Army Leadership Definition

Leadership is the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.

An Army leader is anyone who by virtue of assumed role or assigned responsibility inspires and influences people to accomplish organizational goals. Army leaders motivate people both inside and outside the chain of command to pursue actions, focus thinking and shape decisions for the greater good of the organization.

As defined in Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 6-22, Army Leadership August 2012

The Commander’s (Leader’s) Intent

HesburghVisionWithout a clear understanding of what the boss wants, organizations will inevitably fail to achieve it. Without the gift of mind reading, success depends on the boss clearly communicating what he wants. This holds true regardless of the nature of the organizations, its size or purpose. Church leaders, business executives, managers, and heads of families could take a lesson from an enterprise that literally depends on communicating intent to save lives.

The military understands that the absence of a clear understanding of the commander’s intent, for any given operation, could result in the unnecessary death of people. The U.S. Army’s manual on the operations process emphasizes this by connecting the commander’s intent to everything about an operation including how the staff plans operations, the disciplined initiative of subordinate commanders when the plan changes, and the level of risk that is appropriate to achieve the ends state.

The commander’s intent is a clear and concise expression of the purpose of the operation and the desired military end state that supports mission command, provides focus to the staff, and helps subordinate and supporting commanders act to achieve the commander’s desired results without further orders, even when the operation does not unfold as planned (ARDP 5-0, Pg 1-5 )

Several principles govern the creation of intent:

  1. Commanders (substitute any leader as necessary) must have a vision (end state)
  2. Commanders must create and communicate intent by describing the components of their vision on their own. I have been in too many planning meetings where the boss asks the staff to come up with the intent; this is a responsibility that cannot be delegated.
  3. The intent must be concise and easy to remember, the shorter the better.
  4. The intent should be understood two levels below the commander. In Army terms, a brigade commander will frame intent so that a company commander understands it.
  5. Intent will provide the framework for action, shared understanding and focus until the end state is achieved

“The very essence of leadership is [that] you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”— Theodore Hesburgh

With these principles in place, a commander can frame their intent using three components: Expanded purpose statement, list of key tasks, and statement of end state

  1. Expanded Purpose. The Army communicates purpose, or why an action is taken, in the mission statement of an operation order. The expanded purpose gives the context beyond why an action is planned by addressing the strategic implications to success and how it affects other parts of the organization.
  2. Key tasks. A brief list of activities required to achieve the desired end state. Staffs use the key task list to ensure the development of suitable and acceptable plans. When situations changes and significant opportunities present themselves, subordinates use the key tasks to focus their efforts to take initiative and achieve the end state.
  3. End state. Similar to a vision statement, the end state statement in more descriptive in describing the conditions that will exist when the organization has successfully met the commander’s intent. Write the description of end state in present tense as if everything has been actualized and the organization has achieved the best possible outcome.

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Rules of Influence

  1. Live a life of undivided integrity
  2. Always demonstrate a positive attitude
  3. Consider other people’s interest as more important that your own
  4. Don’t settle for anything less than excellence

from Chris Widner: The Art of Influence: Persuading Others Begins With You

The Lost Art of Backward Planning

Jesus had a plan…and he executed it right on time.

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Luke 9:51 (NIV)

Short of the divine knowledge Jesus possessed, few of us would be able to deliver exactly on time with as far to travel and as many things to do.  Along the way he taught  parables, eased Martha to the better choice, confronted demons, expressed woes to the pharisees, healed people, dined with his disciples, and prayed all night before being arrested…right on time.

Granted, the things we do day-to-day don’t have eternal consequences for all of humanity, but why do we seem to always miss deadlines, cram all night to study or finish a project, or flat out miss deadlines?  We’ve lost the art of backward planning.

Backward planning is the process of determining the right time to start something by subtracting from the finish point the time required to complete it .

Here’s a simple example:  It takes 2 hours to drive to your mothers and you need to be there by 7:00pm.  Subtract 2 hours from 7pm and you need to leave at five.  WAIT, WAIT…don’t stop reading, it gets better.

What we fail to do is apply this simple concept to more complex projects like the yearly report, your  masters degree thesis, or even family panning.   Here’s some simple steps to backward plan your next project.

