Lead with the best version of yourself.

Lessons Learned from a Company XO in EUCOM

by Chard Phebe

Being an Executive Officer (XO) as a First Lieutenant (1LT) has been described as “unglamorous” and “thankless.” I knew that entering the role back in August 2021, when previous Battalion Commander encouraged me to take the position. What I didn’t foresee was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or that my unit would deploy to the Baltics a year later. I was responsible for getting all our equipment to Lithuania—but I honestly had to Google “Lithuania” to know where it was going. In short, I had no idea how unglamorous and thankless being an XO would really be. 

But these unique challenges gave me the chance to gain experience and insight. In this article, I will share practical advice I currently use as an XO in three key areas: maintenance, administration, and self-care. While my experience comes from the European theater, this advice is relevant anywhere. These tips are intended to help company XOs excel and maintain personal well-being during this intense professional challenge. Should you ever find yourself assigned as a Company XO, your success in this challenging position is based on the habits and skills you bring to your daily life.

Maintenance Tips from the Field for Junior Leaders

By Victor Littleton

The best professionals in any given field have a deep understanding of their profession, and they use that to mentor and lead the next generation of professionals. The best doctors seek out teaching positions and help create better doctors; the best lawyers oversee practices with numerous junior attorneys. The officer corps in the Army is set up differently; we place young and inexperienced men and women in positions of authority and ask them to lead the Soldiers of all ages and backgrounds without the experience to guide them.

This article’s goal is to assist platoon leaders, executive officers, maintenance officers, or staff officers gain an understanding of maintenance knowledge by providing three tips–listen, acquire knowledge, and seek development– which will help them become more effective maintenance leaders.

It’s Not About the Money: Retaining Through Inspiring

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

by Terron Wharton

It is no secret the Army is having recruiting and retention challenges. The Army’s primary response has been a tried and true one: money. Big bonuses to sign up and re-up are proven methods that have worked in the past. 

However, despite the $1.8 billion the Army budgeted for 2023 recruiting and retention efforts, exit surveys show that many reasons for leaving are not solvable by big checks. In short, soldiers may join for the money and benefits, but they do not stay for them. Instead, soldiers say the sense of purpose, the ability to realize their potential, and the shared camaraderie keep them in uniform. Simply put, people like feeling they are a part of something. Instead of focusing on financially incentivizing retention, professionals should focus on inspiring commitment through engaged, inspirational leadership.

Rise to the Level of Creativity: Assessments from Large-Scale Combat Operations

by Daniel R. DeNeve, Kevin J. Quigley, & Larry Kay

Army units at every echelon struggle to meet mission and training requirements due to lack of creativity, critical thought, and disciplined initiative. While repetition and trauma facilitate tactical and technical competence in training, they do not help units overcome these shortcomings. As an Army, we often practice singular solutions for singular problems. For a division-level exercise, this means that we only experience one way to do a wet gap crossing. At the Company level, we practice a singular way to conduct a combined arms breach. Yet, many of the great tactical and strategic victories in warfare have come from daring innovation. From scaling the cliffs of Abraham to the cliffs of Pointe Du Hoc, from the landing at Incheon, to the Anbar Awakening, some of our greatest victories have worked outside of the traditional confines of doctrinal lessons. 

AI for the Win: Four Game-Changing Resources for Your Organization

by Joshua Caballero

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. -Alvin Toffler

Innovation is no longer a choice but a necessity in today’s constantly evolving world, where organizations need to continuously improve to stay ahead of the competition. The Army, with its level of responsibilities and complexity, is no exception to this rule. To thrive in this environment, our enterprise needs to embrace innovation, and adopt the latest tools and best practices. Artificial intelligence (AI), one of the most powerful tools available for driving innovation, is transforming the way organizations operate. 

Today, we will explore four AI tools that the Army can use to automate and streamline tasks, gain new insights from data, and create new products. By embracing AI and other cutting-edge technologies, our organizations can become true innovation leaders and build the military of the future – one that is more efficient, effective, and requirements-centric. 

Understanding Sun Tzu through the Mongols

by Chris Horvilleur

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, written in 400 BC, has shaped strategic thinking for nearly two and a half millennia, foremost amongst military minds but also recently amongst western business leaders. The breadth of the book’s impact makes it worthwhile for military leaders at all echelons to understand its basic structure and principles and consider its efficacy via historical case study. 

The Art of War consists of thirteen chapters which may be grouped into four sections. Chapter One identifies the critical calculations prior to war. These calculations include identifying the morale of the people, climate, geography, leadership and logistics. The next chapter lays out the costs and dangers of mobilizing a state to go to a protracted war. Then chapters 3-12 describe commanders’ skills in the way they lead, maneuver and organize their Army, as well as assessing the terrain and their enemy. The final section, chapter 13, concludes by explaining the importance of spies and intelligence. 

