master the body of knowledge intrinsic to your profession by continued study and application
  2. Teach your subordinates everything you learn
  3. Demand that they employ the knowledge gained in their performance of duty
  4. Demand perfection in the performance of duty and use each needed correction to teach the principal behind the practice
  5. Accept responsibility for your own actions and those of your subordinates.
  6. Be fair, honest, just and impartial in your dealings and judgments of superiors, and subordinates.
  7. Be loyal to superiors and subordinates.
  8. Show respect for every person.
  9. Master fear
  10. Constantly evaluate and re-evaluate the situation your organization is in and adjust performance to new requirements.
  11. Be decisive but not hasty
  12. Meet your responsibilities to your superiors, your organization, and your subordinates.
  13. Love what you do and teach others to love it by doing it well.

In summary the last one sums it all up; Love what you do and who you do it with enough to do it well. Love your men enough to care for them and teach them so they can attain the standard of excellence necessary to bring everyone home, and in doing so each man who is with you is proud to say so.

Donald C. Bowman has published articles in service journals and contributed to Infantry Magazine. Miss Mary’s Honor Guard is his first novel. LTC (R) Donald C. Bowman was inducted into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame (RHOF) on July 27, 2011. He is also a participant in the Witness to War which preserves the oral histories of combat veterans.