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Cameron Gill

British Army


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British Army leadership: 7 workplace applications


The British Army leadership code is a compilation of battle-tested tested leadership and management practices which have a basis in academic study and are supported as being effective by undeniable evidence from history.

But how are they relevant to you? In this post I will go through each of the seven army leadership practices (remembered by the pneumonic LEADERS) and I’ll explain how they can be applied in virtually any management role regardless of industry.


  1. Lead by example: When it boils down to it, this effectively means that you should never ask someone to do something you don’t/wouldn’t do yourself. It also means that the way you conduct yourself should be consistent with and align with the core message and values of your organisation.


You could demonstrate this in your workplace by doing simple things like staying behind for half an hour after your shift to help your colleagues during a busy period. By doing this you’re setting an example to your subordinates that you’re a manager who ‘practices what they preach’ and they will no doubt respect you more for it which makes it all the more likely that they’ll respond positively when you must ask the same of them.


  1. Encourage thinking: This is simply the practice of allowing your subordinates the opportunity to think for themselves and giving them problems that challenge them so that they can grow intellectually and professionally.


The best way to apply this practice to your own daily leadership and management is to avoid micro-management! Not only is this frustrating for most people but you also risk setting them up for failure if they encounter an unforeseen problem in the workplace and you’re not present to assist. It’s possible that they will be completely unprepared to think of a solution themselves due to never having the opportunity to practice in a controlled environment.


  1. Apply reward and discipline: Everyone enjoys being praised for their efforts and, equally, no one enjoys being reprimanded for their failings. Its your job as a manager and leader to apply these equally and effectively.


This can be achieved more simply than you might expect. Never be dismissive of the value that a simple ‘well done today, really appreciate your efforts’ can have on someone. The mere acknowledgement of a job well done can go a long way to making your subordinates feel genuinely valued.


On the flipside of this when someone you manage begins to transgress, you must scale your response accordingly. An easy example to use is lateness. If an individual comes in late and offers no acceptable reason for this then, initially at least, a simple verbal rebuke may suffice. However if the behaviour becomes recurring and you’re unable to discover any underlying reason why through conversations with the person then you must escalate the issue appropriately to maintain other’s adherence to your workplace rules.


  1. Demand high performance: Fairly self-explanatory this one, any manager worth their salt should be seeking to glean the very best they can from their team in order to achieve the best results they possibly can whilst being careful not to overwork their team to the extent of demoralisation.


What may not be so obvious is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ way to do this effectively. Demanding high performance in a military context means something distinctly different to demanding high performance in a retail environment for instance. This is important as it shows that you must scale this behaviour to your own workplace and your own team.


So sticking with the retail example, of course you should be demanding the highest standards of politeness and courtesy be shown by your team. But if you start pressuring people to do constant overtime around Christmas then the motivation and by extension the performance of your team is likely to drop.


  1. Encourage confidence in the team: As a leader and manager its always up to you to stoke the coals of your team. Without a manager encouraging confidence your team is liable to take less pride in the work they do.


Fortunately encouraging confidence need not be complex, simply trusting your team to do their day jobs without micro-management from you (see ‘Encourage Thinking’) goes a long way to boosting each individual’s confidence. Additionally, being vocal about the success of the wider team in an ongoing project builds esprit de corps among your people. This need not always be a grand gesture, it could simply be a companywide e-mail if the team you manage is de-centralised or vast.


  1. Recognise individual strengths and weaknesses: As you know, everyone’s got something to bring to the table. Equally, everyone has something which they *really* struggle with. It’s your job as a manager to identify these traits in those you manage and act on them accordingly to enable your team to achieve their potential.


Going back to the retail example from earlier, say you have two people. One who’s an extrovert through and through, they simply love chatting to people and customers always comment on them positively. But this same person also happens to have an awful eye for detail and struggles when it comes to stacking shelves. The second person is the opposite, can’t hold a conversation for love nor money yet has a meticulous eye for detail.


A good manager will utilise the strengths of these two people when the store is at its busiest then, during lulls in demand, expose them to the area they’re weak at in order to gradually facilitate improvement.


  1. Strive for team goals: I find that this ties the previous six points together nicely. If you demonstrate those points, then you’ve already set the conditions for everyone in your team to have a genuine desire to strive for the goals of the wider team. In my opinion, for an effective manager this should certainly be the easiest of the seven behaviours to exhibit as if you’re already doing the rest then this will fall naturally into place.

It is my hope that by including these 7 behaviours in the day-to-day management of your teams you are able to improve not only yourself as a leader and manager but also by extension the team itself as a whole. This may be a militarily focused leadership model but I hope I’ve demonstrated just how useful it can be in any form of employment you may find yourself in. Should you wish to dig deeper into the topic, I’ll leave a link below to the Army Leadership Code introductory guide.

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Cameron Gill


Read more from Cameron Gill

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