Nick’s Rules on Leadership

Updated: April 21, 2009











We’ve received more than a handful of emails from people asking us to post our thoughts on leadership – mostly from seasoned NCOs who want us to use our powers for good instead of evil (at least every once in a while).

This is a tough one for us to write, because in some ways it starts with the position that we are qualified to teach leadership.  I mean you can go to the store and literally buy hundreds of books on the topic of leadership from real war heroes that should be dead a hundred times over, general officers or sergeants major who have a lifetime of service to the nation, or even business leaders, coaches, or politicians who have made a real difference in the world.  Hell, a lot of the guys that read this site have been to combat four times or more by now!  Candidly, we felt that posting an article on leadership would be more than a little presumptuous.

Nevertheless, the emails have continued coming in – as a result, I posed this dilemma to one the NCOs in the Ranger Up Militia.  “Why should we tread on ground that so many great leaders have already covered,” I asked.  “Simple,” he replied, “You won’t write it with the intent of making yourself look like a big deal, which means someone might actually listen.”

His logic was hard to argue with, so we drew straws and for this one you’re stuck with me.  I’ve decided to write it from a platoon leader’s perspective, because no one needs more help than a 2LT, but hopefully most of my comments transcend all levels of leadership.  So here goes:


Nick’s Rules on Leadership


1) Don’t be a douche.

I am dead serious.  Nothing pissed me off more than watching some wannabe tough guy treat his people like shit and then hear someone say “that’s his leadership style”.  NO-GO.  I fully admit there are a lot of ways of running a unit, but the foundation of leadership is integrity and love for your people.  You can be hard and have high standards, but you cannot treat people like their existence is to serve you, amuse you, and accelerate your career.  That is not a leadership style, it’s an ego trip.  Get over yourself or you will find yourself getting a wood line attitude adjustment .


My first boss was a hard ass.  We had the best trained unit in the Brigade because he was always pushing for additional training.  On the surface of it, one would argue he was doing everything right.  When one of my NCOs found out his mother was dying, the commander actually tried to convince him that he shouldn’t go see her, because his guys needed him more.  This was pre-9/11.   He was willing to trade one of his men’s last moments with his mother in order to minimize the risk that his unit might get a slightly lower grade on the training exercise. Instantly, everyone realized that all his training wasn’t to take care of us at all – this guy was really just a spotlight Ranger. His actions led to my first counseling by the Battalion Commander, but that is a different story.  In short, don’t be a douche.  


2) Your guys are more important than your career.  

This ties in nicely with my last point, but it is worthy of its own bullet.  You’re all going to be civilians someday, no matter how much you love the military or how long you serve.  Years from now, the fact that you made Colonel or Sergeant Major won’t erase the fact that you threw some unsuspecting subordinate under the bus to avoid punishment, and it certainly won’t remove a stupid decision you made based on pressure from above that got someone killed or injured.  Every leader I’ve ever respected has been willing to stand in the Gates of Fire when it mattered.  If you’re not willing to do this for your people, be honest with yourself and quit.  Join corporate America – you’ll just annoy people, not get them killed, and you’ll make more money.  Everyone wins.


3) Be good at your job.  

Every day you should be working your ass off to be technically and tactically skilled (note I didn’t say proficient – you need to be better than that).  You should be asking questions, reading, practicing, and training.  You can be a super-nice dude or dudette who loves your troops, but if you don’t know how to train them, lead them, and they aren’t ready for combat, you are a colossal failure.  If you look deep inside, you’ll know the truth of where you are in this regard.  Either fix it or quit.


4) It’s not your platoon.  

Imagine you’d been doing a job for 12-15 years and grew so good at it that you were chosen ahead of others to lead 40 men into combat…with one caveat.  You’re not actually in charge – some kid young enough to be your son is in charge…and you have to train him… but he rates you.  You couldn’t make this shit up, right?  When you’re walking into that platoon, appreciate the fact that you’re not the badass here.  You, like your men and your platoon sergeant, have a job to do, and it is your job to do that as best you can.  Acknowledge their experience and allow them to help you grow.


