Last updated on: Mar 8, 2022


                Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 6-22 Leadership and the Profession outlines the leadership requirements model. The model identifies what the Army requires its leaders to BE, KNOW, and DO. The leader’s attributes (character, presence, and intellect) represent who they are while their competencies (leads, develops, and achieves) are what they do. While this model embodies the Army’s desire for well-rounded, ethical, complete leaders, it is also obvious that more slices of the leadership pie (Figure 1) are dedicated to DO than for BE and KNOW. Why is this the case? ADP 6-22 answers this question explaining that “competencies are skills that can be trained and developed while attributes encompass enduring personal characteristics, which are molded through experience over time” (emphasis added).[1] Attributes are shaped and reified as a result of exercising one’s agency in the world, not the other way around. Bottom line, the Army recognizes that it can build leaders and generate overall military effectiveness by establishing standards and measuring itself against those standards.

                I argue that in order to BE and KNOW the leader must DO. Doing, necessarily, is a requirement for being and knowing. Without the DO[2], leadership potential never develops in the individual because they never demonstrate their capacity, ability, intent, or commitment to BE and KNOW. ADP 6-22 again supports my position by defining leadership as “the activity of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization” (emphasis added).[3] By establishing this basic premise that leadership requires action I aim to reaffirm that while anyone can be a leader, not everyone is one. In a profession that expects every individual to be a leader[4] and upholds leadership as its greatest catalyst to mission success and the most dynamic element of combat power,[5] why then isn’t everyone a leader and what should we do about this? The answer to these questions is beyond the scope of this essay, but I ask them to provide a backdrop to this discussion.

                This paper is all about embracing competence as the key to leader development. Competence requires effort, movement, and action as well as an objective standard by which to measure it. It is the antithesis of laziness, stagnation, ineptitude and subjectivity. Just as competence is the watchword by which the Army establishes its military effectiveness, so too must this be the watchword of the leader. In what follows I provide four separate examples that display the irrevocable nature of action and leadership.

Figure 1
To Do or Not to Do, That Is The Only Question!

                Individuals that don’t DO never manifest or translate their BE and KNOW into anything tangible (e.g., achieving an objective) or intangible (e.g., creating a positive command climate). The leader must first demonstrate their disposition to DO before they can ever claim to BE or to KNOW. For example, a Soldier must first demonstrate their proficiency with map reading and land navigation by plotting points on the map, orienting their map appropriately, planning a route, counting out their pace count, measuring distance, shooting azimuths, and ultimately finding their points before they are said to BE proficient at land navigation or KNOW how to read a map. Proficiency, expertise, and mastery are only demonstrated through action and are measured against a standard. The Soldier who continually fails on the land navigation course yet claims that he knows how to read a map and is good at land navigation not only lies to himself, but loses the respect, trust, and confidence of his fellow Soldiers, leaders, and subordinates.[6] Objectivity is derived from an established standard. You are not proficient at land navigation if you never find points, no matter what you subjectively think or say! Getting results transcends finding your points on the land navigation course. Leadership is no different. A leader who cannot and is not hitting the target on the leadership requirements model is not a leader! Because the individual’s actions and not their personality, skin color, quirks, or other identity markers are the hallmarks of their leadership capabilities they can thereby be evaluated and judged against a standard. Again, the leadership requirements model fills this billet.

                The other two aspects of leadership, to BE and to KNOW, are also verbs. This means that in order to establish that one is and that one knows, one must first do! That is, the relationship between the three variables is circular and grounded in the fundamental fact that the individual must act in order to manifest results. Without action, being and knowing remain mere potential and theoretical. I may claim to BE a great pianist, but until I actually play the piano no one will ever KNOW if I am because I cannot be judged against a standard. Likewise, I may say that I KNOW calculus, but until I DOsome equations, show my work, proof my work, and get the correct answer, then I cannot claim to BE a mathematician. Forrest Gump’s momma always said that “Stupid is as stupid does.” I say that a leader is as a leader does. A leader’s actions serve as evidence for their competency and character. Without action the leader is as useless as any other inanimate object— if not worse. Lack of action is an action in and of itself. Life expects nothing from a rock. We expect the world from our leaders. Designated leaders, by virtue of rank, position, or context are expected to translate potential and possibilities into reality. As the decisive aspect of combat power, leadership translates unrealized potential into action through action.[7] LeaDOship is at its core just a compilation of many tasks to accomplish a purpose. These tasks take many forms, such as actively listening, leading by example, creating shared understanding, etc., but the purpose remains consistent— provide a purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization. This purpose is scalable and applies to the most junior Soldier through the most senior general and nests within the professional framework of the Army.

