New Leader Syndrome

DrillMasterAsk DrillMaster, Instructional 2 Comments

Yes, it’s true, there is a plague that spreads about this time every year among many schools’ JROTC programs: the new leadership for the unit is being picked and the old leadership is getting ready to graduate. Here is the question I get most often at the end of each school year:

“I’m going to be the new (Armed/Unarmed Drill Team, Color Guard, Honor Guard) commander next year and the graduating leadership was less than desirable (or, never wrote anything down, etc.). Do you have any advice for me?”

Thanks to my friend Austin Reid, I was prompted to write about this serious condition. The answer is “YES! I have some great advice!”

  1. Mandatory: Start conditioning your mind and body so you can come in fresh from the summer ready to tackle the challenges of your new position.
    • Mind: Know your service’s drill and ceremonies manual like the back of your hand. Read it again and again. Know everything there is to know about it, everything. And when someone asks you a question and you cannot remember specifically, NEVER just go off memory, double check with the manual, always.
    • Body: Cardio and strength training exercise along with good stretching. Do you have to be the next Mr. or Mrs. Universe? No, of course not. But daily exercise is very good for you and, believe me, when you get older you will appreciate keeping a good regimen.
  2. Optional: Read other materials that will help you in your new position like, say (you didn’t expect me to leave my own books out of this, did you?):

So, there you have it: Education and conditioning are two of the keys to leadership.

The other keys are temperance, a cool head, patience,care, etc.

Comments 2

  1. Another good tip for a new Commander (of either the Unit/Battalion/Team/Etc) is that you need to very quickly establish yourself as the definitive leader, beyond question, of whatever it is you’re commanding.

    In JROTC Units command roles are typically given to seniors. That means that they’ve had nearly 3 years to get to know, befriend, and joke around with the juniors, and the same for the sophomore class. Some Cadets react poorly when they see their friend of X years suddenly up at the front running the show. Cadets in this case may resent the new leadership, or still look at their new Commander as their friend, and not their Commander – not taking what they say seriously, and goof off during practices or meetings since they think, “Hey, he’s my friend, what’s he gonna do? He’d goof around too if he were in my position”.

    This is a VERY dangerous situation for new Commanders to find themselves in because if they do not recognize the problem early and put an end to it, then it can possibly snowball and affect other cadets, and start interfering with what needs to get done throughout the year.

    By no means should a Commander “stop” being friends with those under their command, they just need to recognize that their responsibilities to the Unit come first, and the time to be buddy buddy with their friends comes after they’re done with the meetings or practices.

    It should also be noted that having cadets respond negatively to any new commander also leaves an impression on the new Freshmen. It’s important that Freshmen be exposed to cadets respecting their leaders, and not learn to question their Instructors decisions for Cadet Leadership.

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