Be, Know, Do | U.S. Department of the Army

Summary of: Be, Know, Do: Leadership the Army Way: Adapted from the Official Army Leadership Manual
By: U.S. Department of the Army


Embark on a journey to the realm of military-grade decision-making with the book ‘Be, Know, Do: Leadership the Army Way.’ Adapted from the Official Army Leadership Manual, this eye-opening read delivers powerful insights into the U.S. Army’s approach to effective leadership in the 21st century. In an era where trust, loyalty, and integrity are indispensable qualities of a true leader, the Army’s principles of ‘Be, Know, Do’ provide an inspiring model for individuals and organizations in search of excellence. Dive into the essence of character-driven leadership, the importance of interpersonal, conceptual, technical, and tactical skills, and the significance of self-awareness in the modern world. The journey through this book is a transformative experience, designed to unlock the leader within, weather the storms of uncertainty, and thrive in today’s fast-paced and fiercely competitive world.

The Art of Leadership

Effective leadership may seem elusive, but looking to the military may provide some answers. As private industries struggle with scandal-ridden leaders, they are turning towards the military’s model of leadership. Despite its historic autocratic attitude, the military has evolved into a collaborative and empowering organization. Gone are the days of strict hierarchy; instead, leaders must focus on character, collaboration, and inclusion. The Army’s all-volunteer force has undergone sophisticated training programs to nurture leaders. The Army’s philosophy is that a direct order isn’t enough to motivate soldiers to risk their lives; effective leadership is needed. As former General and President, Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, leadership requires more than rank and a domineering manner – it includes persuasion, conciliation, education, and patience.

Leadership: Lessons from the U.S. Army

The U.S. Army develops leaders at all levels, recognizing that in combat, leaders can be incapacitated or killed in an instant. This approach differs greatly from the private sector, where temporary leadership gaps can be filled from outside. The Army’s leadership manual has a simple but powerful definition of a leader: “Be, Know, Do.” The “be” part of the formula focuses on personal integrity and character, recognizing that subordinates will only follow leaders who are competent, honest, and inspiring. Effective leadership is about the leader’s quality and integrity, not incentives or rewards. The Army’s success during D-Day in WWII can be attributed to the quick thinking of soldiers who had been taught to act, not just follow orders. The initiative displayed by soldiers, not just officers, often determines the success of a mission or campaign. Leadership is vital in high-stakes scenarios, but it must be continuously developed and tested amidst uncertainty to be effective. The lessons learned from the U.S. Army’s leadership approach are applicable not just in military settings but also in business, where leaders must navigate unprecedented change, intense competition, and unexpected threats.

The Essential Skills for Effective Leadership

Effective leadership demands more than just a strong character; it also requires competence in four key areas. The Army defines these areas as interpersonal, conceptual, technical, and tactical skills. Interpersonal skills include teaching, team building, and motivation. Conceptual skills involve creative and analytical thinking, while technical skills require expertise in managing subordinates. Finally, tactical skills involve competence in managing soldiers to win in combat and, in the civilian world, include budgeting and negotiating. Leaders who seek to improve their skills regularly seek advice and training from mentors. Nonetheless, knowledge is only one part of great leadership; having personal integrity is equally crucial.

The Final Test of a Leader

The ultimate measure of a leader lies in their ability to take action. The Army identifies three categories of action that leaders must master: influencing, operating, and improving. Decisiveness is crucial and indecision can be detrimental to the health of an organization. Great leaders understand that tolerance of mistakes is essential for fostering a culture of risk-taking and growth. Training, providing resources, and stepping back to allow subordinates to lead are key elements of empowering team members. Surprisingly, the Army promotes the concept that every leader must also be a follower. There is no negative connotation to the term “follower.” Army followers creatively problem-solve, take initiative, and employ leadership skills to ensure that orders are accomplished. This transformational leadership style creates a flatter organization where individuals are respected and empowered to succeed.

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