Ownership_3x5 Leadership

By Pete Fovargue

When I turned 16, I bought a red 1990 Dodge Dakota.

I washed that truck several times each month and did all of the routine maintenance. I drove it carefully and was reluctant to let anyone else drive it, even my parents. I was proud of my ride. That truck was a major step toward adulthood and the responsibility that comes with it. I felt complete ownership for my truck because my parents were clear. If you want a car, you buy it. If you want to drive your car, you pay for the gas. All of the costs and benefits were mine alone.

Ownership isn’t tied to a thing like a truck, it is tied to an environment. How many people change the oil in a rental car? For a rental car, it is completely different. You pay for the privilege to not care about the car itself, just the transportation it provides. You can forget about the responsibility of dings and scratches, just pay a small fee for insurance. You don’t care if the car gets regular oil changes.  You only care that it works for your week long vacation. Continue reading → Ownership

On-the-Job Development: Leaders as Teachers & Coaches

Leader Development Handbook Cover Image_3x5 Leadership

This is part 6 of the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook. I encourage you to start with the introduction here if you have not yet.

I have two whiteboards in my office; a 4×3 ft. one for big subjects and a 2×1.5 ft. “lap-sized” board for smaller scale ones. I’m using one of those whiteboards, if not both, every single day. I use them while counseling my Cadets, for teaching moments to help them make sense of new ways of thinking, and of course, to post the weekly #whiteboardwednesday quote. In fact, I just used my lap-board to draw out the first diagram below for one of my Cadets learning how to create developmental experiences for his subordinate.

I share this to communicate a key leader-developer lesson I’ve learned over the last year: every interaction I have with one of my Cadets is a “developmental communication” opportunity. I view every conversation I have with them, at an individual or collective level, through a developmental lens where I can teach, coach, mentor, or counsel. This applies to discussions in my office, passing a Cadet in the barracks hallway, during room inspections, training, meetings, a formal leader development session, or even running into them outside of the barracks on the way to/from class. Leaders can apply this same lens to their own people and organizational context. Continue reading → On-the-Job Development: Leaders as Teachers & Coaches

Are You Solving the Problems or Making them Worse?

Solving Soldiers Problems_3x5 Leadership

Guest post by Franklin Annis, creator of The Evolving Warfighter video blog

Former US Joint Chief of Staff and Secretary of State, Colin Powell, is credited for his famous quote about leaders handling their Soldiers’ problems:

“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

Continue reading → Are You Solving the Problems or Making them Worse?

Never Underestimate the Power of Appreciation

3x5 Leadership_Never Underestimate the Power of Appreciation

Opening note: I interchange the use of appreciation and gratitude in this post; they are synonymous.

I firmly believe that “true” leadership is based on influence, not power or authority. My favorite definition of leadership comes from John C. Maxwell, “leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” Leading through influence requires leaders to earn the trust of their people; through care, compassion, and empathy; and often being someone that others like to work with (termed social cohesion). One aspect of influence-based leadership that is often ignored is the act of showing appreciation and gratitude. Never underestimate the power of appreciation!

In his book, Love Does, Bob Goff states that, “people need love and appreciation more than they need advice.” I like to pair this thought with two other quotes to best capture the impact of appreciation in our leadership: Charles Schwab is credited for saying, “the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” Finally, author Gertrude Stein stated that, “silent gratitude isn’t [worth] very much to anyone.” Continue reading → Never Underestimate the Power of Appreciation

Do All Things with Energy and Optimism

Marshall_3x5 Leadership_Engery & Optimism

By Tom Correll

George C. Marshall is well known in leadership and military history circles for his service as Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and as one of the key architects of the Allied war effort in World War II. While his reputation is largely dominated by his later accomplishments, early actions were no less notable. Following duties in the Philippines, Marshall was assigned to the Allied Expeditionary Force in France during World War I, where he served with distinction in the 1st Infantry Division.

In the fall of 1920 Major Marshall, wrote to Brigadier General (Retired) John Mallory to document a previous conversation on “the advice I would give a young officer going to war, based on my observation of what had constituted the success of the outstanding figures in the American Expeditionary Forces.” (1-176 letter) Mallory was a competent professional of his own right, receiving two Silver Stars in the Philippines, and still found Marshall’s points compelling.

Marshall highlighted four main qualities: optimism, energy, loyalty, and determination. One hundred years later, this letter still resonates today. Continue reading → Do All Things with Energy and Optimism

A Final 3×5 Leadership Reflection on 2017…and A Look Toward 2018!


