Lead with the best version of yourself.

Knowing When to Hang Up Your Boots

by Jakob Hutter

Deciding when to hang up your boots is not as straightforward as some make it out to be, especially when someone has dedicated a larger part of their life to serving their country. 

People in the military come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and the decision to continue or transition out of the military can be influenced by a wide range of factors, such as career opportunities, a sense of belonging, job security, and personal circumstances. Transitioning out can also be a challenging experience to adjusting back to civilian life, financial or health concerns, or finding employment.

F. Scott Fitzgerald describes this choice in his essay “The Crack-Up” saying, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

A Lesson from History: Never Present the “Throwaway” COA

by Rick Chersicla

From 431 BC to 404 BC, the two preeminent Greek city-states of the time engaged in what would be a generational struggle. This war (really a period of intermittent conflict with the occasional stretches of peace) commonly known as The Peloponnesian War, was a struggle for hegemony between the land power of Sparta, and the rising master of the sea, Athens. The best account of the war is that written by Thucydides, himself a veteran of the fighting. Thucydides’ sweeping work (one he wrote with the intent that it be a “work for all time”) contains a multitude of lessons in diplomacy and international relations. 

Beyond its obvious utility for historians, diplomats, and the strategists, the nearly 2,500-year-old work also holds relevant lessons for any boardroom or operations center given its timeless lessons on communications and leadership.

Yours, Mine, Ours: Identifying Responsibilities Amongst Leaders

Yours, Mine, Ours: Identifying Responsibilities Amongst Leaders

by Andrew Wilhelm and Michael Hellman

In the winter of 2021, my new Platoon Sergeant and I sat down over coffee and began building our new partnership. I had seven months of Platoon Leader time under my belt and a relationship with my first PSG that we both considered highly effective. However, I understood the importance of establishing initial expectations and wanted to set our team up for success. During that initial counseling, SFC Hellman and I discussed our families, backgrounds, and goals for the Army. We spoke frankly about the Platoon’s strengths and weaknesses, set joint goals, and identified an initial action plan. By the end of the session, it was evident that we would work well together and that the counseling had gone well. But, as would become his habit, SFC Hellman showed me how we could improve our session. He introduced me to the “yours, mine, ours” exercise.

Transparency and Stability: The Twin Beacons of Leading Highly Effective Organizations

by Ben Showman

The Leader’s Responsibility

The Army has a clear definition of leadership. It is carefully and intentionally crafted for Army leaders to flexibly accomplish missions while simultaneously improving their organizations. 

However, well-defined as it may be, it’s very easy to drift away from. 

Even gifted Army leaders can lose sight of their responsibility to positively influence their unit under the pressures of a high operational tempo and competing priorities. Leaders can combat this natural tendency to drift with an emphasis on transparency and stability across their organization.

Is Foreign Service ILE Right for You?

by Jake Kohlman

As I filled out my location preferences ahead of Intermediate Level Education (ILE), I knew I wanted to try something other than the traditional path of the Army’s Command and General Staff College (CGSC) in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I considered sister service schools like the Naval War College in Rhode Island or the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, California but ultimately decided, after discussion with my wife, to put a foreign service school, the Ecole de Guerre in France, as my number one preference. 

A few weeks later I was thrilled to learn I had received the assignment with the Schools of Other Nations program (SON) and would be PCSing with my family to study in Paris.

Creating an Army Master Tactician Additional Skill Identifier

by David Weart

Editor’s Note: This article was modified from its originally published version on February 7th, 2023.

Simply stated, the Army should expand the Master Tactician Test (MTT) offered at the Command and General Staff Operations Course (CGSOC) and create a stand-alone Additional Skill Identifier (ASI).

Expanding the MTT to the operational force and creating a permanent ASI has potential leader development and organizational benefits analogous to how the Master Gunner and Master Fitness programs transformed the Army’s gunnery and physical fitness programs. The current MTT administered at the CGSOC resident course tests Field Grade Officers on the intricacies of modern warfare and the application of U.S. Army doctrine through a three-phase assessment. Studying for and taking the exam gives all participants an assessment of their knowledge and application of the tactical and operational levels of warfare before assuming Field Grade level assignments. However, in its current design, the MTT is only available to CGSOC resident students, thus limiting its potential Leader Development and Education benefits to the total force.