Towards the end of my time with my first platoon, my platoon sergeant and I were a team to be envied.  We had figured out who was going to do what and we had each other’s backs.  He had been very “anti-PL” over the last few years (I was his fourth platoon leader), but decided to give me a chance when I shook his hand for the first time and said, “SFC Stewart – it looks like I’ll be spending a year or so in your platoon.  Thanks for having me.”  I’ll give full credit to my dad, a former NCO, for that one but it was my firm intent to let him know I needed to learn and that I respected his position and sacrifice, and our men benefited as a result.


5) It is your platoon.  

We were at CMTC getting ready for our field problem.  I was at an OPORD and my platoon sergeant had everyone in the bay cleaning equipment.  Two of my new soldiers got into a fistfight over something stupid (one of them fancied himself a rapper and the other one felt his rap sucked – damn eighteen year olds).  My platoon sergeant punished them by having the entire platoon outside in the mud wearing all of their recently cleaned equipment.  He was smoking the ever-loving shit out of them when I rolled up on the scene.  Spotting me, he made the motion to stay back (this was NCO business).  So I hung low and watched from a distance so my guys couldn’t see me.  Just then Sergeant Major Chickenhawk rolled up – the same Sergeant Major that I hated and had recently outlawed this kind of “hazing” because it was politically expedient to do so.  He grabbed my platoon sergeant by the shoulder and started digging into to him in front of my guys.  I ran over and told the CSM that this was my platoon and that he could have the conversation with me.  He told me that this was NCO business and I responded that my platoon sergeant was acting under my command with my permission to discipline the men.  He walked me over to the battalion commander.  They had me don my gear and do mud PT to “show me” how it felt.  Well – you can’t smoke a rock.


Yes, your platoon sergeant has more experience.  Yes, he can run circles around you in a lot of areas.  Yes, he should probably be in charge over you – but he isn’t.  You are, and anything that happens or fails to happen in your platoon is your responsibility.  Furthermore, in this scenario, I had a great platoon sergeant and I agreed with him.  But not all platoon sergeants are good and not all good platoon sergeants are always right – you need to trust your own judgment and execute accordingly, even if it means pissing your PSG off.


6) Don’t lie, ever, for any reason.  

This isn’t grade school.  Your actions matter.  If you fuck up, admit it as soon as possible, even if you think it’ll hurt your career.  The team cannot work on a solution until they know the truth, and this is one of the few jobs in the world where lies can get people killed.  Furthermore, the military, for all its faults, is one of the few places on earth where honest mistakes are actually forgiven.  Conversely, it is one of the few places where lies are extravagantly and brutally punished, and rightly so.


7) You make mistakes – admit them.  

Don’t be that guy.  Your men don’t expect perfection.  They expect you to strive every day for perfection.  You’ll be wrong a lot.  Fess up, get over it, get their feedback and drive on.  They will respect you infinitely more and they will trust you for it, as opposed to committing themselves over and over again to proving, quite creatively and to everyone’s amusement, that you are often wrong.


8 ) Leader is not equal to BFF.  

I loved my guys.  I still love my guys, even though I’m very far removed from being in command.  Many good-intentioned leaders make the mistake of believing that being a great leader means never having your guys be upset with you and hanging out with them all the time.  There’s nothing wrong with taking your platoon out for a night on the town.  There’s nothing wrong with socializing with guys when you bump into them at a bar.  There is something wrong with passing out on your PV2s couch at 3AM.  Once you become “one of the guys”, you’re no longer their leader, and they need you to be in charge a lot more than they need another buddy.


9) You’re not the smartest guy in the platoon.  

