I must say right off the bat these are qualities that I have seen in Officers that I look up to, and I know that there are other fine qualities that we should all aspire to. With that in mind, I also know that every Officer is fallible and not always perfect.
5 Qualities of a Great Officer:
Here they are –
“...do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4
The marks of a good officer must include the deep desire to help others see Christ, to be like Christ, but it takes intentionality and passion to do this! Officers, and anyone in leadership for that matter, must take the time to actually care for others. This is why we exist as an Army: Christ and Others!! Without these two things we are just another social services agency. It can be tempting to think of an appointment as a stepping stone, but if we ever entertain those notions we will forget about others and in turn we will lose our personal mission as an officer.
This doesn’t mean that we do not do self-care from time to time, but it does mean that a good officer is not self-indulgent, prideful and aloof from the people we are supposed to care for. Great officers stay connected to others, they engage others and they prompt others challenge themselves and to grow.
4. Quality, Intentional Family Time
Another mark of a great officer, is the ability to carve out intentional quality time with the family. We have all heard of horror stories of that Officer Brat or rebellious child who just left or made poor choices in life. I’m not saying that a great officer can always prevent this, because children will grow up, become adults and make their own decisions. What I am saying is that when parents take the time to be parents, and spend quality time (I know it can’t always be quantity time), we will have children who are healthier, better connected and well rounded. There are no absolutes to parenting, I know this, but I also know how important it is for officers to be parents to their children! I’ve heard it said, and I’m sure you have too that an officer’s first ministry is to their children/families.
A great officer is intentional about spending quality time with the family. Christmas time is difficult in many places in the Army, but perhaps it’s that hour you spend reading a book to your small children, or it’s the going out to get that hot chocolate.
Note: Married Officer- this includes spending quality time with each other, no matter how hard or insane your schedule is – make room!!
3. Decisiveness Even When Others Disagree
“A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows the public opinion.” -A Chinese Proverb
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” — John C. Maxwell
The marks of a great Officer might also include listening to others and taking good counsel, but when the rubber meets the road, a good officer must be decisive in decisions and in the direction the ministry should go. So what if it fails? So what it we make mistakes? If we are prayerful, and we allow good counsel in, we fail knowing we did what was right. Great officers don’t just lead by consensus, but they keep to the mission, and if the mission could get lost because of consensus, they steer decisions with mission in mind.
It is much easier to lead when everyone agrees with you, but when there are dissenters and you must still make the right conscious decision, it becomes hard. Great Officers will lead sometimes despite those who will disagree. Leadership with conviction and the doing right thing, amidst conflict or opposing thought is true leadership!
*Disclaimer, if an Officer has wise counsel that is missional and good, and it is ignored, perhaps one should reconsider the above conclusion. Great Officers don’t lead like dictators and push their own selfish agendas through – this would be the antithesis of “great leadership”.
2. Compassionate and Gracious
“A leader is not an administrator who loves to run others, but someone who carries water for his people so that they can get on with their jobs.”
— Robert Townsend
Another mark of a great Officer is the capacity for compassion and grace. This is closely related to the care of “Others”! Compassion and grace can often be set aside of efficiency and “getting the job done”. When officers run through their administrative duties as well as their pastoral duties, the first thing that seems to go is the capacity to slow down and care for people. Being a great officer means that one will take the time to hear about other people’s problems, to show compassion and to be involved in the lives of their corps members or those they lead. If an officer wants others to follow them, it won’t be conducted through declarations of power and asserting authority, it will be done by gentleness, kindness, compassion and genuine care. The great officers that I have known possess this certain type of seemingly endless patience and grace, that kind that I can only hope to achieve. Admittedly, I am often impatient, short with people, and sometimes my capacity for compassion is lacking…But I don’t want to remain here, no, not at all! I aspire (as I’m sure you do too) to be like those Officers that have displayed this remarkable characteristic to me (us).
1. Great Officers Admit When They Are Wrong
Here is the “pride-swallowing” conclusion to this very short list.
Great Officers admit when they are wrong. There, I’ve said…the end. (Just kidding) If they make mistakes, a good officer will own up to it. If they say something to offend, a good officer will go to that person. Great Officers, from those that I have observed, are able to humble themselves and admit to missteps. This confession allows for vulnerability and makes leadership more human and accessible.
There are, of course, underlying currents and themes here within this list:
Things like: Mission, Humility, Love, Holiness, Faith, and Wisdom.
The Characteristics are necessary for the development of Great Officer. I know that I’m not there yet, but I do strive to be the very best follower of Christ that I can be – and admittedly I fail many times. Do you? I guess it is in how we learn and grow from those failures that define us. We ought not strive to be a mediocre anything! Do not settle for mediocrity in life!
Dare I say, mediocre officers can be a dime a dozen…but Great Officers – they can be a real rarity in our Army…Dear Officers, let’s strive to be Great Officers. Not in some sort of prideful, power-mongering way, but through these qualities list above. Let Christ be seen in you every day. I must decrease, and He must increase! (John 3:30)
Something more for the Army world to ponder today!
Further Readings on this topic:
Colonel Allen Satterlee’s latest Article
Commissioner Jim Knaggs
Commissioner Harry Read’s Heart Talks Selection
and Kinda -sorta off topic, but not really:
From Good To Great by Jim Collins