How to Be a Good Leader: One Big Lesson the Military Taught Me

By Ashford University Staff

How to be a Good Leader: Life Lessons Learned in the Military

With this blog, you will be able to see, smell, and feel the impact of what leadership is and the fruits of what is cultivated thereafter. Leadership is not only an action, it’s a feeling, and the essence of its effects will last you a lifetime. How someone feels is a reflection of what was supported, strengthened, and nurtured over time. 

The military does this on a daily basis, and all ranks (warriors) are treated as leaders. Regardless of rank or position, this is done by empowering subordinates to the level of responsibility they can entertain. In turn, this causes confidence in communication to superiors with gaining information from the general population (GP). The higher you are in the ranks, the less you see in detail what’s going on at the ground level. 

For example, envision being on a flight and think about what you can see when you’re in the air. You probably see the cities and the landscape, but you don’t see the individuals as much. That’s because leadership serves as the link between what’s on the ground and what’s above. The perspectives of each will be different, but what’s important is that they each have a specified impact toward the larger picture. 

It’s been said that with effective leadership you learn how to speak in a way where individuals want to listen to you, but you also listen in a way where folks would want to speak to you. 

It’s unfortunate, but this soft skill cannot be taught. However, it can be learned through the experience of taking charge of the leading

Foundational Skills for Leadership

My experience in the military provided the foundation of my leadership skills.

I find it especially effective that in the military, the scheduled day is composed of the following routine: 

  1. Exercise
  2. Rehearse 
  3. Exercise
  4. Train
  5. Eat 
  6. Sleep

The process of following this routine consistently forces you to take charge of yourself and ultimately serves as the training ground for your role as a leader. 

Leadership Begins From Within

As crazy as it sounds, leadership of yourself is the first pillar of leadership itself. When you can take care of yourself, you can care for others and if you can control yourself, you can control your own outcomes. This is a nice rule of thumb for all you leaders (all of you) out there. For those who served in the military, you had an experience that was turbo-charged by changing your environment to a new experience. Those who did not serve can still find this in other places, such as in college and in your career, among other opportunities.

In the end, no matter where you find your foundation, whether in the military or from a college professor, it’s all about progress, progress, progress! Begin with yourself, and find your path. Understand that your leadership is a knife. Depending on your character, it can be used as a weapon, or you can utilize this device as a tool. The Choice is yours.

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Written by Olumide Onanuga, a NASA human resources advisor, veteran U.S. Marine, two-time Ashford University graduate, and a past alumni commencement speaker.


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