Searching for a Purpose in Professional Military Education

by David Kahan

My time at the Captain’s Career Course (CCC) was a disappointment. 

Arriving at Fort Huachuca, Arizona in April 2022, I hoped that Military Intelligence CCC (MICCC) might help either to prepare me for my next position or teach me useful skills that could be broadly applied within Military Intelligence (MI). 

Neither proved to be the case. 

Instead, I was met by a poorly designed course that left all attendees that I spoke with feeling unprepared for their follow-on assignments. It was not only difficult to engage with material that is of little use to our military careers, but even more so in an environment that diminished our experience over the past three to four years in leadership roles. This was exacerbated by the Army’s requirement that officers planning on separating within the next two years still attend. The end result was an expensive Army investment that seemed to only increase officers’ desire to separate as soon as possible. But perhaps the most frustrating part of all is the knowledge that the Army does have the resources to provide a more enriching, engaging and overall worthwhile educational experience. 

Counterproductive Leadership: Impact to People and the Organization

by Jakob Hutter

Effective leaders who demonstrate confidence, courage, compassion, and character enable an organization’s success. Stay in any organization long enough, and you will understand that counterproductive leaders can leave serious harm to both the individual and to the organization. These behaviors are not immune from any one individual, but regardless of where it occurs, the short- and long-term effects can be destructive and detrimental to the future success of the organizational climate and culture. It is important then to understand what leaders are responsible for, the impact of counterproductive behaviors, and how you can recognize and overcome these behaviors to benefit your team and organization.

Sixteen Things I Wish I Could Tell My Senior Rater

Authors’ Note: The authors of this post, @notyourtacofficer and @therecoveringcommander, are mid-career, post company-command officers wallowing in their KD-complete broadening assignment lives and contemplating what’s next. Referred to as the, “meme-lords of a generation” by literally no one, their views are their own and do not represent the United States Army, the Department of Defense, or From the Green Notebook. 

Many a well-meaning senior leader shares their personal leadership philosophy or a, “how to handle me” letter and while it’s important to understand, “how the boss thinks”, we feel that many of our leaders fail to understand us as well. Especially in the Profession of Arms, we are duty-bound to obey orders that are legal, moral, and ethical. Yet, as much as leaders say that they want candid feedback, there are “unspoken truths” that are often contradictory to the “unspoken norms”. Dr. Lenny Wong demonstrated that the Army has a problem lying to itself and this problem persists

We offer these perspectives as the junior military officer audience that LTC Dominick Edwards sought to reach (on this same website no less) in 2016. By no means is this a response or rebuff of his points: the authors of this article were First Lieutenants when LTC Edwards published this piece and could very well have been the ratees he sought to reach. We find many of them to be clear and relatable and with a few more years of service, may find ourselves agreeing with even more. Moreover, sharing your ideas publicly is admirable and we are grateful that leaders such as this consistently give of themselves to the profession. Thank you, Sir. Truly.

Despite claims of open door policies and that “feedback is a gift”, we humbly offer some truths that those you senior rate may hesitate to share with you and a handful of tips to help you understand their perspectives. Here are 16th truths your ratees believe you don’t understand and aren’t willing to risk telling you:

Running the Race, Real-Time Resilience

by Caleb Miller

The Olympic runner Eric Liddell, of Chariots of Fire fame, would say that “he felt God’s pleasure” when he ran.

I have no idea what he is talking about. 

I’ve always hated running. I’m not bad at it – that doesn’t mean I like it.

One of the things I hate about running is that it never seems to get easier. Sure, getting to a certain pace or time or distance can be done. But the experience of running – fast, hard, past the ability to hold a conversation (or shout a cadence!), often early in the morning in unfavorable weather conditions – has never been the least bit enjoyable for me.