Temper the Sword
Published in

Temper the Sword

Are your People Resources or Problems?

Military operations rely on a strict division of labor and definition of roles. But effective Army organizations are also marked by extreme flexibility. Two principles of Army leader development can help your organization adapt to changes, operating quicker and better.

If your organization is growing or taking on outsized tasks, you can learn from how Army leaders drive toward solutions and away from problems.

It might sound too simple to consider. Of course organizations aim to solve problems. And you’ve already made sure that every employee has a strong problem-solving mentality before bringing them on. Still, in your quest to solve problems, you might be inviting more.

Driving away from problems doesn’t mean you stop identifying them. In fact, the Army’s ability to adapt to a wide range of unanticipated situations requires leaders at every level who can spot problems.

The trick is that effective Army organizations demand that leaders at the base of the organization solve them quickly. “Commander’s intent” and other principles of mission command encourages decision-making at the lowest level possible.

Even Soldiers who do not supervise other personnel have authority inherent in their assignments. The E-3 at an entry control point is trained to spot problems, then empowered to propose solutions.

It’s a slight shift in attitude. Senior leaders have weighty problems to contemplate. If you are lower in the organization or in middle management, don’t send problems up. Send solutions up instead.

Leaders can begin to make that shift in two ways.

First, they teach every member of their organizations to be proactive. They push decision-making downward, reserving only the most complicated problems for themselves. Give your subordinates opportunities to make decisions and evaluate them on their ability to push them down even further.

Second, they reward the initiative of their subordinates. Behavior that is rewarded gets repeated. A boss who second-guesses their reports for making decisions different from what they might have done is counter-productive in the long-term. Reward the initiative and the decision-making even if you disagree with the decision. There will always be opportunities to teach them what better decisions look like.

Army leader development gives every Soldier opportunities to become resources to solve problems, rather than create new ones.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store