A lot of guys make the mistake of thinking that because they have achieved a certain rank, or have a certain degree; they are in some way superior to the others in their unit.  In my first platoon alone, I had 7/20 privates or specialists with college degrees – one with a master’s degree.  One of them was literally a genius, having maxed out the MENSA (weak-ass organization, by the way) test.  You’re not in charge because you’re the smartest or most talented or anything else – you’re in charge because you signed up to be the LT.  Don’t act superior, because you aren’t – just do your job.


10) You can never quit.

You don’t have to be the fastest runner, or do the most pushups, or be the best at combatives, or be the best shot, but you can never quit.  The second your guys see you give up, you’ve lost them.  Period.


11) You are not the focal point of your subordinate’s lives.

They don’t spend their nights thinking about you, your speeches, or your goals.  They have wives, kids, girlfriends, bills, friends, and problems.  Acknowledge that – your men are not here to serve you.  They’re here to serve your country.  You’re here to serve them.


12) But your subordinates watch everything you do.  

Just because they don’t live their lives around you, doesn’t mean you’re not important to them.  If you lie, they assume it is okay.  If you quit, they assume it is okay.  Your actions, not your mission statements, speeches, codes, creeds, etc. will set their standard of behavior.


13) Get your boss’s back.  

Everyone wants to be in charge…until they are there.  We all think we could do a better job than our boss – sometimes it’s very true and sometimes it isn’t – but as long as he or she is working hard to take care of your men and complete the mission, you owe it to them to ensure they succeed.  You’ll be there someday, and you’ll find that despite your best efforts, you are very fallible.


14) Have a sense of humor.  

You will be tested.  When I came on board my first platoon, my guys tried to get me with every snipe hunt in the book – PRC-E8, keys to the indoor mortar range, box of grid squares – you name it.  Skillfully, I held out for three weeks, until that day in the motor pool.  In formation, the motor chief announced that today was the day that everyone had to turn in vehicle exhaust samples.  Promptly, the motor sergeants disseminated to each platoon a vehicle exhaust sample kit, which included labels, sharpies, and garbage bags.  My guys grabbed the bags, turned on their vehicles and began throwing the garbage bags around the exhaust pipe, filling it, then promptly tying the bag off and labeling it.  This just didn’t seem right – all the more so when they asked if I wanted to help get samples.  I balked.  They guilt tripped me.  Finally, even though I was at least 25% sure I was being had, I filled a bag with exhaust and started walking to drop it off at the motor chief’s office.  Sure enough, they snapped about 2000 pictures of this jackass 2LT running around with a bag of exhaust.


They got their laughs and busted my balls about it.  We were about to head to an 18-hour computer simulation exercise.  Immediately afterwards they had a room inspection with all their gear laid out.  They, of course, had done this the night before, knowing they’d be going right from the exercise to the inspection.


As all the guys moved to the simulator, all the officers got called back to the bays for the OPORD.  When I came back, I asked them, “Don’t you guys have an inspection tomorrow?” 


“Roger, sir” they responded. 


“Man, it’d suck if someone dumped everyone’s gear into one huge pile and then covered it in baby powder, wouldn’t it?” I asked.  


Their faces dropped.  They fucking hated me.  I had gone way too far and clearly was getting back at them for the exhaust sample thing.  For the rest of the exercise it was hard to get anyone to talk to me – even my platoon sergeant was edgy.


The exercise ended and we all came back to the bays – they knew they only had an hour to salvage the inspection.  When they busted into their bay, they found that none of their stuff had been touched and was in perfect inspection mode.


“Sir, you are a fucking dick!” my platoon sergeant shouted.  


“Why’s that sergeant?” I asked.


“You said you dumped all our shit out on the floor and covered it in baby powder!”


“No, sergeant – I said it would suck if someone were to do that.” I smiled.


I could take it, but I could give it back too.  There would be no more fucking with this LT.


15) Do the right thing.  

