In Smart Soldier 46, Warrant Officer (WO) Don Spinks, the RSM-A of the Australian Army, shared his principles of leadership. WO1 Sean Ransome, RSM of the 5th Battalion the Royal Australian Regiment (5 RAR), used this article to prepare a presentation on leadership for his unit.
Here he shares a summary of that presentation with the Cove audience …
The word ‘leadership’ means many things to many people. So, what does it mean to you?
In my career, from digger to RSM, I have found that it is not complicated, but is founded on four basic principles.
Leadership requires us to:
1. Be brilliant at the basics.
2. Establish a solid barracks routine.
3. Focus on responsibilities and accountability.
4. Live Army’s Core Values.
These four principles have helped me through the years as a soldier and a leader. They are effective leadership principles. The following tips will provide you with a deeper understanding of these principles. Use these tips to assess your effectiveness and improve or change where necessary.
Tip One – Starting Your Career as a Leader
Everyone starts their career as a leader by being a follower. We learn most things by observing others and then doing. Follower-ship is a critical part of the journey in leadership.
Tip Two – Build Strong Leaders through Training, Education, Development and Mentoring
Knowing your soldiers, including understanding how they behave, react and respond, is a key step to becoming an effective leader. Soldiers require strong leaders in order to become strong leaders. This means that you need to exhibit professional mastery in all aspects of your role. You need to demonstrate brilliance at the basics but you also need to develop it in your soldiers. This is done by encouraging attendance on courses, developing effective training programs and by practicing, demonstrating and promoting peer mentoring.
Tip Three – Leaders Must Play an Active Role
You need to ensure that your troops are brilliant at their job. They need to be experts in job and trade: this is critical in the profession of arms. Once this is achieved at an individual level you can focus on building the team.
Tip Four – Enhance Leadership Qualities through Training and Education
Are leaders born or taught? In my opinion, BOTH. They are born with the right qualities, developed by education, and shaped by experience and mentoring. Either way, training and education are critical to the development of a good leader; training allows us to learn by doing and education provides us the theory.
Tip Five – Enhance Training
Sub-unit training programs must include specific activities for leaders. This is done by developing challenging activities that test basic skills and leadership at multiple levels. The chain of command must be actively involved in this process, otherwise opportunities will be lost in the development of the next generation.
Tip Six – Empower Junior Leaders through Delegation, Information and Opportunities
Commanders must encourage and empower their subordinates. The key to this is ensuring that they have a clear understanding of the mission or task and sufficient resources to complete it.
Tip 7 – Establish Routine and Maintain Order and Discipline
Routine, order and discipline are foundations that support our Core Values (Courage, Initiative, Respect, Teamwork). These foundations help build robust and resilient soldiers. This work starts in barracks, as what we do in barracks we replicate in the field and on operations.
Tip Eight – To Develop Proficiency you Must:
1. Establish a good routine. A good barracks routine is critical to good soldiering as soldiers thrive on structure and sound discipline.
2. Display drive and offer guidance.
3. Deliver detailed training programs, as a sound program will enable troops to get on with the job even in the leaders absence.
Tip Nine – Responsibility and Accountability
Be responsible; hold yourself and your troops accountable. Everyone can be responsible for something, so where possible give your soldiers additional responsibility. This is what develops leaders. But remember that whilst accountability starts with the individual, it ends with the leader!
Tip Ten – Trust until Proven Otherwise
Trust is a two way street and is a critical element for any leader. However trust doesn’t mean that you don’t check on your soldiers; directive control requires a commander to keep an eye on their subordinates. This doesn’t mean that you don’t trust them, because it’s not what you ‘expect’ that is important, its what you ‘inspect’ that is – I like to call it ‘Trust with Supervision’.
Tip Eleven – Lead by Example
A strong example is often the most powerful form of leadership. Your soldiers are watching and learning from you so remember the ‘Standard’ is always the standard. As well as upholding the ‘Standard’ as a leader you are also expected to enforce the requirements of it. You can’t choose when to follow the rules or when not to; if the rule is flawed, ask to have it changed.
Live Army’s Core Values – Courage, Initiative, Respect and Teamwork
Our Core Values are the bedrock that our Army is built on. They are the code that we must live by and the compass that guides us. Leaders at all levels must continue to promote and monitor our soldiers and ensure they remain aligned with our Core Values.
Becoming a good leader is no easy road; it takes hard work, plenty of practice and setting a good example. We should never stop trying to improve as leaders, nor should we stop training and mentoring the next generation. Know your strengths and weakness and know your troops.
Are You There Yet?
If this summary has piqued your interest remember a full copy of RSM-A article is available in Smart Soldier 46.