The Army Leader’s Most Read Articles of 2019
So the year is nearly over and we have a chance to look back. For the small team here at The Army Leader its been an international year of achievements and deployments. The editorial team have been to some diverse locations including Finland, Poland, Nigeria and Afghanistan. Masters theses have been handed in, one member has completed initial training, another ran a leadership development course at Sandhurst and one even rode a horse in London’s Lord Mayor’s Show.
But for The Army Leader site it has been an even more successful year.
This year we have had almost 300,000 article views from over 130,000 readers from the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India. Our articles have been written by NCOs, officers and veterans and we have had the chance to interview some of the British Army’s most senior leaders. We even had messages of support from several 4* generals encouraging us to keep up the good work.
2019 has been a success – all of it due to our excellent contributors and our even-more-excellent readers. So as we finish 2019, let us look back at some of the most popular articles of the year.
1: Why Should I Trust the New Lt? What Platoon Commanders Need to Do to Be Trusted by Their Chain of Command
Our most read article of 2019 looked at research carried out at Kings College London into what led experienced Company Commanders to trust their newly commissioned Platoon Commanders. Based on dozens of interviews carried out over 2018 and 2019, it showed that there are four key themes that Company Commanders consider:
- Does the platoon commander have the right intentions and are they acting for the best of the organisation?
- Do they have the competence – the right skills, knowledge and attributes – for the job?
- Do we have full and open communications? Do they approach, brief and challenge me?
- And do others in the company believe they are trustworthy?
Will Meddings’ article considers what we can learn about trust and building effective teams. Given that every soldier and civilian will move job several times during their career, and as a result have to build trust with a new boss, it is hardly surprising that it is our most popular article.
The second most read article was an interview with Lt Gen Richard Nugee, the MOD’s Head of Defence People. In the article he reflects on the lessons he has learn over his career – specifically on how you add value as a senior officer and the importance of trusting and listening to your junior subordinates.
“I live by the rule that if someone has gathered up the courage to see a three star or the CO, if it is important enough for them to need to see the boss, what right have I got to turn around and say “you are not important enough to see me”.
By definition, every single one of them are junior to me. By definition, they are also more expert in their particular field than me. I’ve got to find the space to see them and I’ve got to listen to them. If I don’t, I’ll make stupid decisions. Then the whole system falls down. You cannot have Generals making stupid decisions because they do not find the time to listen to their junior experts.”
James Mattis’ Leadership Philosophy
Third came an article published in 2018, looking at a collection of James Mattis’ leadership quotes and statements. When Mattis left his post as 26th United States Secretary of Defense the article went viral. In fact, if we included December 2018 in our metrics, this article was our most popular by far. It is well worth a read. Here are four quotes just to warm you up:
- Know when to apply non-quantitative analysis. Too early, you’re lazy. Too late, you’re mechanistic.
- Do not permit your passion for excellence to destroy your compassion for subordinates.
- As a second lieutenant, I realized my guys weren’t lying awake at night wondering, ‘How can I screw up Lieutenant Mattis’ day?’
- We are masters of our character. We choose what we will stand for in this life.
Honesty and Inspiration: An interview with Maj Gen Paul Nanson
In April 2020 Maj Gen Paul Nanson is due to finish his time as Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and his time in the Army. As he approached the end of his career – a career that saw him command his battalion on two separate operations in Iraq – we interviewed him to find out how he thought he could have been a better leader.
It is a fascinating insight. General Nanson suggests he has spent too long leading on operations and not enough in complex organisations. His advice is to ensure you have a breadth of leadership experience to help you lead on and off operations.
“I had always assumed that an operational leadership style would be sufficient throughout my career. But, as I’m about to say to the new cohort of General Staff officers, at the General Staff level you become more of – it is a horrible term – a business leader. While the foundations are the same, there are nuances that higher leadership demands of you that you simply do not learn in operational, field army roles.
So I have found my leadership lacking in my current role. I am missing certain skills sets that I am trying to catch up on. I’m now finding I have not got as wide a repertoire as I need in my current job. So, if I had my time again, I would broaden my leadership portfolio.”
Orders and Disorder
Our fifth most read article is from Des Fitzgerald, a former soldier and officer who has spent over 30 years in training and operational roles. In Order and Disorder Des asks whether we give our subordinates too many orders.
“In Von Spohn’s ‘Art of Command’ (which I recommend everyone reads) he reminds us that ‘Every order places the subordinate to whom it is given in a position of constraint…’
Von Spohn also wrote that giving too many orders will simply crush the spirit of the soldier and may even cause him to be insubordinate. Therefore, if we agree that an order is a constraint, and we seek to give our subordinates as much freedom as we can, we probably should not issue many of them.”
He argues that every time we give an order we risk unintended consequences and, if we do not think hard enough, we risk giving idiotic orders. These are the sort of orders that simply must be disobeyed because the commander does not fully understand the situation. It is a compleeing argument, although not everyone will agree with it.
Read Orders and Disorder
If you enjoyed 2019’s articles why not check out the best articles of 2018? You can read them in 2018’s Most Read Articles of the Year