This is the last and perhaps most important aspect of leadership.  I am a big believer that in almost every single case, people know the right course of action.  The bigger question is whether they have the courage to make the right decision, even when making that decision could be personally harmful.  Decide now to always be a force of good.  Don’t justify away indiscretions.  Don’t sell out.  Your life will be easier, your men will respect you more, and you’ll sleep at night.  More importantly, you won’t start down that slippery slope towards being one of those leaders that will do anything to get ahead. We all want to think we’re the next coming of Patton or Eisenhower.  No one thinks they are a bad leader, but it doesn’t take much to get there and it happens incrementally – one little lie or moral concession at a time.




  1. Kate

    April 21, 2009 at 9:29 am

    There are a lot of people who could use this. I know a few personally. I’m keeping this on the board – for posterity if nothing else.

  2. My name is Kate as well

    April 21, 2009 at 11:29 am

    I have to admit that I’m pretty glad that I had such bad leadership so early in my career. I think that if I hadn’t suffered through all of the b.s., it might have taken much longer for my ideas of good leadership to solidify into these same points.

    • boyscout

      August 2, 2011 at 12:23 pm

      Kate I can relate to bad leadership early in my career. hell before it even started. First duty station and I get a fresh buck SGT right out of PLDC. He was one of the most shadiest, reg and rule breaker I had ever met. So as a PFC I was doing his job. Dealing with the Battalion Commander and above and he took all the glory. I remember being in my 3/5 office like till 7 every night because I would have to fix his fuck up so my fellow ammo dawgs could go to the range to shoot or go on pass or get approved for an award. I will say In my deployment with him I learned his job and 3 above him very well and it got to the point where the brigade Commander would come to a SPC to plan his Battalions ranges and inspect his hazmat. When he was promoted to E-6 when we got back in country he told me I had a lot to learn about being a NCO and I just said likewise and pcsd as quick as I could earned my stripes and knew truly what it takes to lead. SSG Brandon Sayles once told me that if your in a fire fight and your guys knew how to follow you just by the sound of your voice in a pit of hell. when Soldiers don’t know what to do and it’s just your voice that can pick them up and push on. I was always in the smokes office covering one of my Soldiers asses I would always tell them be straight with me and I’ll have your back but lie and it’s downhill from here. I wish a lot of Senior NCO”s would see these blocks of Leadership and let them soak in.. CPT. America said it best ” People are fighting and dying in this war, I should offer nothing less then to do the same.

      I came here to kick ass in chew some bubble gum and I’m all out of bubble gum!

  3. Will

    April 22, 2009 at 12:00 am

    This is spot on. Nick, I wish you were able to share this with more guys at USMA, it seems some people have lost their way and are going the way of CDT X in your Shades of Gray story.

  4. Red

    April 22, 2009 at 7:49 am

    Awesome post… one of the best I’ve read. I will definitely direct certain people to read this

  5. blueback

    April 22, 2009 at 10:03 am

    I appreciate what you wrote, especially because it’s simplified and easily accessible. I particularly enjoyed the first rule where you pointed out that being a dick head is not a leadership style, it’s just a personality flaw. However, I think you focused on management, rather than leadership. IMHO, management is dealing with complexity and leadership is dealing with change. So, any random “leader” will spend 75% of their time managing and only 25% leading. Most of the time their job will be to minimize risk and maximize efficiency, which is management. Every now and then something will need to change, or some new difficulty will have to be overcome, which is leadership. Most of the time leadership is something that we don’t want to have to do, because it means something went wrong (or is about to go wrong). The rules like “don’t suck,” “be respected not loved,” and “take responsibility for everything” are just for managing the complexity of the job. Leadership is principle-based and, as such, it cannot be simplified into specific rules. I mean, leaders are expected to predict the future, and since no one can actually do that they tend to fail about half the time. Managing has a much higher success rate, so it is preferred.

  6. Dale

    April 22, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Well written brother. During my 4 years as a junior officer I had the best officer and I had the absolute worst officer, I learned equally from them. I will keep your words fresh in my mind, as corporate America needs this philosophy more than any other group.

