A Junior Officer’s Perspective on Surviving as an Aide-de-Camp: 6 Rules for Success

Aide-de-Camp Rules_3x5 Leadership

By CPT Desmond Clay (LG), CPT Paul Guzman (AR), and CPT Kyle Hensley (LG)

Serving as an aide-de-camp to a General Officer is a humbling and unique experience. This is one of the relatively rare jobs where a junior officer has an opportunity to gain insight on how the “Big Army” runs. Although it has been a few years since we served as aide-de-camps (AdC), there are a few enduring lessons we would like to share. Rarely is the transition period long enough to capture or discuss every possible contingency. Although there is a formal course for an enlisted aide, there is not a course for an AdC. Luckily, there is a General Officer Aide Handbook to help you navigate through this small community with some really helpful tips (1). We think there are six rules for success. Continue reading → A Junior Officer’s Perspective on Surviving as an Aide-de-Camp: 6 Rules for Success

Happiness and Success: Embracing Your Unit, Soldiers, and Oneself for Outstanding Leadership and Fulfillment

Happiness and Success_3x5 Leadership

By Harrison “Brandon” Morgan

As a young Cadet at West Point, like many of my fellow classmates, I dreamed of one day becoming a Special Forces team leader, leading my detachment through the trials of unconventional warfare. During two separate summers, I even attempted both the Combat Diver Course and Special Forces Selection.

It didn’t work out. I’m currently a staff officer in an armored brigade. And I absolutely love it. Before this assignment, I served as a Platoon Leader and Executive Officer in an Airborne Infantry Battalion with a completely different mission, culture, and capability set. The leaders that I have seen who were the happiest and, correspondingly, the most successful in these diverse units displayed the same tenants that can be applied in any formation across the Army. Continue reading → Happiness and Success: Embracing Your Unit, Soldiers, and Oneself for Outstanding Leadership and Fulfillment

How Are We Actually Developing Leaders?

Leader Development Handbook Cover Image_3x5 Leadership

This is part 4 of the 3×5 Leader Development Handbook. I encourage you to start with the introduction here if you have not yet.

John Maxwell states that, “everything rises and falls on leadership.”

Jocko Willink claims that, “the most important element on the battlefield is leadership.”

GEN (Ret.) David Perkins asserts that in every organization he has seen in his 38-year career, the one “essential sauce” that was needed for success was leadership.

If success on the battlefield, in the workplace, and in our lives comes down to leadership, how are we deliberately developing others and ourselves to become better leaders? How are we impacting the 2nd and 3rd generations of leaders in our organization? Developing our people to become better leaders is far too important to merely resort to passive means or to leave it as an afterthought. We must implement a defined leader development process. Continue reading → How Are We Actually Developing Leaders?

Celebrating Two Years of Leader Development!

2 Year Anniversary Post_3x5 Leadership

Today, 3×5 Leadership turns two years old. Though I never really expected anyone beyond my wife and my mom to read my thoughts on this blog, I started it to share my lessons learned from my experiences and education; my experiences may be singular, but the lessons from them certainly are not. In time, I’ve learned that my blogging has become a critical means of personal reflection, which has ultimately made me a better leader. I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to contribute to our community of practice over the last two years and I look forward to doing so still in the years to come.

So, first, thank you all for your continued support. One year ago today, 3×5 Leadership had 100 subscribers. Over this past year, our subscriber community has grown to almost 1,300 and we surpassed the 100,000 views threshold. I’m certainly not motivated by, nor do I do this for the numbers, but it is humbling to know that this platform has had some sort of impact on a few other people. So, again, thank you for your support. Continue reading → Celebrating Two Years of Leader Development!

Reflection Series, Part V: Organizational Reflection

3x5 Leadership_Leader Reflection Series

Thus far, this series has analyzed reflection at the individual level and how it helps us learn as leaders to improve our leadership. We conclude the series, however, looking at reflection at the organizational level and how a team can collectively reflect. Reflecting at the organizational level becomes a driving force that leads to collective institutional learning. Just like our own individual learning through reflection makes us better leaders, reflecting as a group or team can make us more effective as an organization.

Below are a few recommended organizational reflective exercises to help your team collectively “connect the dots” and figure out what to with those new connections. Continue reading → Reflection Series, Part V: Organizational Reflection

Reflection Series, Part IV: An Approach

3x5 Leadership_Leader Reflection Series

“Preparation and reflection must be the bookends of every experience we encounter as well as ones we offer our subordinates.” – Unknown

This is one of my personal favorite leadership quotes because it stresses the value of two often overlooked aspects of experiential learning. Preparing and reflecting are critical for maximizing learning from our experiences. Reflection, especially, is so often ignored in the actual execution of leader development, which I touch on in part II of this series.

This series aims to provide my perspective and lessons on what I’ve come to learn about reflection, specifically how to engage in it. Last week, in part III of the series, I shared several popular methods for reflection. Now, I provide a personal approach to incorporate a holistic reflective system into your learning and development. This is how I reflect on a routine basis.

