Growing strong leaders and team champions in work, life and technology

Leadership Principles

These U. S. Army Principles of Leadership principles are presented in civilian terms… and can be applied to every arena of life and move us forward as a nation. We have this foundation with those that serve for our freedom. Let’s ALL learn and follow their example of leadership.

(based on United States Army Field Manual No. 22-100, 1990)


  • Know yourself and seek self-improvement. To know yourself, you have to understand who you are and to know what your preferences, strengths, and weaknesses are. Knowing yourself allows you to take advantage of your strengths and work to overcome your weaknesses. Seeking self-improvement means continually developing your strengths and working on overcoming your weaknesses. This will increase your competence and the confidence your team has in your ability to train and lead.
  • Be technically and tactically proficient. You are expected to be technically and tactically proficient at your job. This means that you can accomplish all tasks to standard that are required to accomplish the mission. In addition, you are responsible for training your team to do their jobs and for understudying your leader in the event you must assume those duties. You develop technical and tactical proficiency through a combination of the tactics, techniques, and procedures you learn while attending formal schools (institutional training), in your day-to-day jobs (operational assignments), and from professional reading and personal study (self-development).
  • See responsibility and take responsibility for your actions. Leading always involves responsibility. You want a team who can handle responsibility and help you perform your mission. Similarly, your leaders want you to take the initiative within their stated intent. When you see a problem or something that needs to be fixed, do not wait for your leader to tell you to act. The example you set, whether positive or negative, helps develop your team. Bold leaders are required at all levels who exercise initiative, are resourceful, and take advantage of opportunities that will lead to achieving team goals. When you make mistakes, accept just criticism and take corrective action. You must avoid evading responsibility by placing the blame on someone else. Your objective should be to build trust between you and your leaders as well as between you and those you lead by seeking and accepting responsibility.
  • Make sound and timely decisions. You must be able to rapidly assess situations and make sound decisions. If you delay or try to avoid making a decision, you may cause unnecessary failures and not achieve team goals. Indecisive leaders create hesitancy, loss of confidence, and confusion. You must be able to anticipate and reason under the most trying conditions and quickly decide what actions to take. Here are some guidelines to help you lead effectively:
  1. Gather essential information before making your decisions.
  2. Announce decisions in time for your team to react. Good decisions made at the right time are better than the best decisions made too late.
  3. Consider the short- and long-term effects of your decisions.
  • Set the example. Your team wants and needs you to be a role model. This is a heavy responsibility, but you have no choice. No aspect of leadership is more powerful. If you expect courage, competence, candor, commitment, and integrity from your team, you must demonstrate them. Your team will imitate your behavior. You must set high, but attainable, standards, be willing to do what you require of your team, and share hardships with your team. Your personal example affects your team more than any amount of instruction or form of discipline. You are their role model.
  • Know your team and look out for their well-being. You must know and care for your team. It is not enough to know their names and hometowns. You need to understand what makes them “tick” and learn what is important to them in life. You need to commit time and effort to listen to and learn about each individual team member. When you show genuine concern for your team members, they trust and respect you as a leader. Telling your team you care about them has no meaning unless they see you demonstrating care. They assume that if you fail to care for them in training, you will put little value on their lives in their current performance or future careers. Although slow to build, trust and respect can be destroyed quickly.  If your team trusts you, they will willingly work to help you accomplish missions. They will never want to let you down. You must care for them by training them for the rigors of the workplace, taking care of their physical and safety needs when possible, and disciplining and rewarding fairly. The bonding that comes from caring for your team will sustain them and the team during the stress and chaos of meeting deadlines to achieve goals.
  • Keep your team informed. Team members do best when they know why they are doing something. Individual team members can change the outcome of a project using initiative in the absence of direct instruction in your absence. Keeping your team informed helps them make decisions and execute plans within your intent, encourages initiative, improves teamwork, and enhances morale. Your team will look for logic in your instructions and question things that do not make sense. They expect you to keep them informed and, when possible, explain reasons for your instructions.
  • Develop a sense of responsibility in your team. Your team will feel a sense of pride and responsibility when they successfully accomplish a new task you have given them. Delegation indicates you trust your team and will make them want even more responsibility. As a leader, you are a teacher and responsible for developing your team. Give them challenges and opportunities you feel they can handle. Give them more responsibility when they show you they are ready. Their initiative will amaze you.
  • Ensure the task is understood, supervised, and accomplished. Your team must understand what you expect from them. They need to know what you want done, what the standard is, and when you want it done. They need to know if you want a task accomplished in a specific way. Supervising lets you know if your team understands their responsibilities on the project; it shows your interest in them and in mission accomplishment. Over-supervision causes resentment and under-supervision causes frustration.  When team members are learning new tasks, tell them what you want done and show them how you want it done. Let them try and watch their performance. Accept performance that meets your standards; reward performance that exceeds your standards; correct performance that does not meet your standards. Determine the cause of the poor performance and take appropriate action. When you hold team members accountable to you for their performance, they realize they are responsible for accomplishing missions as individuals and as teams.
  • Build the team. Projects are a team activity. You must develop a team spirit that motivates them to go willingly and confidently into each team effort in a quick transition from plans to accomplishment. Your team needs confidence in your abilities to lead them and in their abilities to perform as members of the team. You must train and cross train your team until they are confident in the team’s technical and tactical abilities. Your team becomes a team only when members trust and respect you and each other as trained professionals and see the importance of their contributions to the project.
  • Employ your team accordance with its capabilities. Each member of your team has capabilities and limitations. You are responsible to recognize both of these factors. Your team members will gain satisfaction from performing tasks that are reasonable and challenging but will be frustrated if tasks are too easy, unrealistic, or unattainable. Although the available resources may constrain the training you like to implement, you must continually ensure your team’s preparation is demanding. For each team member, apply the mission focus process to narrow the training program and assign the number of vital tasks essential to each member’s success on those selected tasks. Talk to your leader; decide which tasks are priorities to accomplish your project mission and ensure your team achieves standards on those priorities. Mission focus is recognition that a team member cannot attain proficiency to standard on every task, whether due to time or other resource constraints. Do your best in other areas to include using innovative training techniques and re-looking the conditions under which the training is being conducted, but do not lower standards simply because a team member appears unable to meet them. Your challenge as a leader is to attain, sustain, and enforce high standards of project completion readiness through tough, realistic multi-echelon combined engineering training designed to develop and challenge each member and team.


The factors and principles of leadership will help you successfully complete projects while maximizing potential of the team. The team is the foundation for leadership action and project success.

The factors of leadership are always present and affect what you should do and when you should do it. Each team member should not be led in the same way. You must correctly assess each member’s competence, commitment, and motivation so that you can take the right leadership actions. As a leader, you must know who you are, what you know, and what you can do so that you can discipline yourself and lead the team effectively. Every leadership situation is unique. What worked in one situation may not work in another. You must be able to look at every situation and determine what action to take. You influence by what you say, write, and, most importantly, do. What and how you communicate will either strengthen or weaken the relationship between you and your team.

These principles of leadership were adapted from those developed by United States Army leaders many years ago to train and develop their soldiers. The principles have stood the test of time and the foremost test—the battlefield. Use the principles to assess how you measure up in each area and then develop a plan to improve your ability to lead your team to mission success.

Revised to civilian terminology, Stephanie T. Sullivan, Ph.D, ECUE, 2008.

One response

  1. Pingback: Leading with Geometry « Engaging Challenges in Understanding Engineering

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