Being a leader is an important role in the Army and almost every other organization in the world. Just being assigned the role of leader doesn’t dictate what kind of leader that you will be. There are certain attributes you must have to help ensure you are a successful leader. These will serve as the foundation for developing and growing as a leader. Being a leader is defined as “The person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country”. This clearly defines that being a leader is a position or role that anyone can be given. How you carry yourself and the attributes that you follow will determine what kind of leader you are. The attributes that a successful leader must live by are integrity, loyalty, decisiveness, courage, competence, and humility.
The first attribute – integrity – is defined as: “A firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). This not only means being honesty, but it means living up to your code of morals and not compromising them. By doing this, you are setting the example for your soldiers to follow. Which will inspire them to show up every day and do what’s morally right. There will be times in life where leaders will mess up, but you will gain people’s respect by owning those mistakes.
Loyalty is not only an attribute for a successful leader, but it is also the first Army value. The foundation of this attribute is simply commitment. This is more than just ensuring your soldiers get the training and resources they need. It also means to stand up for your soldiers and have their backs when it comes time. One of the biggest things that undermines trust in a leader is that exactly. Someone will not want to follow you if they don’t think that you’d stand up for them in a time of need. You must also be loyal to your leaders and peers. When something goes wrong you shouldn’t be talking behind their back and undermining the mission. Loyalty is not one sided and it is an essential attribute for a leader to possess.
Decisiveness is the ability to make a decision quickly and to do so with confidence. “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing” (President Theodore Roosevelt). Soldiers look to their leaders to make timely decisions and to stick to them. In Garrison, indecisiveness can result in failure of a task or mission. In combat, indecisiveness can result in death and catastrophe. The greatest leaders in military history have practiced this attribute and it helped make them into that successful leader.
Successful leaders lead the way and often find themselves in new and unfamiliar circumstances. This requires courage to overcome fear that can come with these new situations. It’s about making the unpopular decision sometimes to benefit the greater good. Courage is one of the things that makes most other leader attributes effective. For example, without having courage a leader won’t be able to be effectively decisive. When people see leaders demonstrating this attribute, it inspires their subordinates to be courageous.
One of the first things a soldier looks for in a leader is competence. Competence doesn’t mean that a leader knows everything, but they know what to do. “Socrates believed that the one who clearly knows best what ought to be done will most easily gain the obedience of the others” (Michael McKinney, ‘The Importance of Competence’). If a leader doesn’t know their job, then they will be ineffective at being able to teach their subordinates. It is very important for leaders to be stewards of their profession and be proficient at their jobs.
One of the best things a leader can practice is humility. This attribute is harder to find in leaders, because it requires leaders to control their egos. “Humility doesn’t mean that you’re weak or unsure of yourself. It means that you have the self-confidence and self-awareness to recognize the value of others without feeling threatened” (Brian Tracy, ‘7 Leadership Qualities, Attributes & Characteristics of Good Leaders’). This means being able to identify people’s strengths and utilize them instead of being threatened by them.
Being a leader is role than can be assigned to anyone, but just having this role does not define the quality of the leader. There are important attributes that a leader needs to acquire in order to be effective and successful. These attributes are integrity, loyalty, decisiveness, courage, competence, and humility. Actively practicing these will build the foundation for a great leader and will inspire their followers to do the same. When leaders inspire these attributes in their followers, it will spread and benefit the future leaders of an organization.