This piece explores three principles (each one a chapter) from The Art of War: picking battles, knowing thy enemy, and using diplomacy as a weapon. In order to bring these principles to life, I will provide historical examples of Sun Tzu’s maxims using case studies from the Mongol military victories of the 12th through 13th centuries. The Mongols, at their height, built the most extensive single-connected Empire in world history—via military conquest according to Sun Tzu’s principles. Leaders today, in our era of great power competition can glean much from these principles.

4 Types of Officers; and How to Develop Yourself and Others

By Joel Smith 

The Four Types of Officers

As a young officer I read German General Kurt Von Hammerstein-Equord’s four officer categories; they are 1) the clever, 2) the industrious, 3) the lazy, and 4) the stupid.

“I divide my officers into four classes as follows: the clever, the industrious, the lazy, and the stupid. Each officer always possesses two of these qualities. Those who are clever and industrious I appoint to the General Staff. Use can, under certain circumstances, be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy qualifies for the highest leadership posts. He has the requisite nerves and the mental clarity for difficult decisions. But whoever is stupid and industrious must be got rid of, for he is too dangerous.” (Von Hammerstein, 1933)

“You can use the brilliant but lazy man as a strategist, a brilliant but energetic man as a Chief of Staff, but God help you with a dumb but energetic man.” (Gen Douglas McArthur)

 By swapping out a few terms for contemporary ones, we get four base archetypes:

Lazy and dumb: Doesn’t do much, but doesn’t cause problems, can be of use under certain circumstances. Needs supervision and you can trust them with simple tasks.

Lazy and intelligent: Has the intellect necessary to make strategic decisions, and doesn’t expel too much energy on inconsequential issues.  They focus their energy on gaining efficiency, saving cost, and reducing risk over the long-term.

Hardworking and dumb: Not self-aware, doesn’t know what they don’t know, and won’t ask for directions. They actively make things worse. These people can be quite affable and charming. They often ‘talk a big game’ but can’t deliver, they are dangerous.

Hardworking and intelligent: Tackles problems, relentless, does not accept defeat. This type, when armed with commander’s intent and end state, will find a way to solve any problem necessary to achieve results.

A Letter to My Younger Self on Graduation Day

by Nikiay Comer 

Graduation week is here and you’ve felt a wave of emotions in anticipation of its arrival. You’re looking forward to accepting your diploma in front of your family and friends who have traveled far and wide to support you on this special day. You will soon be a commissioned officer. 

For some, commissioning is a time to be joyful and excited about what the future brings. For you and others, commissioning brings excitement from completing a milestone but also uncertainty—anxiety—about the future. You’re not sure if you’re ready. Although you have put so much hard work into preparing yourself to be a leader, you wonder if you’ve learned enough. As a cadet, you have completed many types of military training, leadership and character development lessons, and physical readiness classes. Even still, you may think you’re not ready. But I’m here to tell you that you are. It is okay that you don’t know everything there is to know about leadership. Knowledge will come with experience. However, at this very moment, you have what you need to be a good leader.  

You Are Your Best Career Manager

by  Brandon Eans

As a career manager, I think daily about the advice my former First Sergeant offered me over eight years ago: “You are your best career manager”. 

I was a First Lieutenant serving as an Executive Officer for a Field Artillery Battery. At the end of the workday, I would occasionally sit with the First Sergeant in his office where we would discuss the operations of the Battery. As a young officer, I valued this time as it was an opportunity to gain mentorship from the most senior Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) within the Battery. On this particular day, my First Sergeant voiced his frustration on certain NCOs who were not properly managing or maintaining their records in preparation for an upcoming promotion board. It was here that he gave the simple, yet profound, advice that I would use to guide my own career and as a cornerstone for my mentorship philosophy. It drove me to actively manage my own career, update my Officer Record Brief (ORB), and initiated thoughts of how I hoped to serve in the Army. 

Fight The Tank! A Practical Lesson in Army Leadership

by Marc E. “Dewey” Boberg, Ed.D. 

Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” – John Wooden

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Shortly after commissioning and attending the Armor Officer Basic Course (now ABOLC) I reported to Fort Hood, Texas. I was quickly assigned to the 1/12 Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, where I became an M1A1 tank platoon leader in 3rd Platoon, D Company. All my Soldiers and NCOs were veterans of the first Gulf War—I literally was the only one without combat experience. My platoon sergeant was Sergeant First Class Anthony Garcia. SFC Garcia was a tank Master Gunner with more than 17 years of experience. He would become the most influential person in my training especially as it pertains to understanding tanks and practical lessons in Army leadership.

Lessons from Large Scale Combat Operations, Part II

by Larry Kay, Josh Cosmos, Dan DeNeve, Nicole Courtney, Jeremy Mounticure

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a three-part article, stay tuned for the final part tomorrow. In the previous article, the authors discussed the importance of aligning planning with targeting as well as illustrating a sense-making model which can inform when and why a staff should adjust their planning horizon. In this next post, they aim to explain the importance of assessment-driven planning, finding flexibility in a battle rhythm, and the natural tension between deception, dilemmas, and risk.