The Importance of Having Good Leadership Skills

From the very first day of my 23-year military career, I had to learn leadership skills and apply them. My leadership ability paid big dividends for me both in and out of uniform.


Terry Mansfield

3 years ago | 3 min read

Some people with whom I served in the military became better leaders than others over time. But almost all of them were superior at leadership compared to their civilian peers at similar career stages, in my opinion, and from my personal observation.

So you may be wondering what sorts of leadership traits the military instills in its service members. The following are the 11 principles of armed forces leadership, all of which are essential for good leaders to have, both in the military as well as during a civilian career.

The 11 Principles of Armed Forces Leadership

— Know yourself and seek self-improvement.
— Be technically and tactically proficient.
— Develop a sense of responsibility among your subordinates.
— Make sound and timely decisions.
— Set an example.
— Know your people and look out for their welfare.
— Keep your people informed.
— Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions.
— Ensure assigned tasks are understood, supervised, and accomplished.
— Train your people as a team.
— Employ your team in accordance with its capabilities.
Source: The Military Leader

Civilian employers know that potential hires coming from the military, whether they be officers or enlisted personnel, are continuously assessed throughout their time in the service by how effectively they have displayed those 11 leadership traits in dealing with a wide range of challenging situations. Every one of those 11 traits is fully applicable to a civilian work environment.

That’s why employers are generally attracted to prior service military people to hire and fill a lot of positions because they pretty much know what they’re getting and want those qualities in an employee. The leadership traits, as well as many other good qualities, usually translate well into the private sector.

However, this doesn’t mean that people who haven’t been in the military can’t learn to be good leaders.

It just means that companies/organizations need to place the proper emphasis on developing these invaluable traits, give people opportunities to exercise leadership in various situations, and also incorporate these facets into performance evaluations as well as provide appropriate feedback for improvement — just like it’s done at every stage in the military. It’s “baked in” to the whole career development process in the military and should be in the private sector as well.

“The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them.”
— John Maxwell

When I retired from the military and transitioned over to work in the private sector, I was well prepared to jump right into the fray with above-average leadership ability that benefitted me and, in turn, the companies I worked for, in so many ways.

It’s true that good leaders are sometimes born. But most people become good at leadership because they develop these skills through training and hard-earned experience gained throughout their careers.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
— John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy learned how to be a good leader while serving in the military. He applied those leadership skills later in life, including as President of the United States.


Leadership is both a research area and a practical skill encompassing the ability of an individual, group or organization to “lead”, influence or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations. Often viewed as a contested term, specialist literature debates various viewpoints, contrasting Eastern and Western approaches to leadership, and also (within the West) North American versus European approaches.
U.S. academic environments define leadership as “a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” Others have challenged the more traditional managerial view of leadership which believes that it is something possessed or owned by one individual due to their role or authority, and instead advocate the complex nature of leadership which is found at all levels of the institution, both within formal and informal roles.
Studies of leadership have produced theories involving traits, situational interaction, function, behavior, power, vision and values, charisma, and intelligence, among others.”

“Leadership is a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage, and discipline … Reliance on intelligence alone results in rebelliousness. Exercise of humaneness alone results in weakness. Fixation on trust results in folly. Dependence on the strength of courage results in violence. Excessive discipline and sternness in command result in cruelty. When one has all five virtues together, each appropriate to its function, then one can be a leader.”
— Jia Lin, in commentary on Sun Tzu, Art of War


Thanks for reading. (Copyright Terry Mansfield. All rights reserved.)


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Terry Mansfield

Trying to be the best writer I can be. Specialist in eclecticism. Retired corporate exec/retired military officer.







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