DO as I Say and Do as I Do

                Notice the lack of say in the leadership requirements model. The classic counterproductive leadership maxim is “Do as I say, not as I do.”[8] This statement affirms that the individual wants others to consciously ignore the fact that their actions do not align with their words. Essentially, the individual is avowing “I am a hypocrite!” Say is an important intentional omission in the leadership requirements model because it shows that the Army acknowledges the fact that humans are primarily visual learners. We read facial features of others while they speak, we watch them interact with others and their environment and remember what they’ve said, and we see what they do in comparison with what they say or what the established standard is. To combat this type of counterproductive leadership, I argue that the adage should be “Do as I say and Do as I do” because we recognize that we do communicate with others verbally and physically! To retain our leadership integrity our audio must match our visual.

                LeaDOship necessarily means leading by example. Trust, the fundamental currency involved in leadership, is gained and maintained by doing things that others can witness and feel. Through doing we allow others to verify and validate the intent (words) in conjunction with the effects (actions). As I discussed above, communication naturally sets the conditions for trust to develop and grow. As the saying goes, if it walks, talks, and acts like a duck, it’s probably a duck. The same can be said for a leader. When word and deed are incongruous the authenticity of the leader is questioned, and trust is sacrificed. On the contrary, when the leader “talks the talk and walks the walk” they strengthen the bonds of trust with others. Moreover, because leaDOship is proven through actions, then an objective evaluation model can be established for training, mentoring, and assessment.

                The Army’s model takes form as the Officer and Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Reports. The beauty of these assessment tools is that because BE and KNOW are nested into the individual’s DO, evaluators need only look at the individual’s actions to determine where they lie on the continuum of commitment to BE and KNOW. Our leadership doctrine supports this claim: “Leaders who intentionally live by the Army Values and the Warrior Ethos will consistently display the character and actions that set a positive example” (emphasis added).[9] If the leader is doing the standard, then they are the standard and probably know it too.[10]

The Physics of LeaDOship

                Outside of simply providing purpose, direction, and motivation the leader’s responsibility is to get results, accomplish the mission, and improve the organization.[11] The leader works within a system of systems, called echelons, and is responsible for producing positive change within those systems to manifest desired effects elsewhere. A leader does this primarily through action and action may be transcribed as work. Work is the primary means by which the state of a system is changed. Energy is the ability to do work.[12] For example, a commander must accurately assess the current state of their unit in order to determine what, how, and why it needs to change. This may result in identifying the need to improve the climate or simply deploy it to the field more often to codify its standard operating procedures (SOP). In either case work must be done and the leader must expend energy to do it. Depending on the context, the leader may have to inject more energy into the system to get it working. The system we’re talking about, of course, involves other people which is why leaDOship is fundamentally a human endeavor.

                Kinetic, mechanical, physical action is the highest form of energy that humans can exchange with our environment. By comparison, other forms such as chemical and thermal energy decrease significantly in their potential for work. Social dynamics and interactions parallel the laws of physics. Are you surprised that nothing gets done while we all sit around and talk about a problem? Or, worse yet, when we let problems fester and metastasize by ignoring them?[13] Talking merely generates heat, the lowest form of energy, and ignoring a problem often saps energy from a system in other ways. It is only when someone gets up and physically acts on the problem that it gets solved. Of course, active discussion and problem-solving is inherent to leading, but the act of accomplishing the mission takes physical work to complete. Moreover, physical, mechanical work also generates heat as a byproduct, so when things are getting done, heat is naturally being produced and disseminated throughout the organization. This may manifest as heightened esprit-de-corps or inspired subordinates who witness and experience the effects of good leadership and wish to emulate it themselves. The undeniable truth here is that leaders must be doers if they wish to get results.

