Posted on Mar 10, 2014
CMSgt Mark Schubert
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I've talked with many officers throughout my career. I've noticed most have the ability to effectively lead and guide enlisted members. Most (not all) of the officers I've seen who are truly among the best are prior enlisted. Do you think being enlisted contributes to the leadership effectiveness of officers?
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Maj Chris Nelson
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I am one of those.  In some cases, the answer is no.  Some (very few, but they are out there), feel that because they were enlisted they know EXACTLY what the enlisted job is, and will not bend an inch to help with the mission and are very quick to remind the enlisted troops what they need to do. MOST, I feel have an additional insight that will help them lead and work with enlisted.  The fact that they have "been there, done that" sits well with many enlisted members. It also lends a degree of credibility when they speak.  The other thing that they are really good at is career counseling.  They are able to discuss some of the programs that are available to enlisted for crossing over, OR education.  The provide a wealth of info.  Are they really better LEADERS?  Maybe, maybe not, but they bring many other skills to the table that will benefit the troops that they are leading.
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LTC Paul Labrador
LTC Paul Labrador
>1 y
Being prior service may provide an advantage initially, but by the time an officer is a captain, the differences are much harder to spot.
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Capt Jeff S.
Capt Jeff S.
>1 y
Being prior enlisted is a two edged sword. It can work for or against you, depending on how you handle it.

Initially you get respect because of your background, but lazy troops will test you to see if they can use that to their advantage. "Aw come on Sir, you remember what it was like. Why do we have to dig in? We're just going to move in a couple hours..." While they might have a point, you still have orders to follow and if you falter in carrying them out it's you that's going to hang, not them.

You have to remember that you're not there to be buddies with the troops. Familiarity breeds contempt, so you have to maintain a certain amount of distance to keep things professional. You should ALWAYS project that officer image to them -- regardless of where you came from. They need to see you hanging with your peers, not them.

The benefit of having prior enlisted experience comes out in that you might have experience doing tasks that you are tasking them to do so you have a better idea of what to expect in terms of their performance. You're more savvy to what troops do to try and get over. It's easier to get into their heads and pick up on what they are thinking because you've been there and done that, but like LTC Paul Labrador said, the differences are harder to spot by the time officers reach captain.
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LT Louis McKellar
LT Louis McKellar
>1 y
My first duty onboard ship was electronic materials officer. The first PMS spot check I conducted was on the radar mast. I figured if I chose to go aloft 80 feet off the deck that no one would attempt to gun deck any preventative maintenance.
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LCDR Owner
LCDR (Join to see)
>1 y
If I am totally honest with myself, I think that my biggest mistake was that I was mentally still enlisted but wearing the butter bar. I had not fully made that transition and was not able to step back and see the bigger picture. I caution fellow enlisted that are becoming officers to not have that prior enlisted chip on your should. Yes, you should know the ropes. Yes, people will expect more of you. You still have a LOT to learn. Its just different stuff than a non prior.
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1SG Michael Blount
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Edited 10 y ago
PFC - this is as loaded as it gets. Simple answer is: it depends on the individual. If one is a natural leader, having previously been an NCO doesn't matter. Some officers - for example GEN Petraeus or GEN Ordierno (sp?) were never enlisted and they're outstanding leaders. By the same token, I've met met Officers who were prior enlisted and they turned out to be pretty squared away, too. The one thing that often happens is an Officer who was a prior NCO sometimes can't resist driving in the NCO lane and it causes me no end of ass-chap. That's a sure-fire sign of an insecure, incompetent leader. The answer is one of those "you'll know it when you see it" types of things. One size sure doesn't fit all in this case.
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SPC Multichannel Transmission Systems Operator/Maintainer
SPC (Join to see)
10 y
Thank you 1SG! I appreciate your advice
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MSgt Marvin Kinderknecht
MSgt Marvin Kinderknecht
>1 y
As a first 1SG i am sure you were exposed to many. Observation is the best and you are spot on. As a flyboy, I flew with thm all. good leaders, bad leaders, good pilots, bad pilots. it is the person that counts.
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SGM Matthew Quick
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Better? &nbsp;Maybe. &nbsp;More well-rounded? &nbsp;Definitely.<br><br>Having a better appreciation of 'where you came from' and for the ones you command /lead may keep someone grounded, when needed.
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SGT Writer
SGT (Join to see)
10 y
MSG, may I emphasize the "MAY" in your statement?
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SGM Matthew Quick
SGM Matthew Quick
10 y
By all means...care to elaborate for the Group?
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SGT Writer
SGT (Join to see)
6 y
SGM Matthew Quick - I'm guessing I'm just now seeing this because I wasn't "mentioned" per RP notification system.

I believe what I meant was similar to much of what Maj Chris Nelson said in his response. It can create a strong arrogance.
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