Military Leadership Skills - Lessons In Manliness

Military leadership skills provides benefits to all men. This is regardless of whether or not you have served or intend to serve in the armed forces.

Having been a naval officer for a few short years and at a junior rank I am no expert on the topic.

However during my time in service I learnt a significant amount about myself and a little bit about leadership.

These are my reflections on military leadership skills; at the end of the article I will provide you with some links that will allow you to explore the idea in greater depth.

It's Personal Development On Steroids

Military training is designed to turn a person from civilian to soldier, sailor, airman or marine in a very short space of time.

It has two purposes. The first is weed out those who cannot cut it.

The other is to effect radical transformation in those who are deemed a sufficient fit for the organization.

It is a serious dose of personal development.

You learn to live with minimal sleep, push yourself to new physical limits, adopt practical skills.

You learn to take your place within a large organization with a hierarchical chain of command.

Arguably the most important things you will develop are discipline and strict personal habits.

If you are undertaking officer training you have been identified as having leadership traits. In addition to what I mentioned above you begin to learn the art of leading a team.

If you are not an officer but stick around for a while you will learn as a senior NCO how to lead from within a team.

The personal development aspect that begins in training is one of the pillars of great leadership. One cannot lead others without first being able to lead himself. You cannot demand excellence from others if you cannot display excellence yourself. That is why developing the self and demanding high standards of oneself are crucial to military leadership and working on your military leadership skills. If you don't have it you quickly become a joke amongst the troops.

If you look at any highly successful military leader they all have one thing in common. Highly disciplined personal habits. This is not something that put on just to get by. They desire to be excellent with a burning passion.

"Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one."
- Marcus Aurelius

I spend a bit of time on this site discussing what I think a good man should be. The reason for this is that I think the modern concept of manliness has strayed from what it should be. But the vast majority of the site focuses on how to actually become a better man and make the transition from boy to man.

Everyone should desire to be excellent. Everybody should develop a passion and then pursue it with vigor and the pursuit of excellence. This is something everybody can learn from military leadership skills. Before you lead others lead yourself. Be the best.

Character Is Crucial In A Man

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
- Martin Luther King Jr

Likewise I have a dream where a man will not be judged by the size of his wallet, the prestige of his position, the beauty of his wife, but by the content of his character.

Military leadership skills build character. But character is something all men should consciously build. Good character may contain a little bit of nature but mostly it is something that is nurtured. This is why military leaders often display such excellent character. The environment in the military nurtures them in such a way that is creates excellent character.

"The one quality that can developed by studious reflection and practice is the leadership of men."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower

A man's character is the sum of his traits. Traits are something that you can and should develop. The traits of a successful military leader are one of the best examples you can emulate. These are some ideal leadership traits.

  • Integrity
  • Competence
  • Ability to inspire
  • Intelligence
  • Fairness
  • Courage
  • Committment
  • Passion
  • Clarity
  • Humility
  • Inclusiveness

This is not a situation where you either have it or you don't. These are things that you develop. I often talk about not floating through life and seeing what it throws at you but taking conscious direction. The same applies to your character. Don't float through life and see what kind of person you become. Decide what you want to be like and then make it happen.

Traits are different to personality. I'm not saying that if you are an introvert you should become an extrovert. That is personality and that is hard wired. However the traits listed above are things you can consciously choose to adopt and work on, or not.


The whole concept of the military is built on service. Every person in the military serves the organization, they serve their superiors and they serve their subordinates. This is service to an idea, a body and a person.

Service to the idea of liberty, service to whichever branch you belong to, service to your immediate superior, all other superiors and service to your troops.

While everybody lives their lives of personal self interest they do it from within a service setting. The personal desires of financial security, comradeship and contribution to a cause are met whilst serving a greater need. It is a situation of give and take. Very few people join the military purely for personal gain and if they do they rarely last very long.

One of the key difference between a boy and a man is that a boy consumes while a man provides. A man has to show devoted service to his family and sometimes make sacrifices for their benefit. On the other hand a boy does what he wants with little thought to the needs of others.

Our society has generally lost the concept of service to others and the focus is far too much of personal gain. There is a philosophy that believes a person will become wealthier (both materially and spiritually) by giving, rather than taking. This has always been the position at the core of most religions and is the position espoused by modern personal development philosophy. By humbly giving you receive much more in return than if you focus purely on taking.

Military leaders know that you have to serve both up and down the chain. Things quickly fall apart if the flow is in one direction. This is something that civilian society could learn a lot from and something every man should internalize.

Further Reading:

Leaderships Lessons From Dwight D. Eisenhower by The Art Of Manliness

Why The Military Produces Great Leaders by Colonel Tom Kolditz

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