Over the 47 blog posts to date, there have been a few key posts that seemed to resonate most with readers. I wanted to end the year by highlighting the five most-read 3×5 Leadership blog posts of 2017 and share some insight into what I think that means. These five posts form only 11% of the total published blog material, but have generated 43% of the total traffic to the site. These posts mean something to readers and I think it is important to discover what that is.

Please share any thoughts you may have over the implications of these top five posts below. Is there anything that you feel we should investigate further and write about on the blog in 2018? I enjoy hearing and value others’ reflections on the blog’s material. Continue reading → A Final 3×5 Leadership Reflection on 2017…and A Look Toward 2018!

A Leader’s Mentality: Reflections for Junior Military Leaders

Jason Post Pic

3×5 Leadership Blog Note: This post’s author, Jason, was my third executive officer (XO) while I was in company command. He is a good friend and a professional I highly respect. In being the third XO during my command, Jason’s priorities were not on establishing new and robust unit systems; all of our management systems were in place for the most part. This provided him a rare opportunity to look beyond an XO’s daily “close fight” and pay attention to much larger-scope initiatives. Combining this opportunity with Jason’s professional maturity, high intellect, and passion for transformational leadership, he created the below list for other Lieutenant peers. I was immensely impressed with Jason’s reflections and feel many junior leaders can learn from them.  

By Jason Hu

As I neared the completion of my time as an executive officer and began preparing my replacement to assume responsibility; I wanted to summarize the principles I learned and tried to embody on a daily basis as a junior Army leader. When Josh was my commander, I learned and grew so much, and one of the things he indoctrinated in me was to “always leave the organization better than how you found it”. With that, I decided to write some of the tenets that guided me and publish them to other junior leaders within our company and battalion. Although these tenets are aimed towards junior leaders such as the XO, platoon leaders, and platoon-level NCOs, the extrapolated lessons can be applied to leaders in most echelons. I do not think these reflections are a proven recipe for success, but they do serve as a solid foundation to build upon; they worked for me, and they can be helpful to others too. Continue reading → A Leader’s Mentality: Reflections for Junior Military Leaders

Leadership Communication: “Here is the Most Important Place for Me to Be”


Inherent to leadership is communication. Whether it is an organizational vision, leader priorities and areas of emphasis, or showing genuine interest and concern for your people – all leaders have much to communicate in order to be effective.

Communication is both verbal and nonverbal. It is also formal and informal. As a leader, you communicate by speaking in formal meetings, talking to someone one-on-one in passing, and even when / where you choose to be present or not. Leader presence is one of the most critical methods of communication to your people and organization. When and where you choose to be at any moment as a leader sends a message. Moreover, how you act in those times sends the most salient message of all. Continue reading → Leadership Communication: “Here is the Most Important Place for Me to Be”

Lessons Learned in the Science & Art of (Engineer) Support to Army Maneuver Forces

Engineer Support Pic

This post is not only for engineers; it is about fulfilling your organizational role to support the “main effort” when you are not that main effort or are in a defined supporting position. It is about providing the best customer service through the capabilities you deliver. I apply the below concepts through the lens of being an Army combat engineer, which has been my professional experience. However, these concepts can relate to ANY position, both in and out of the military. Consider how these ideas can apply to your branch or current position. For Army maneuver readers (Infantry & Armor), this post can serve as a guide in what you should expect from a supporting enabler; demand these from those that support you…but also, help bring them onto the team and have them feel like a valued member in your organization.

Engineers exist for one reason at the Army tactical level: to support maneuver forces. Every capability we provide is to enable a maneuver unit to get to the objective and accomplish its mission. As Army engineers, we are required to be a “Swiss Army Knife” of capabilities, by enabling mobility, countermobility, and survivability; providing necessary general engineering support; and being able to lead our formations to fight as Infantry if required. Continue reading → Lessons Learned in the Science & Art of (Engineer) Support to Army Maneuver Forces

The Lost Art of Giving (Negative) Feedback

Feedback Pic

Earlier in my military career, a respected mentor of mine commented that “the Army has lost the art of giving negative feedback.” That statement resonated with me and has stuck with me for years since then. From my experience, Army leaders either fail to provide quality feedback to their subordinates intended to improve them, or do so in an ineffective and destructive manner (which undermines the ultimate purpose). We either are too afraid to have the hard conversations, fail to make time to provide feedback, or (worst case) we out right don’t value developing members of our team or organization with feedback. No matter the reason, it is our subordinates who suffer because a critical aspect of their leader development is missing.

I want to provide some in-depth reflection on the topic of “feedback,” based on both my professional experience as well as recent formal education. Below are my thoughts on effective feedback, which include lessons to consider and tips to incorporate into your own feedback methods. Continue reading → The Lost Art of Giving (Negative) Feedback