What makes a good leader?

There are few topics that are simultaneously as ancient and as modern as the topic of leadership. In our Army, the elements of effective leadership are infused in much of our training, doctrine, tactics, techniques, procedures, and even daily conversations. Despite the extraordinary attention the Army--and many other institutions in our society--pays to the subject of leadership, the answer to the question, "What makes a good leader?" is neither simple nor universal. 


Nonetheless, certain foundational leadership traits have proven themselves over time, particularly for those who have accepted the unique responsibility to lead Soldiers and Army civilians. We should take every opportunity to remind ourselves of these traits because they emerge from our commitment to a common set of Army values. 


The 39th chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Mark A. Milley, aptly stated that the traits we seek in today's Army leaders include agility, adaptability, flexibility, mental and physical resilience, competence, and most importantly character. 


Character is often demonstrated in how closely our actions, decisions, and relationships adhere to Army ethics and values. Competence is developed over time through rigorous practice, professional learning, and a commitment to excelling in every aspect of our duties. It is vital that Army leaders have both character and competence. 


In fact, the development of competence, character, and other leadership traits is one of the most important missions we have as an Army. Leadership is taught from the day Soldiers arrive at basic training and continues at the basic officer leader courses, at training rotations at the combat training centers, and at the Army War College and other advanced schools.


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