  7. Wolfpack

    April 22, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    I had the pleasure and privilege to serve with leaders like you, may I say that it would have been an Honor and Privilege to have served with you too, Lt.
    CW3 (Retired)
    Air Cav, Sir!

  8. Hank

    April 22, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Commander’s Intent on this one. Well said Nick.

    Semper Fi, Hank

  9. PV2 Leonard

    April 22, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    This is really great. I mean … being fair to everybody and having fun at the right time just helps everyone. And, at the end of the day, when you can sit next to a superior and be able to trust them, it makes even the tough stuff a lot easier.

  10. Alex

    May 5, 2009 at 11:41 am

    In just 10 short days, I’ll receive my commission and take on the challenge of being a United States Army Infantry Officer. I was (am) one of those annoying cadets that picked the brain of countless NCOs and officers anywhere from 2LT all the way to GEN (I was lucky enough to ask the Chief of Staff a question), and all the advice they gave me pretty much links up directly with yours, except for how to introduce yourself to your platoon sergeant. I might make the Army a career, but I won’t be a dickhead careerist, and that little gem on how to talk to your PSG will hopefully aid my transition from TRADOC to Platoon Leader.

  11. T

    May 19, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    I agree to everything that you said about this but I think you have to make an exception for the have your boss’s back one when your boss makes decisions that are going to in all likely hood get somebody killed or when he does things that makes him look like a huge coward.(i.e. running from the road black that your own PSD has implaced and manned that’s set up to stop the protesters and climbing over a Hesco wall to get into relative safety)

  12. Griffith

    May 19, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Well put.

  13. 1Sgt Livesay

    May 20, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Damn fine writing. No 15 is truer than most people realize. Perhaps my career didn’t go as high as I wanted, but then I was told I was too ballsy for my own good. But when I had kids come to me saying I did them right — that’s what matters. Not what the headshed wanted.

    • Stuart Garfath

      June 4, 2013 at 9:48 am

      1Sgt Livesay, mister, you are completely ‘right in one’!.
      As with you, my career in the Royal Australian Air Force did’nt go as I would’ve liked, we share the same equivalent rank, and I’m sure that we both can look in the mirror each morning when shaving, knowing that we did’nt bullshit.
      ‘Ballsy’?, it sounds to me like you may have told/informed ‘some’ individuals of their real value.
      I did.
      No regrets.

  14. Pingback: Kelly’s Rules of Leadership | The Rhino Den - Military Stories, News, MMA Features, Tim Kennedy

  15. Richard L Baker

    June 6, 2009 at 12:39 am

    Best example of leadership I ever saw was the captain of the carrier I was on, up on the flight deck and stacking 5 inch ammo prior to offloading. When he said “All hands working party” it was fact. We’d have sailed that ship through the gates of hell if the skipper wanted it done.

  16. Chris L

    September 3, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    I love these types of articles on leadership. Very well written and to the point.

    I posted a blurb on my website http://www.hooahnews.com about this article. HOOAH!


  17. josh

    September 13, 2009 at 10:49 pm


    Those simple rules need to be required reading from PLDC clear up thru Command and General Staff College!


    Former E-5 here, this gets right to the heart of the matter! I’ll be using this on the civilian side… What I tell my guys now is “All we gotta do is Give A Damn”, and we’ll succeed! This details exactly what Giving a Damn really is!


  18. SSG11BTim

    October 26, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Awesome list! This is the equivilant to the “Guy Code” for the military! Every officer should have this printed out, made into a handy reminder card, and placed inside their kevlar! Great job guys keep up the great work.

  19. SFC Raptor

    November 24, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Words to live by! If only we could push this level of understanding out to corporate America…..

    Great article! P.S.(Give little Ranger a kick in the ass for me!)

    • SFC L Heckerman

      March 13, 2012 at 5:34 pm

      Aint that the truth! I work in corporate America and I do apply these principles as a senior manager as part of an international company.

