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Apply Military Leadership Principles in Everyday Life

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Some of the most valuable lessons I learned while serving in the military were the 11 leadership principles. These are a step-by-step guide to becoming a better leader in any environment, from the battlefield to the boardroom.

“B Triple K Set Meds” is the pronunciation of the acronym BKKKSETMEDS and when used as a guide, can help you become a better leader.

Be Technically and Tactically Proficient
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This isn’t just a militaristic interpretation, it simply means know what you’re doing and have the ability to explain the reasoning behind what you’re doing. It does you no good to perform a task over and over again without seeing how it affects the bigger picture.

You don’t need to be more proficient than those underneath you, but you should be able to accomplish anything they can and answer questions as to why things are done a certain way.

Know Yourself and Seek Improvement
No one’s perfect; be realistic with yourself, identify what your weaknesses are and work to be stronger in those areas. If you don’t know a certain aspect of something or are unable to perform a certain task, it’s not the end of the world.
Work to become better, find the solution and go the extra mile. Always be evolving as a leader and a person.

Keep Your People Informed
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Nothing kills morale of the people underneath you faster than uncertainty. If you can’t be honest and up front with the people you lead, you can’t expect them to trust you or keep you informed.

You as the leader, should be seen as stable and upfront, not as someone who hides information or retains details important to the people you’re leading. If your team didn’t do something correctly, let them know. However, be wary of falling into the trap of only pointing out failures and not successes.

Know Your People and Look Out for Their Welfare
This should almost go without saying, but know the people working for you and take care of them. It could be something simple, like providing them with food or making sure they’re not having problems at home.

If someone working for you had their AC go out at home, giving them the time to make a phone call to set up an appointment to fix it during working hours would go miles to endear them to you. Get to know people’s strengths and weaknesses. With that information, you’ll be able to utilize them to their greatest potential.

Set the Example
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Be the person you want your workers to be. You shouldn’t expect anyone to do anything you wouldn’t or haven’t done. At the same time, you need to set the standard you expect from the people you’re leading and don’t accept less. Don’t be a hypocrite, be the person you would want working for you.

Ensure Each Task is Understood Supervised and Accomplished
Most often, failure can be attributed to a lack of understanding and supervision. This doesn’t mean micromanaging or talking down to anyone. It means explaining the task thoroughly and verifying the person understands what it is you need them to do. Afterwards, ensuring the task was completed.

Let the team attempt the task without your guidance if it’s not an overly complex or dangerous one. You may learn something about the job you never thought of. If you see an area where they’re struggling, don’t be afraid to step in and offer guidance. If they’re still unable to accomplish the task, they’ll be more receptive to your instruction now that they know their way wasn’t working.

When this is done without any micromanaging or a “you’re doing it wrong” attitude, the result is someone that understands what they thought would work didn’t, but also that they needed to open up their mind to your guidance to learn from you.

Train Your People as a Team
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In most cases, people don’t work most efficiently by themselves. By a team, I don’t mean it has to be a big hand-holding “YAY TEAM” venture. It means they’re all working towards similar goals. It means they understand that something one person does, or fails to do, can help the team succeed or can set everyone back.

Using open communication throughout the team goes a long way to help with preventable setbacks. Everyone needs to be working towards the same end.

Make Sound and Timely Decisions
Don’t become indecisive, or take too long to make decisions. The appearance of hesitation or display of mental weakness is something you should never show someone looking to you for guidance. If you don’t know something, don’t make something up. Let them know you don’t know, but that you’ll find out. Be sure to find the answer, follow up and tell them.

If you’re unable to decide on paper or plastic, how can you expect anyone to believe what you’re saying? Think carefully about the decisions you need to make and don’t leave room for argument or misinterpretation. “We need X, Y, Z done today,” is much better than “I think we need X, Y, Z done today.” Keep your decisions decisive.

Employ Your People in Accordance with their Capabilities
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Most of this stems from knowing your people. Know who can do what and what they’re best at. You wouldn’t ask a small person to lift heavy things, just like you wouldn’t want a tall person at a short desk. Some people work well in chaos, while some don’t. The knowledge of these capabilities allows you to make the most effective use of your people.

Don’t burn people out and don’t let them get bored. Ask how they’re handling the task you’ve given. Not from a “I want to see if you’re just sitting on your ass all day” perspective, but from a “how is the workload effecting you” stance. It’s no good to spend all your time investing in training and integrating a person into your employ, only to have them burn out.

Develop a Sense of Responsibility Among your Subordinates
Delegation is key in handling large work loads. Giving someone a sense of ownership over a task or area will work wonders. They’ll be more likely to feel a personal investment in what they produce.
Encourage them to seek new challenges and help them to overcome them. Promote the development of new skills and reward successes. If tasks that were assigned weren’t accomplished, handle them and ensure the failure points are addressed.

Seek Responsibility and Take Responsibility for Your Actions
Being willing to take on harder jobs will push your potential as a leader. To grow as a leader, you need to be taken out of your comfort zone every once in a while and learn from that experience.
Push out into new horizons and look for ways to assume more responsibility. Also, be willing to take responsibility not only for your successes, but also your failures. If you mess up something, be upfront about it. Address the issue, own it and learn from it.

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“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” – General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur

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