Remember, reflection is highly individual and you may prefer to reflect in ways that I don’t and vice versa. My goal in sharing my personal reflective approach is to show you how certain reflective activity “puzzle pieces” can be pieced together to have a big impact. If you are new to this reflection series, I encourage you to start at the beginning, in part I, which introduces this abstract reflection concept. Continue reading → Reflection Series, Part IV: An Approach

Reflection Series, Part III: How Leaders Can Reflect

3x5 Leadership_Leader Reflection Series

Thus far in this reflection series, we’ve addressed what reflection is and why it is important for leaders. If you are new to this series, I encourage you to check out part I and part II of this series first.

Next, we begin to address how to actually engage in reflection. I’ve found these activities to be most effective in the continuous process of “collecting dots and connecting those dots.” The remaining parts to this series aim to materialize this abstract theory and turn it into tangible application.

Reflection Process Framework

Before addressing common reflective activities, I believe it is important to establish a reflection process framework to follow. In order to make reflection as beneficial as possible, the following four things should be met; they can serve as your reflection checklist. Continue reading → Reflection Series, Part III: How Leaders Can Reflect

Reflection Series, Part II: Why Reflecting Is Important

3x5 Leadership_Leader Reflection Series

In part I of this reflection series, I introduced the act of reflecting and how it tends to be viewed as a magical, abstract concept, and less as a deliberate process that leaders can enact. I offered my definition of reflection and addressed the performing and learning dichotomy for leaders. If you haven’t check it out, start the series with part I here.

After defining reflection, it’s important to address why reflection is actually important. In part I, I stated that reflection is critical for effective and sustainable leader development and growth; experience and new knowledge alone is not sufficient for impactful leader growth. Yet, it is often hard to get leaders to commit to routine, deliberate reflection. I believe this is because our professional cultures are over-oriented on performance (we always need to be “doing something”), don’t understand the reflection process, and/or can’t see reflection’s return on investment (we often struggle to show others the product or value of our reflecting habits). This part of the series serves as my argument to others to commit to reflecting. Below I outline why reflection is important as to help readers understand its value and to encourage you to consider engaging reflection activities (which I introduce in part III). Continue reading → Reflection Series, Part II: Why Reflecting Is Important

Reflection Series, Part I: An Introduction to the Abstract

3x5 Leadership_Leader Reflection Series

How many of us can recall at least one instance of sitting in some lecture or professional development session where the speaker commented, “So, as you reflect on…” or “I challenge you to reflect on this matter this week and…”? Moreover, I personally have yet to find a formal leader development model that does not include some major component titled “reflection.” We cannot escape this word in any conversation relating to leadership or leader development.

So, if reflection is so important to leadership and leader development, how in the heck do we do it? When I think about reflection, I think about some abstract artistic process where a highly-creative leader comes up with a profound product or quote. I envision a leader like John Maxwell going into a room alone and emerging hours later covered in sweat and a whiteboard filled with his new “beautiful mind” revelations. I find this discouraging because I’m not known to be a creative person.

However, I’m a leader, therefore I must reflect, right? Short answer: Yes! Reflection is critical for effective and sustainable leader development and growth. Experience and new knowledge (such as from reading or formal education) alone is not sufficient for impactful leader growth. We need to deliberately take time to think about what we’ve experienced and learned, clarify and make meaning of the lesson, and be able to do something different in the future to improve our impact and performance as leaders. With that being said, reflection is much more of an art than a science. No two people reflect in the same way. Continue reading → Reflection Series, Part I: An Introduction to the Abstract

4 Questions to Make Your Organization and People Better

4 Questions to Make Your Organization and People Better_3x5 Leadership

A number of weeks ago, I asked readers for feedback about the blog through an online survey. I greatly appreciate your time and for sharing your honest thoughts. The #1 piece of feedback centered on practical application, how to materialize the ideas shared through each blog post. Many claimed they appreciated the amount of application found in the posts; others voiced a desire for even more. Message received; this post is strictly application and I will continue to maintain appropriate doses of practical application as I continue to write. Again, thanks for the feedback!

In the US Army, there is an unpopular, but necessary unit duty called Staff Duty. For those not familiar, this 24-hour shift encompasses non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and junior officers serving as the unit commander’s representative for any issue that arises during their tour of duty. This duty is shared by the junior and mid-level leaders within the organization, where most NCOs and officers complete a staff duty tour once every month to quarter. Responsibilities include receiving and escorting VIPs, receiving and managing notices to Soldiers from external agencies (such as the Red Cross), inspecting the unit areas for good order and discipline, managing any emergency that occurs that day (such as barracks maintenance emergencies), and anything else the commander deems necessary. Other military services have a similar duty, such as the Navy’s officer on watch. At the United States Military Academy (USMA), my current assignment, cadet sophomores fulfill this duty for each cadet company, known as the Cadet in Charge of Quarters (CCQ).

Often, this duty is viewed as a check-the-block event, where you conduct your duties, try and stay awake and engaged during your shift, and count the hours until your replacement arrives. However, I’ve come to realize that there is a lot of potential to incorporate leader development into staff duty-like shift assignments. Especially as a current Tactical Officer of USMA cadets, where I get limited touchpoints with cadets each day, I wanted to incorporate some form of leader development into this typically monotonous task. Continue reading → 4 Questions to Make Your Organization and People Better