  20. Infantryman Trey

    December 10, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    As a young Trooper my first squad leader told me something I know tell my troops. “You will have good, and bad leaders while your in the Army. Learn from them all. Learn what to do from the good, and what NOT to do from the bad.”

    Awsome article Nick!

    • Robert Fox

      May 10, 2013 at 10:39 am


      I used to live my life by that exact same philosophy (word for word), and shared it with all of my soldiers in the process throughout my Army Career….It’s the best formula for building your individual leadership style!!

      Have we served together?



  21. Anchored

    December 13, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Good stuff. I’m a Navy guy that writes a blog on leadership. Would it be possible to use some of this, translate it into “Navy,” and post it to my blog? I will be sure to give full credit to the original poster and hyperlink this site? Lots of Sailors need their young leaders to get ahold of the thruths taught in these rules.



  22. Nick

    December 15, 2009 at 6:02 pm


    Absolutely, man. Post away!

    And while you’re at it, maybe we can figure out how to get some Navy influence over here so we can make you guys some better shirts and tell more of your stories.

  23. The Arabic Student

    January 2, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    This should be a mandatory read for everyone entering the military. I especially like the part about the officer not being the smartest person in the platoon. Being an officer doesn’t mean that you are the best at PT, academics, or really anything. It just means that you were willing to take on extra responsibility that others weren’t.

  24. SFC Murtha

    January 7, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Sir, I have to say that every thing you said was right on and I would have loved to work for/with a PL like yourself. While I was in 2nd Ranger Bat we had a couple PLs like yourself and we also had some pretty jacked up ones too, but they never lasted long and usually go the boot. I really miss that about Ranger Battalion, if you couldn’t hang you were gone. I know that it’s not always the answer to just push those ones to another unit to jack up other Soldiers, but sometimes it can make that person really see just how jacked up they are. If I ever make 1SG or even CSM for that matter, I will make it a point to hang your rules up in my company/BN/BDE for every Soldier, from the highest ranking to the lowest private to read. Just gotta make sure that as a Cook I can get those jobs. Thanks again for your guys website and gear it is great and I tell everyone I come across to check it out. RLTW

  25. jltk1976

    January 21, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Great list. I am stealing it.

  26. Jerry

    March 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    My dad gave me similar advice for when I met my first PSG. Luckily I had the best one in the battalion (I know a lot of people say that but since most everyone in the battalion said so I feel ok saying it) but I will say you’ve got to keep your eyes open in case you get a crappy one. People (other NCO’s included) will let you know if you get a crappy one.

    I basically let him plan everything the first few months and he let me pass most of it off as my own ideas. Best day of my life was about 3 months later after the OPORD for our second mission at JRTC. I came back all jacked up and briefed him up on what I thought we should do. He just looked at me and said “I think you’ve got this from now on. Do what you think is right. I’ll call the squad leaders over and you can brief them up.”

    I know I certainly wasn’t the best PL ever – but I felt like Patton or MacArthur that day!

  27. Benjamin Rothman

    March 8, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Simply awesome. Gonna have to print this and stick it in my leaders book as a reminder of what not to do.

  28. JosieBrooks33

    March 31, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    I will recommend not to hold off until you get enough cash to buy all you need! You can just get the home loans or financial loan and feel comfortable

  29. Robyn

    May 12, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    This is classic. I know several leaders in my direct chain of command that need this desperately.

  30. the rascalking

    May 26, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    This should be posted in every OCS class room on the freakin’ planet.

  31. business loans

    July 19, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    If you want to buy a car, you would have to receive the mortgage loans. Furthermore, my brother commonly takes a auto loan, which seems to be really fast.

  32. melody

    August 19, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Your leadership rules are right on! What you have to say should be the standard. Thank you for that <3. We civilians respect who you are and what you do, this is part of what makes us proud of you and proud to be Americans.

