Applying Military Leadership Principles


Colonel Hal Moore
Colonel Hal Moore
  • Planning vs execution
    1. Good planning is important. Flexibility in execution is more important.
    2. No one is remembered for his or her plan. They are remembered for how they executed it or how they adapted the plan.
    3. Focus on the mission.
    4. Everyone should know the mission and exactly how they are going to achieve it. In other words, don’t invent deliverables as you go along without discussing them with your team and explaining exactly what is required and why.
  • Leadership vs. Management
    1. Should speak for itself but it doesn’t – Lead don’t manage. Respect should be shown at all times to your staff. Be flexible but if someone is really not making the grade and you’ve tried everything to help them, cut them loose and move on. As many have said. “Hire good people, Tell them exactly what needs to be done, get out of their way”
    2. Lead: Make sure your “men” are looked after first. Are they pushing hours? Bring in Pizza. Make sure they get their rest. Praise in public, chastise in private and always give them a “golden bridge” when there’s a problem.
    3. Don’t micro manage. It talks about your own insecurity not about your people’s ability.
    4. People are different and are motivated differently.
    5. Remove obstacles to mission progress. Don’t allow your people to get bogged down in non value-add tasks.
  • A war is won a battle at a time.
    1. Complexity is made simple by breaking it down into smaller parts.
    2. Work on each part and conquer it.
    3. Other “non-planned” battles will come along which will need to be fought.
  • Set the example. We had a drill instructor that we actually slipped sleeping pills at our end of basic training party and he was on the parade ground at 5am. The moral of the story is get up and show up no matter what. Don’t be the last to arrive and the first to leave.
  • Mentor and share knowledge. If you have experience in the job, pass it on in a way that makes your subordinates want to seek your advice and counsel.
  • Do not be afraid to admit that your subordinates know more than you or are smarter than you. Every successful junior officer relies on his more experienced NCOs to guide and advise him. Take their advice. If you think it’s not correct, validate it with other NCOs before running to your senior officers.
  • Ask people to do things don’t command them. Those who have not been in the military often misunderstand this. It’s not like the movies where everything is an order. Start by saying “What I’d like you to do is…” .
  • Don’t panic when the SHTF. Your people will look to you to keep a very cool and level head. Now you can order people around, as they’ll draw comfort from that. They will immediately relax as they tell themselves “OK, it must be alright , the Captain’s not even breaking a sweat and he’s issuing a stream of orders. He’s got it under control”.
  • Take responsibility (Ownership). If you have a problem with your team, it’s your problem. If they mess up, you are accountable. Take responsibility for their mistakes and you’ll gain their respect and the respect of your bosses. By the same token, don’t take credit for their actions. Single them out with commendations. Get leaders under you to take ownership for everything. This has the effect of stopping the blame culture. If someone refuses (after being mentored) to take ownership and is always pointing fingers at someone or something to blame for poor performance, get rid of him, no matter how “indispensable” he is.Even the lowest level employee should take ownership.
  • Encourage personal initiative. As junior officers and cadets we were heavily encouraged to “use your initiative”. Effective military teams don’t have a single guy shouting the odds. They have a single guy that may have the start of the plan or various options. Creative thinking is shared amongst teams and the lowest ranking guy is expected to have input.
  • Believe in the mission. If you don’t believe in it none of your subordinates will and it will be very unlikely to work. If you don’t believe in it, talk to your superior, so that he or she can explain it to you. You need to know why, before one of your team asks you why.

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