                Most importantly, a leader’s physical actions produce reverberating and reciprocating effects in an organization. In physics this process is called entropy and is embodied in the Army’s philosophy of mission command. Entropy carries a negative connotation tied to disorder or chaos in a system; however, I understand the concept in a more positive light since, unlike inanimate particles in physics, humans can act autonomously within their environment. We are not simply billiard balls on a table that interact with each other, the walls, and the pockets due to causes and effects out of our control or against our will. We are guided by morals, emotions, desires, duties, and reason. Therefore, it is within an individual’s capacity and disposition to act in ways that exponentially increase the energy in a system, rather than dissipate it into chaos and disorder. Because the entropy of a system is tied to the amount of energy present in that system then it stands that an organization that is all say, and no do won’t produce results while an organization that says and does will! In his book Leaders Eat Last Simon Sinek provides another physics analogy. He says “In physics, the definition of power is the transfer of energy. We measure the power of a lightbulb in watts. The higher the wattage, the more electricity is transferred into light and heat and the more powerful the bulb. Organizations are the same way. The more energy is transferred from the top of the organization to those who are actually doing the job, those who know more about what’s going on on a daily basis, the more powerful the organization and the more powerful the leader.”[14]

                The Army understands these principles and applies them to our concept of mission command to counteract the fog and friction of war. Mission command is “the Army’s approach to command and control that empowers subordinate decision making and decentralized execution appropriate to the situation.”[15] Mission command is a philosophy of action that corroborates the laws of physics and places leaders responsible for generating entropy within their respective systems by transferring power down through the ranks. Mission command operates on mutual trust between professionals and that trust is built on individual competence. Mission command cannot work as a philosophy of command and control without competent individuals at echelon who trust one another. The Army, recognizing leadership as both a multiplying and unifying element of combat power, applies leadership through mission command.[16]

LeaDOship and Golden Rule Ethics

                Golden Rule Ethics and LeaDOship are symbiotic because, like gold, you can verify their authenticity. No subjective judgement call is requested or required. It’s the gold standard. The Army Values and Ethic are based in the Golden Rule principle of “treat others like you want to be treated” (emphasis added).[17] LeaDOers are leaders who understand this standard and embrace the fact that their character is objectively judged against it through their actions. Living by the Golden Rule requires that an individual acknowledge the humanity in others and act in ways that affirms this knowledge through mutual respect. Moreover, it means that the individual must expose themselves to hardships, trials and tribulations in order to better understand themselves. A fundamental aspect to this principle and to leadership is self-awareness.[18] When one has insight into oneself, one has insight into others and vice versa. We develop this insight through action.[19]

                Because LeaDOers are leaders who live by this standard, naturally, other aspects of the leadership requirements model supervene on this most basic principle. Golden Rule Ethics is rooted in the BE aspect of a leader’s character but prevails in the other attributes and competencies through the leader’s actions. In order to BE disciplined, the leader must DO the right thing (Character). In order to BE physically fit a leader must DO physical training (Presence). In order to KNOW one’s job and BE an expert one must DO it (Intellect). A leader does all of these things because it is what they expect from their own leaders and followers. The leader leads by example because, as a follower, they too want to be led viscerally (Leads). The leader develops others and creates a positive environment because they too want to be developed and work in a unit with high esprit-de-corps and camaraderie (Develops). Finally, the leader executes, adapts, and gets results because they want others to operate with the same mentality that they do (Achieves). LeaDOship and Golden Rule Ethics revolve around the premise that in order to maintain the title of leader an individual must actively and consistently display (treat) their desire (want) to BE, KNOW, and DO.


                I’ve explained how action is fundamental to leadership. My intent for this essay is to strip away any rationalized or emotional excuse that anyone has for not being a leader or understanding what is required of a leader. The Army makes its expectations abundantly clear and offers us a plethora of examples and doctrine to help us to BE leaders and KNOW leadership. Moreover, due to its hierarchical design, propensity for putting us in difficult environments and situations, and fusing mission accomplishment with taking care of people, the Army affords us ample opportunities to DO leadership. Leaders don’t manifest out of thin air by talking about awesome Leadership Development Programs that will never come to fruition, nor is leadership so esoteric that only the brilliant and gifted few can be leaders. It is not a birth rite, genetics, education, rank, or class that makes someone a leader. LeaDOship is a mentality and a way of life based in the simple principle of action.

                Because leadership transcends domain specificity leaders must therefore do the same. It is not enough that we as a profession of arms talk about leadership and record stellar examples, relegating it only to the institutional domain. We must transform that knowledge into appropriate action in the operational domain too.[20] The medium between the institutional and operational domains is the individual and the form of training that actualizes leadership is called self-development.[21] Development of the self inherently means that change is occurring in the individual, that they are growing, maturing, improving, progressing, and advancing. Just as movement and action are inherent to existence both on and off the battlefield and in nature, leadership too is vital to maintaining our status as a profession of arms.[22] Leadership is simple, but not easy.[23] Just DO it.