    My son is 12 and has been interested in the military for 4 years now and continues to insist that he will someday be a Ranger. He may not be in a platoon but is strongly influenced by all military persons. If one lies, children assume it is okay. If one quits, children assume it is okay. Ones actions, not ones mission statements, speeches, codes, creeds, etc. can detour the standard of their behavior. I know that while in training, words used to smoke one are not what we would use in our daily conversations, but when we are writing an article or out in public where children are words have a very strong influence on our countries young, I ask to keep the example clean. God Bless and keep up the good work!!!

  33. metin2 yang

    August 27, 2010 at 1:49 am

    very nice post . thank you

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  36. Mike

    September 30, 2010 at 8:52 am

    I am going to have these posted in the Cadet lounge at my school. Being that I am a prior Infantry NCO and the Cadet BN CDR I always have other Cadets asking me what advice I can give them to be successful when they get to their first unit’s. I do what I can to set them up for success but I could have never put it as eloquently as you have with these rules. Thanks for all that you do.

  37. WO R Storring

    June 15, 2011 at 8:59 am

    As the course Warrant Officer for the Signal Officers Troop Commander Course, I have instructed all my officers to read Nicks rules on leadership. If they realize this at the start of their young careers, it just might stick.

  38. Cpt. "Smooth"

    June 16, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Great stuff! They surely did not teach this in OCS, but caught onto alot of it from some great NCo’s that serve with me. Without them, I would have been nothing.

    God Bless.

  39. Marc Kodiak

    July 26, 2011 at 8:50 am

    These need to be posted on FB

  40. Jameson

    August 30, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Nick, I leave for OSUT in Nov. as an 18x. I have heard horror stories of leadership failures from almost every one of my friends in uniform. It relieves me to know that there is someone out there like you; it seems that you understood leadership in ways few do, that you knew your men were human, and that you are as well. I hope whoever comprises my chain of command during my service is half the leader you appear to have been. Thank you for your service.

  41. Gregoryno6

    September 11, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Even a civilian like me can take a few hints from this. Thanks.

  42. Pingback: Remembering September 11, 2001 – words from Ranger Up. « The mind is an unexplored country.

  43. Sealboy84

    September 13, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    Great post Sir. I wish that they would make this required reading for all young people. The really sad part is, you could spend years teaching this in an academy and unfortunately only about half would get it. They could pass the test and quote it all day long, but true leaders are born. I served under men that didn’t know shit from shinola when it came to leading from the front. On the other hand as a CPO I had seamen recruits that should have been promoted immediately. They knew instinctively how to inspire their peers and yes even their NCO’s. Early on I learned that, if you let your men know that you considered them “men” and not just tools, or a means to an end, it would go a long way when they had to follow you.

  44. Cherry LT

    November 2, 2011 at 10:19 am

    This was fantastic. Thanks a lot.

  45. almualla

    November 3, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    may I steal it

  46. Christy

    January 19, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    I wish I had had more LTs like you when I was in the Army. I gave my nephew a lot of the same advice when he was in basic training. I switched to the ANG in 1998 and am now a SNCO. Although I like to think that I already follow most of these rules, it is a nice reminder.

  47. Sgt Mike Humphries (USMC Retired)

    February 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    That was one of the best I have read and I’ll tell you that is how I ran my platoon! You are a outstanding leader and should be in the Marine Corps!!! I don’t want to step on your dick but you should have added “If you don’t want to be corrected then don’t be fucked up!” That one has always been one of my favorites as a Platoon Sergeant.

  48. Colonel Stu Goldsmith

    March 13, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    I love that T-shirt and I own it.
    As a guy who was commissioned infantry in 1989 from USMA – I think I would have handled the PSG giving group punishment for the 2 guys fighting – differently – If I could have gotten his attention without the troops seeing me – and before the Command Sergeant Major showed up. After all – IT IS YOUR PLATOON (the PSG’s and yours and no one has the corner market on best-practices with leadership techniques – though some do corner the market with weak/self-serving technique).
    But, the Chickenhawk forced your hand.
    Thanks for your service and your awesome company.

