The Army leadership model


Google Army Leadership Manual

The Army develops some of the world’s best leaders.

Today, we’re going to explore the Army’s leadership model.

It has three pillars:

  • BE
  • KNOW
  • DO

Let’s dive in.

The Army leadership model

Every organization rises and falls on the basis of leadership.

This is true in the military, business, athletics and any other domain where a group of people gather to pursue a goal.

In the United States, West Point is known as a leadership breeding ground.

The Army’s leadership training pipeline is built on the foundation of a three-pillar model.

The three pillars:

1) BE


3) DO

BE and KNOW are focused on what a leader is. These pillars are comprised of a set of attributes.

DO is focused on what a leader does. This pillar is comprised of a set of competencies.

The attributes enable a leader to apply the competencies effectively.

There’s a key distinction between the attributes and competencies.

Here it is described in the Army’s leadership manual (ADP 6-22):

A major distinction between the attributes and competencies of the leadership requirements model is that competencies are skills that can be trained and developed while attributes encompass enduring personal characteristics, which are molded through experience over time. A Soldier can be trained to be an effective machine gunner, but may not necessarily be a brave machine gunner without additional experience.

ADP 6-22

Let’s dive deeper into the attributes and competencies.

ADP 6-22

Army Leadership Attributes

Attributes are internal characteristics.

These affect how an individual behaves, thinks and learns within certain conditions.

The Army leadership model includes three attributes: character, presence and intellect.

1. Character

The Army defines character as the moral and ethical qualities of the leader.

It starts with committing to living the Army’s values:

  • Loyalty
  • Duty
  • Respect
  • Selfless service
  • Honor
  • Integrity
  • Personal courage

The acronym of the Army’s values is LDRSHIP.

The Army expects leaders to live the values with empathy and a warrior and service ethos, which is captured in the Soldier’s Creed (below).

The final two components of character are discipline and humility.

ADP 6-22

2. Presence

The Army defines presence as characteristics open to display by the leader.

In other words, the leader must be felt.

The foundation of presence is what the Army calls military and professional bearing.

Civilian translation: look and act like a professional at all times.

Fitness is the second component of presence. Physical fitness is a requirement for executing military operations, but beyond that, it increases confidence, improves your stress management and allows you to sustain effort longer.

Confidence and resilience are the last two components of presence.

3. Intellect

The Army defines intellect as the mental and social abilities the leader applies while leading.

There are five components:

  • Expertise
  • Judgment
  • Innovation
  • Mental agility
  • Interpersonal tact

A leader’s mental abilities affect how they think and lead others.

Effective leaders must think flexibly and critically, assess situations with sound judgment, innovate solutions to problems and then be able to interact with high emotional intelligence.

Army Leadership Competencies

Competencies are actions leaders are expected to perform.

The Army defines three for leaders: lead, develop and achieve.

1. Lead

The Army has five components of this competency:

  • Builds trust
  • Leads others
  • Communicates
  • Extends influence
  • Leads by example

In order to lead effectively, a leader must be able to build trust, communicate well, set the example and influence outside their direct chain of command.

A leader’s core attributes — character, presence and intellect — enable them to do this.

2. Develop

The Army defines four parts to development:

  • Develops self
  • Develops others
  • Stewards the profession
  • Creates a positive environment

Leading begins with continuously developing yourself and others.

To do that, a leader must build a positive culture and maintain high professional standards.

3. Achieve

The Army outlines seven components of achievement:

  • Adapts
  • Executes
  • Anticipates
  • Gets results
  • Gives feedback
  • Improves performance
  • Integrates tasks, roles, resources and priorities

In short: to achieve, a leader must mobilize a team and resources to accomplish the mission to standard, adjusting strategies and tactics along the way.

Applying this to your organization

Ok, there’s a lot here (and this was a high-level overview).

Let’s synthesize a few key takeaways from the Army’s leadership model that you can apply to your organization.

1. Who do you want leaders to be?

Defining what makes a leader in your organization is critical.

The Army does this with the attributes laid out above.

Define the following for your org:

  • The attributes a leader should posses
  • How a leader is expected to behave
  • How a leader should live the values

2. What should leaders know?

Establish and maintain a baseline level of knowledge for leaders.

  • Ensure messaging is consistent
  • Ensure information is shared widely
  • Foster cross-functional knowledge sharing

3. What should leaders do?

Define what leadership looks like in practice in your organization.

  • What’s expected of a leader
  • What achievement looks like
  • What missing the standard looks like

Results matter, as does how a leader gets them.


The Army’s leadership model:

  • BE
  • KNOW
  • DO

BE and KNOW are focused on what a leader is. These pillars are comprised of a set of attributes.

DO is focused on what a leader does. This pillar is comprised of a set of competencies.

The attributes and competencies work together to form an effective leader.

(Note: If you want to dive deeper, I highly suggest reading the Army’s leadership operating manual.)

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