Tanks, Leadership and Extra Duties

ED Note: The following article by Major Eric Angell (22140) is the 3rd  of four armoured corps related articles which were all written during the Spring of 2014. They were originally scheduled to appear in the Summer edition of the Veritas magazine. Due to a large number of other submitted articles, space limitations became a problem. Consequently they have been reassigned to e-Veritas.

The articles are well done, still relevant and are aimed at the cadet readership. Others will certainly find them interesting too.

In an effort to prevent overload we have decided to spread these articles over four Issues. The links to the first two articles are provided below.

Enjoy.

Tanks, Leadership and Extra Duties

Major Eric Angell (22140)

Given that I am currently the Officer Commanding (OC) A Squadron (Leopard 2) at Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), I will start by extolling the virtues of the tank. The tank, more specifically the Leopard 2, is the consummate war machine. Those who have had the incredible fortune to work in or around tanks will know what I mean; I hope the rest of you unfortunate people can envision the tank’s awesomeness from my words alone.

I do not claim to be a truly great leader, or to possess the “secrets” of leadership that I can pass along to you, the readers. However, I have made it this far so I must be doing a few things right. First off, you will make mistakes (Big Ones!) with potentially life and death consequences. The key is to do everything you can to avoid mistakes (through careful thought and planning) and to accept responsibility. You made the mistake, so own up to it. Your soldiers will respect you for it.

I firmly believe that to be a good leader, you must first be a good follower. As a leader you must be unafraid of really getting to know your subordinates, their families, their motivations etc. A great way to do this is to spend time with them at work and in the field. Assist them when you have the time, turning a few wrenches now and then can be a great opportunity to get to know your subordinates.

I also believe that mentorship is vital to the success of the military. We cannot expect the leaders of the future to excel, if we don’t put any time and effort into ensuring they succeed and are allowed to make and learn from mistakes. You are the “mentee” now, and will be for the next little while. Do not be afraid to ask questions and to take the advice of your NCOs. I guarantee that they have been there and done that! Also, observe other leaders and determine what are the good traits to emulate and what are the bad traits to avoid. Even though you should never attempt to copy someone else’s leadership style, you can nevertheless learn many good lessons from simple observation. Like the Kaiser said: “I never learn from my own mistakes, I prefer to learn from the mistakes of others” (loosely translated from German). Be yourself, and be honest to yourself. Also remember that once you have made the transaction from “mentee” to “mentor” you have the obligation to pass on your hard earned knowledge to those coming behind you.

Be clear in your intent and direction, leave room for initiative, but never for misinterpretation. I learned this lesson the hard way, which takes me back to my point about owning your mistakes, and also the last part of the title. I did more extra duties as an OC than as a subaltern!

Lastly, never forget or take for granted how awesome your job really is. Being in the military is without a doubt the coolest job on the planet. Remember that, enjoy it, and have fun.

Perseverance.

Previous articles from two previous armoured corps related articles:

 Coles Notes on the Workings of the armoured corps

RMCC to Battle Captain