    Colonel Stu Goldsmith
    Director, J-3, Special Operations Command, Joint-Capabilities
    Suffolk, Virginia

  49. SFC L Heckerman

    March 13, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    I will not steal your thunder Nick by relating my experiences as they are what made me what I am today. I congratulate you on an excellent summary to leadership and I see truth tempered by experience in your words. Well done! I would have enjoyed working with you!

  50. SFC L Heckerman

    March 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    I have two sons, a daughter and son-in law in the military (Army, Air Force, Navy, & Marine). Leadership does not stop when you retire. This is exactly what I instill in my military family especially before a combat deployment. My military experience is coming full circle and there is no room for half-stepping. As a dad, I am supporting the mission by counseling them when they seek me out. As a senior leader in civilian life, the principles of leadership are alive and well but with their own set of unique challenges.

    Again, great set of rules! I will be forwarding to my clan.

  51. R. Turner

    March 16, 2012 at 3:47 am

    I turned 18 in Jump School, 19 in Ranger School and then went on to college and a career as a USAF pilot. I learned more about leadership from guys named Lamica, Purdy, Staggs, Schalavin, Vines, and Dalton than anyone else in my 20 year career. What you learn first is the foundation and they were a great foundation. The USAF didn’t always like it but through 3 wars guys begged to be on my crew. Nuff said. Now I’ll pass your lessons on to my son when he leaves for basic in a month. You’re never to young to be a leader.

  52. Mary

    April 23, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    This applies to so much more than just the military… I can definitely use this as a future leader and to inspire others that need this where I work. We’ve got a few people who need a wake up call and this is perfect. Thank you do much for this.

  53. Tad Harris

    July 24, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    Beautifully written. One of the best summations I’ve ever seen. Thank you!

  54. Mark Santos

    September 2, 2012 at 1:23 am

    Outstanding advice Nick!….. I love the get even mindfuck with the baby powder game point.

  55. CJ

    September 11, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Did 11 years & everything in here is on point. It would be nice however if you impart a little wisdom on what to when the BC is dick or the PSG is a creepier. My service felt like an episode of 90210 with the drama & back biting.

  56. Chris Hluzek

    September 29, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Great read! Not just for military but law enforcement as well and truly anyone who is in a position to oversee others.

  57. Kristian

    December 10, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    No matter how good the advice is; unfortunately, your company has launched an attack on Facebook against the Catholic Church. For 2,000 years the Catholic Church has outlasted EVERY worldly empire and persecution thrown our way. Maybe you should take a lesson from the Church.

  58. SPC Grave

    January 16, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    I’m posting this in my Co and Bn Toc. Good stuff.

  59. PFC Hale

    February 25, 2013 at 5:21 am

    Thank you so much for that insightful article . I always strive to learn all i can about how to be a good leader and team member. I have so much to learn but am having an awesome time doing it. >(^-^)<

  60. Trevor

    March 25, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    I find this to be great advice to read as a cadet and will bring it in to my class to show them all these traits before we all head of to LDAC from Montana State University.

  61. ShadowAir Ltd.

    April 28, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    How we can help our Armed Forces? There is anyone who is connected with DOD Contractors in USA?

  62. robster54

    May 1, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Time on target. Absolutely beautiful, and timeless. The Army is like a can of mixed nuts, as you’re never sure where the cashews are. You can have a future Secretary of State in ranks next to a potential child molester. This wisdom is pure gold, bought with blood, sweat, and tears. Thanks again for your service, and the same to all our brothers & sisters in arms. 11B

  63. College Cadet

    July 23, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    Great Read, as I move into my second year of BOLLAC A I hope to sharpen my leadership skills and start going to STX lanes. With these Rules I hope I can mentor my MS1’s and be the spring board to their success.

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