  1. Determine the finish point
  2. List all tasks that must be done in order
  3. Estimate the length of each task
  4. Subtract each length from the finish point

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Humility, the Basic Leadership Virtue

Benedict believed the basic leadership virtue was humility. Leaders had to demonstrate competence and ambition, but their passion was to derive from a desire to improve and contribute to the health of the organization, not from individual ego. He believed that true humility was a skill one had to learn and practice.

John Mount, in a review of the book The Benedictine Rule of Leadership: Classic Management Secrets You Can Use Today by Craig and Oliver Galbraith

Greenleaf on Servant Leadership

The great leader is seen as the servant first. – Robert K. Greenleaf

Leadership Lessons From A Janitor

The following leadership lesson was circulated around our organization today.  I’ve read this before, was inspired, and moved on to the popular leadership theories and acronyms of more “modern” leader training.  But this is a story that deserves to be revisited often, it teaches lessons lacking in today’s leaders.  In an article published in the Warton Leadership Digest James E. Moschgat  (at the time a Colonel in Command of the 12th Operations Group, 12th Flying Training Wing, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas) writes about the squadron janitor at the Air Force Academy who was discovered to be a Congressional Medal of Honor winner.  The janitor was William John Crawford who earned a Medal of Honor while serving in Italy with the 36th Infantry Division but went on to become a leadership inspiration to Colonel Moschgat.  Continue reading

Leader Poet

The Maxwell Leadership Bible counts the leadership style in the United States since World War II.  There has been an evolution of leadership styles over the past sixty years which illustrates the change in the generations and a move to more internalized and inspired followers.

1.   Military Commander.  Leaders returned from the war emulating the leadership styles that won the war.  They implemented a top down dictatorship style influencing from their position as a leader instead of inspiration.

2.  Chief Executive Officer.  CEOs lead through vision, goals and objectives passed to subordinates to follow.  This is a top down leadership style which depends more on execution of a strict plan than

3.  Coaches.  Recently, leaders have viewed themselves as coaches of a team striving together for a win.  In a sports obsessed society this works well because it focuses on the teams strengths and weaknesses forms

4.  Poets.  Currently more leaders are realizing the power of words and the inspirational value of empowering subordinates.  A leader poet knows with a properly formed message subordinates will be empowered to creatively achieve the organizations goals. See also: Motivation 3.0

…all the people hung on [Jesus’] words (Luke 19:48 NIV

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The Path of the Warrior

A warrior is a person experienced in or capable of engaging in combat or warfare, literally or figuratively.  Most leaders are figurative warriors, those who  show great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness in everyday challenges.  Merely acting like a warrior is insufficient,  a warrior leader must become one by consistently walking the path of:

1.  Integrity – honest and sincere
2.  Impeccability – faultless character
3.  Outrageous – excessively bold
4.  Personal Power – ability to act

The leader shows that style is not more important than substance, and that creating an impression is not more potent than acting from one’s center – Lao Tzu (500BC)


Arrogant [Eloquent] lips are unsuited to a fool
how much worse lying lips to a ruler! Proverbs 17:5-7 (NIV)

Truthfulness is an elusive habit for leaders.  We are assaulted daily by situations that beg for lies, half-truths, misinformation, deception, and withholding.  These situations arise at work from difficult communication, positions of disadvantage to us, and fear of retribution.  Within our families they arise from personal pride toward spouses, fear of children’s actions, and discomfort with admitting to wrong actions.

The mad boss asks, “Who made this decision?”
The Christian brother states, “I’m only flirting with her, I can control it.”
The inefficient employee asks, “Am I doing ok working for you?”
The spouse demands, “Where did all of our money go?”
Your child asks, “Where do babies come from?”

A Christian Leader’s response:

1.  Just tell it. The benefits of truthfulness outweigh the costs in the long run as your boss learns to appreciates your trust and candor, your spouse loves the open communication, and your children model.  Warning, blunt truthfulness will mark you as a jerk and harm your ability to influence.  Use gentleness and patience to form your communication in a way that creates an environment of appreciation.

2.  Demand it in return. My initial briefing to new employees has always included the requirement of truth.  My nature I am a trusting person, tell me something and I take it to the bank until that something is proven false.  Once you lose my trust it’s hard to get it back.   My daughters were raised with the same requirement.  I marvel at parents who severely discipline children based on honest disclosure.  Since birth we have demanded truth and lessened discipline with it.  The result, open communication… something seemingly rare in today’s youth.

To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful. Edward R. Murrow