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Leadership in the Army: Care and Accountability

Written by Ryan Smeltz


Posted on July 20 2020

What is Army Leadership?

Army Leadership enables individuals to take up the responsibility to motivate fellow soldiers and provide them purpose and direction to accomplish the objective. These leaders know the strengths, capabilities, and weaknesses of the soldiers they lead. With that information. Army leaders then proceed to accomplish their mission by properly strategizing a plan that compliments his or her soldier's strengths and weaknesses. Army Leadership sets an example that encourages every subordinate to follow. As an Army leader, you must provide your men with proper motivation, direction, and purpose to effectively and efficiently perform tasks. Understand your environment and devise a strategic plan that expresses your critical and creative thinking. 

As an army leader or NCO, you are also responsible for the well-being of the soldiers that you command. You will not only have to perform your tasks and achieve your mission, but you must also think about the status of the men you are commanding. Army leadership requires you to know your men; understand them by personally connecting with them. The ability to take care and be responsible for the condition of your men is part of being an NCO and will determine the outcome of your objectives. Army leaders must earn their men’s trust and show that they are competent to lead the unit. Through army leadership, you improve your unit as a whole to operate better and more effectively.

ADP 6-22 Army Leadership

The leadership requirements model establishes what an army leader needs to become an effective leader; enabling the individual to effectively provide purpose, direction, and motivation.  The attributes serve as a guide that army leaders must follow. While the competencies are what army leaders must become proficient with to become a successful leader.

Emotional Intelligence and Army Leadership

Emotional Intelligence or IE is the ability to understand and manage your emotions and your subordinate’s emotions as well. As an army leader, you need emotional intelligence to effectively lead your unit. Managing the emotions of yourself and your soldiers allows you to stay calm and collective; being in control and assessing the situation even under stressful circumstances. This is important especially in combat situations because everyone’s lives in your unit are at risk. Your soldiers will look up to you to know what decisions to make. As an army leader, you need to make those decisions correctly even when under stress. 

The psychological stability of every individual in the army is vital to conduct successful operations. Your emotions are your source of sound decision making. Some emotions can cloud your judgment which leads to failure that results in negative consequences. To be a responsible NCO, you need to be knowledgeable about how to control these emotions. You can receive all the training and knowledge in the world, but you will not be able to become a great leader if your self-awareness is absent. 

You also cannot assess the emotional and psychological stability of your soldiers if you cannot apply it to yourself first.  

With a good knowledge of emotional intelligence, you will be able to organize and motivate your soldiers. Proper self-awareness and assessment will lead you to become a better role model that will inspire your soldiers to follow. The better your emotional intelligence, the better your ability to understand, encourage discipline and connect with your soldiers.  Learning these will transform you into a competent leader and allow you to lead your subordinates to become a productive unit.

Styles of Army Leadership


Transactional leadership is a direct style of leadership; you “tell” your soldiers what to do by giving them an order. It is similar to a parent-child relationship as it involves what your soldiers will acquire when performing a task. When your soldiers conduct these tasks, you will provide close supervision and gather details on the performance of each individual. Based on the level of performance of your soldiers, you will set either rewards or punishments for them. This style of leadership allows you to motivate your soldiers to comply through a reward system and instill that rewards are not always given. Transactional leadership also limits your creativity as you cannot exercise personal initiative. This method alone does not improve your soldiers’ commitment outside the specific time and area of the task. You will need other methods to support this type of leadership to keep your soldiers’ motivation and commitment high.


This style of leadership is leading by example; it allows a free-flowing of ideas which work well in changing environments. Transformational leadership mainly focuses on empowering and motivating your soldiers; focusing first on the individuals and then as a group. This allows leaders to improve their environment and understand each of their subordinates’ roles. As their NCO, you will request and encourage your soldiers to provide you input, information, recommendations, and solutions. You are still responsible for the final decision, but you will be able to utilize the information you gain from your soldiers to create decisions. Leaders using this style utilizes rapport, inspiration, and empathy to engage and lead subordinates. You will also be able to help your soldiers discover capabilities they were not aware they have. Leaders who use this method are typically proficient in their field of expertise. Transformational leadership’s weaknesses are areas that have little to no structure to support the team like an ad hoc or initial development decision-making.


