Thoughts on Leadership from A U.S. Army General

By Tyler Tompson – 


A podcast I listen to regularly and highly recommend is, Jocko Podcast, produced by former U.S. Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink. The podcast dives into real world solutions and strategies on leadership, managing teams, improving discipline, and much more. Again, I highly recommend it! On one of their recent episodes, episode 251, Jocko discussed a book written by 4-star U.S. Army General, Bruce C. Clarke titled, Guidelines for the Leader and Commander.


General Clarke graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1925 and served as a commander in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. During the podcast, Jocko reads several passages from General Clarke’s book about the General’s thoughts on leadership, morale, professionalism, and motivation.


The podcast covers just over 3 hours of audio, but below are just some starred bullet points that stood out to me in each category and what I took away from 4-star General Bruce C. Clarke:


On Leadership


  • An organization does well only those things the boss checks.
  • There are no poor companies in the Army—only poor company commanders.
  • You have to go after the facts, they won’t come to your office.
  • The successful commander in battle is at the critical place at the critical time.
  • Rank is given to you to enable you to better serve those above and below you. It is not given for you to practice your idiosyncrasies.
  • Learn to be a good and competent inspector. Those things not inspected are neglected.


On Learning & Instruction


  • Unless someone learns, you don’t teach.
  • Giving instructions so they can be understood is not enough. They must be given so they can’t be misunderstood.
  • Our schools should train leaders and commanders in how to train for the battle, not just for battle.
  • Start off each period of instruction with 2 statements:
    • Tell them what they are going to learn today.
    • Tell them why they need to know it.


While each of the bulleted points are directed towards higher ranking officials in the U.S. military, these all make me think about being a part of an organization or team as well. Managers, supervisors, coaches, captains, etc. are all a part of something bigger than themselves and must direct and communicate effectively to put others in a promising position to succeed.  


With that being said, you do not have to be in a titled leadership role to practice these. Observe those above you and even below you—what little habits or routines help them succeed? Think about your role models and who you most admire—why are they your role models? What do they do that makes you follow them and listen to them? Go through the bullet points above again and think about how you and your team fit into each one. Is there anything that needs to be discussed or altered?


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