Maneuver Self Study Program

Why is the Study of Military Leadership Important to Maneuver Leaders?

Soldiers will follow a good leader anywhere and under any conditions of battle. While many factors decide the outcomes of battles, leadership is often the most important. Military history provides countless examples of battles that were won or lost because of leadership. In times of peace we can also find examples of how exceptional leadership and vision prepared our Army to adapt during times of war. Studying military leadership, allows us to examine the Character of past leaders, mature our Intellect, Develop ourselves and others, and Lead our organizations to Achieve results in both training and in combat. In short, the experiences of others can help us develop our own idealized view of leadership in combat.

Military Leadership

"The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and to give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice to inspire the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or the other dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself"

-LTG John M. Schofield, 1879

Leadership in the military is unique in three ways. First, as noted by Sir Michael Thomas Howard, the British historian, leaders in the military may "exercise [the purpose of their profession] only once in a lifetime, if indeed that often".[i] Because conflicts are sporadic, it is impossible to predict when maneuver leaders will be called upon to lead Soldiers into battle. Second, wartime leadership is in-extremis leadership. Maneuver leaders must overcome moral challenges including the need to ensure ethical behavior in environments of persistent danger and the burden of life-and-death decisions.[ii] Finally, maneuver leaders are constantly in a state of upward mobility usually spending no longer than two years at any given position of responsibility. Each new rank brings a change in scope of responsibility, complexity of problem sets, and type of leadership challenges. It is for these reasons that self-study of military leadership is critical.

As defined in ADP 6-22, "a leader is anyone who by virtue of assumed role or assigned responsibility inspires and influences people to accomplish organizational goals. Leaders from corporal to general motivate people both inside and outside the chain of command to pursue actions, focus thinking, and shape decisions for the greater good of the organization."[iii] Our Army identifies attributes and competencies that leaders must develop over time. Character, Intellect, and Presence are what leaders should be and know and these three attributes shape how individuals learn and behave in their environment.[iv] Leads, Develops, and Achieves are competencies that the Army identifies as critical to successful leadership.[v]

An Approach to the Study of Military Leadership

First, begin with reading ADP 6-22, to develop an understanding of the Army leader attributes and competencies as a framework for assessing military leadership. Reflect and consider those attributes and competencies in context of your own thoughts about military leadership and write down your assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses. Second, read vignettes and watch videos that reveal how leadership determined the outcome of battles. Studying leaders in an extreme environment is like using a laboratory centrifuge; great leaders will be separated from the rest of the pack[vi]. Also, study military leaders during times of peace, because it is preparation of themselves and their units that contributed to success or failure in combat. Read biographies and autobiographies to understand better how leaders learned and applied what they learned to their responsibilities.

Consider how your own background and experiences have shaped and are shaping your leadership philosophy, style, and effectiveness as well as your ability to take on additional responsibilities in war and peace. Discuss what you learn with peers, mentors, and subordinates. Discussing leadership with mentors is a great way to quickly synthesize their lessons and incorporate them into your own practices. Lastly, reflect on your personal leadership experiences and compare them with those you've known or read about. Use the questions below to reflect on what you've learned and evaluate your own leadership.

[i] General Washington

[ii] FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency, 7-1

[iii] 6-22

[iv] APD 6-22 p. 6

[v] Leadership Challenge

[vi] Jim Collis Great By Choice

Stanley McChrystal: Listen, Learn...then Lead


  1. What leadership attributes and competencies am I strong in? Which ones am I weak in?
  2. What attributes and competencies did successful leaders exhibit?
  3. What were some of the factors that led leaders to make bad decisions in combat?
  4. What is my leadership philosophy?
  5. What are some of the practices that leaders adopted early in their careers that led to their later success?
Military Leadership Discussion Linkedin Page

SHARP References

  1. Gervais, Maria R., U.S. Army War College. (2008). Violating the sacred trust: Sexual misconduct in initial entry training. Retrieved from
  2. U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of the Army. (1997). Senior Review Panel Report on Sexual Harassment, Vol. 1 July 1997. Retrieved from Secretary Of The Army's Senior Review Panel Report On Sexual Harassment (Vol. 1).pdf
  3. U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of the Army. (1997). Senior Review Panel Report on Sexual Harassment, Vol. 2 July 1997. Retrieved from Secretary Of The Army's Senior Review Panel Report On Sexual Harassment (Vol. 2) Pages 1 - Annex D.pdf
  4. U.S. Department of Defense. Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. (2012) Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies Academic Program Year 2011–2012. Retrieved from
  5. U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General. (1993). Report of Investigation: Tailhook 91 - Part 2, Events of the 35th Annual Tailhook Symposium 12 April 1993. Retrieved from
  6. Harrell, Margaret C., Castaneda, Laura Weber, Adelson, Marisa, Gaillot, Sarah, Charlotte, Lynch, Pomeroy, Amanda. (2009). RAND National Defense Research Institute. A Compendium of Sexual Assault Research. Retrieved from
  7. U.S. Department of Defense. (2004). Task Force Report on Care for Victims of Sexual Assault 2004. Retrieved from
  8. Report of the Panel to Review Sexual Misconduct Allegations at the U.S. Air Force Academy, 22 September 2003. Retrieved from
  9. U.S. Department of Defense. (2005). Report of the Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment & Violence at the Military Service Academies, June 2005. Retrieved from
  10. U.S. Department of Defense. (1997) Report of the Federal Advisory Committee on gender-integrate training and related issues to the Secretary of Defense.
  11. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States, 2011. Retrieved from
  12. U.S. Department of Defense Sexual Assault and Prevention and Response.

The Great Captains in American History by FPRI

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Creighton Abrams Lewis Sorley Video Icon Audio Icon
David D.Eisenhower David Eisenhower Video Icon Audio Icon
George Washington Edward G. Lengel Video Icon Audio Icon
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Andrew Jackson Samuel Watson Video Icon Audio Icon
Ulysses S. Grant Jean Edward Smith Video Icon Audio Icon
John J. Pershing Jim Lacy Video Icon Audio Icon
David Petreaus Peter Mansoor Video Icon Audio Icon

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