The idea of this style of leadership is to serve your soldiers and put their needs above yours. This type of leadership allows you to develop and improve your soldiers by providing them their needs and requirements. The goal of this method is to allow the individuals around you to improve their well-being by interacting with them and assisting them through empathy, listening, stewardship, and commitment. It is essential to build a good relationship with your soldiers as leading through this style requires you to have a high level of trust from your soldiers. Serving your soldiers helps you as a leader to accomplish the tasks that are given to you and your subordinates and also future tasks as it improves your soldiers’ skills and growth.


Autocratic leadership is a leadership style where you have full control of the authority. Every decision will revolve around your judgment with little or no input from your soldiers. You, being an NCO, are expected to issue clear orders, goals, objectives, and mission statements to your soldiers. But you will still listen to them even though every decision falls upon you. You will provide detailed instructions to your soldiers on how, when, and where you want a task to be fulfilled. Although, it is recommended to use this type of leadership sparingly. It is usually useful in certain instances such as combat situations where your soldiers expect you to create correct decisions.


Followership may not seem to be a leadership style, but it plays a critical role in it. Followership shares the same values, dedication, and effort as leadership. Followership is not following orders blindly, it is being an individual who is actively participating in achieving the leader’s goals. Your followers will help you achieve your objectives. They will anticipate your needs and provide their opinions and advice to help you understand and create decisions. Through this, you enable your subordinates to act and solve problems independently; basically, giving them the authority on their ability to decide their actions. You will still need to provide them with details and instructions to understand the objective. As their NCO, you are still responsible for their actions and the outcome of their doings. You must hold them accountable for the results of their actions. That is why your soldiers must have the appropriate knowledge and experience to go beyond "simply following your orders".

How Do You Develop Your Army Leadership Skills?

Being Open-Minded

Being able to adapt is an important aspect to become a great leader. There will always be new ways to tackle different kinds of situations. To become a great leader, you must expose yourself with this new information on how to handle problems instead of relying on your most trusted solutions. Admire and respect the brilliance of new information.

Learning From Experience

The experience will be one of the best mentors you will have. Every situation you have dealt with is an experience ripe from learning. You may have either succeeded or failed with past situations, but it still provides you valuable lessons. These lessons that you learn from your experiences will help determine which methods are effective and are not, what other options are viable, and what other decisions you could have made. You will be able to improve yourself as an army leader once you utilize the experiences that you gain from every situation you encounter. 

Find ways to keep learning

You need to find a way to keep on gaining knowledge. You need to constantly learn to become a good army leader. Consider finding mentors that can teach you their experiences. These individuals are talented and have already gone through what you are about to embark on. Read books constantly as books have the most knowledge you can learn from. Attend workshops to learn new ways to perform and improve your character skills.

Asking for Feedbacks

Feedbacks are a big help in identifying how you want to improve your performance as a leader. Building a good relationship with your soldiers and superiors is important. By asking for feedback, you will be able to determine what your subordinates and superiors are expecting from you. Thus, improving on what they think you should improve on. In turn, you will be able to improve your relationship with them once they see you accept what they have to say.

Reflect on Yourself

You will need to take it slow sometimes. Reflect and evaluate yourself; identify all the successes and failures you have gained. Use that information to know what you need to practice and improve on. Writing in journals can be a big help because you can write down every situation you have experienced and how you have dealt with it. Then when you take time to reflect on yourself, you can base check your journals to see your progress. Think about yourself and experiences; learn how you handled it, what went wrong or right, and what other options you could have taken.

Improve Your People Skills

Improving your people skills help you improve your ability to influence and build relationships with your soldiers. Army leaders must build a good relationship with their soldiers and take care of their well-being while also leading them. Your soldiers will trust you more as their NCO when you have excellent people skills. Learn how to properly interact with the individuals around you to be able to get along with everyone; improving your ability to work with other people and gain higher success rates.



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