[1] ADP 6-22, section 1-85.

[2] A purely coincidental, yet convenient happenstance is that DO, the action, can also be contrived as D.O., decisive operation. I take DO to be the decisive aspect of the leadership triad. Being and knowing shape and sustain the leaders’ actions. See ADP 3-0 Operations, sections 4-26 through 4-30 for further descriptions.

[3] ADP 6-22, section 7-2.

[4] Before crying foul to this statement, remember that the Army recognizes its hierarchical nature. Therefore, all Army leaders are also followers. See ADP 6-22, sections 1-102 through 1-104. Leadership and followership are two sides of the same coin. Moreover, this statement still applies to the most junior Soldier because the situation, enemy, and the environment always have a vote. See ADP 6-22, sections 1-89 and 1-98.

[5] FM 3-0, chapter 2, section 2-110.

[6] This is rampant in our current culture of “making the slides green.” See Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession by Leonard Wong and Stephen J. Gerras (Carlisle, PA: US Army War College Press, February 2015).

[7] FM 3-0, page 2-21, section 2-108.

[8] ADP 6-22, pages 8-7 to 8-8. “Counterproductive leadership is the demonstration of leader behaviors that violate one or more of the Army’s core leader competencies or Army Values, preventing a climate conducive to mission accomplishment.”

[9] ADP 6-22, section 5-62.

[10] ADP 6-22, section 1-91.

[11] ADP 6-22, section 7-2.

[12] Bas C. van Fraassen An Introduction to the Philosophy of Space and Time pages 99-101.

[13] This is the elephant in the room problem. It isn’t until that elephant is called out and acted on that it goes away. For example, everyone can hear the leaking faucet, but it won’t stop dripping until someone fixes it.

[14] Leaders Eat Last, chapter 18, page 229. See also chapter 27, page 349.

[15] ADP 6-0, section 1-14.

[16] ADP 3-0, section 5-4.

[17] ADP 6-22, section 1-44. See also Table 1-1.

[18] ADP 6-22, section 1-92.

[19] David Epstein discusses this in chapter 7 of his book Range. The subtitle, Why Generalists Triumph In a Specialized World, suits this article because leadership is fundamentally a human endeavor that requires a broad epistemic social palette. One cannot effectively function as a leader if they only understand themselves or others in a single context. Exposure to other domains (cultures, environments, psychological and emotional conditions, etc.) is essential for developing a leader’s sense of self and of others as it opens up their proverbial map of the world and allows the leader to view themselves and others from different azimuths and vantage points.

[20] In his book The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb covers this deficiency of human nature. He says that “this inability to automatically transfer knowledge and sophistication from one situation to another, or from theory to practice, is a quite disturbing attribute of human nature” (Chapter 5, pg. 139). Here, he refers specifically to inconsistencies in logical reasoning, but I also think that this applies to the fact that understanding a concept does not necessitate that one will act on that knowledge. Knowing is not doing.

[21] ADP 7-0 Training discusses the three training domains.

[22] ADP 6-22, section 1-8. “Without leadership, there is no profession, only bureaucracy.” See also Don M. Snider’s Will Army 2025 be a Military Profession?

[23] I borrow this phrase “simple, but not easy” from Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. The underlying message is that leadership as a science is well documented and many “formulas”, principles, and maxims have been created to show the methods and means to becoming a leader; however, the application of these methods and means requires skill, understanding, and nuance. This is what makes leadership an art and a science.

This article was published on page 4 in the October-December edition of The Army Aviation Digest found here.
Written by <a href="https://www.callsignsandoval.com/author/matt/" target="_self">Matt Sandoval</a>

Written by Matt Sandoval

Hi, I’m Matt. I am an active duty Soldier in the United States Army. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in NeuroExperimental Psychology and a Master’s degree in Philosophy. I am highly competitive in all activities (work and recreation), but my personality is a strange concoction of Seinfeld and Stoicism. I am interested a wide-variety of philosophical and military topics and gravitate towards discussions of human experience. I have a penchant for planning, organization, and building teams. If you’re looking for information, advice, or dialogue on leadership, metaphysics, or a bit of wit infused with some healthy cynicism then I’m your guy.
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