What American Sniper Reminded Me About Leadership

Drill Sergeant

I have yet to see American Sniper, we have been waiting for the crowds to die down, and have been busy with our children’s activities. But I have seen many of the long trailers (They make me tear up every time). I have read the book, and it has brought back memories of my time in the Army.

I was 18 when I joined the Army, and fresh out of high school. I was cocky and a know it all, and not very disciplined to say the least. The Army taught me many lessons, but not the least was teaching me what it took to lead. My Drill Sergeant rode me pretty hard because I made the mistake of not signing a wavier after the first say of basic. I thought by not signing the wavier they would just send me home.  And I could not have been more wrong.  Thus began my constant unwanted attention of my drill instructors. I signed the wavier after, let’s just say, an eventful evening.

After two weeks of enduring all they could throw at me, and becoming very humble in the process, our lead Drill Instructor made me platoon leader. He also handed me something I have kept with me my entire life. The Army’s 11 Principles of Leaders:

Principle #1 – Know Yourself and Seek Self Improvement – Develop a plan to keep your strengths and improve on your weaknesses.

Principle #2 – Be Technically Proficient – Not only do we know our duties and responsibilities, we know all those of our team members, and we look to our leaders and concern ourselves with learning their duties and responsibilities.

Principle #3 – Seek Responsibility and Take Responsibility for Your Actions – We are not satisfied with performing just our duties to the best of our abilities, we look to grow and seek further challenges, and always, when in charge, accept the consequences of our decisions, absorb the negative and pass on the praises.

Principle #4 – Make Sound and Timely Decisions – Leaders must be able to reason under the most critical condition and decide quickly what action to take.

Principle #5 – Set the Example – No aspect of leadership is more powerful. Our personal example affects people more than any amount of instruction or form of discipline. We are the role model.

Principle #6 – Know Your Personnel and Look Out for Their Well Being – Leaders must know and understand those being led. When individuals trust you, they will willingly work to help accomplish any mission.

Principle #7 – Keep Your Followers Informed – Our team members expect us to keep them informed, and where and when possible, to explain the reasons behind requirements and decisions. Information encourages initiative, improves teamwork and enhances morale.

Principle #8 – Develop a Sense of Responsibility in Your Followers – The members of a team will feel a sense of pride and responsibility when they successfully accomplish a new task given them. When we delegate responsibility to our followers, we are indicating that we trust them.

Principle #9 – Ensure Each Task is Understood, Supervised and Accomplished – Team members must know the standard. Supervising lets us know the task is understood and lets our team members know we care about mission accomplishment and about them.

Principle #10 – Build a Team – Leaders develop a team spirit that motivates team members to work with confidence and competence. Because mission accomplishment is based on teamwork, it is evident the better the team, the better the team will perform the task.

Principle #11 – Employ Your Team In Accordance With Its Capabilities – A leader must use sound judgment when employing the team. Failure is not an option. By employing the team properly, we insure mission accomplishment.

These 11 principles translate into all forms of leadership. Be it leading a business, a team, a project, or a church group. I have used these principles ever since I received this gift from a man, I at first thought hated me, then realized made me a better person. That alone was a huge lesson in leadership for me, I hope these principles can serve others well in the future too.

Photo credit: Tyler J. Bolken / Foter / CC BY

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Jack Smith, President, Purity Technology, LLC; Mr. Smith has served in both corporate, and start up IT Staffing and Consulting Executive Leadership for the past 13+ years. He was a part of a major private corporation success story and served in production and executive management for a company that went from 180 million to 3 billion during a 10 year run. Mr. Smith served in every production role and received three promotions in 3 years from recruiter to Director of Business Operations. Asked by Upper Leadership to relocate to Dallas where he was responsible for over 175 direct reports in various roles such as sales, recruiting, and customer service.

Mr. Smith spent 2 ½ years, with GlassHouse Technologies, as a Director of Sales for the central US selling high end data protection and data center consulting services in 16 states. Mr. Smith’s region grew from $1 million in revenue to $10 million in the 2 ½ years he ran this region. He was asked by Glasshouse to move into a VP of Sales role and was considered the top Sales Executive selling strategic consulting and was tasked with training the other regions on how to sell strategy services.

In January of 2007, Mr. Smith was recruited by an executive search firm that Mike Willis Sr. and Mark Willis hired, to build them an IT services company. He was named President, given equity, and he named the company FACILITEK SERVICES in March 2007. In 3.5 years FACILITEK went from $0.00 to $8.5MM in revenue run during one of the worst economic downturns this country has experienced.

In October of 2010, Mr. Smith and his business partner left The Willis Group to form Purity Technology, LLC, an IT Services company that specializes in IT Staffing, Cloud Computing, IaaS, and Managed Services. Purity is a labor of love for Mr. Smith, and he sees this as his legacy, and intends to dedicate his efforts to making sure Purity becomes known for its service and its culture of servant leadership. Purity just turned 3 years old and is currently doing between $3 million and $5 million a year in revenue.

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