Officers effectively leading from the front?

Cheef

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Hello,
In my pursuit of understanding how to become an efficient leader in the Marine Corps, there is one topic that has always puzzled me, and being a civilian I do not have the slightest clue how it works. Every article I have read or gone over about how to be a great officer in the military says that an officer needs to lead from the front, get dirty with their men, and put their men before themselves. But then going along with these sources, I will find another source that says that it is not the officers job to be in the field and that they have greater duties to fulfill. Is this something that just depends on their rank? On top of that, I have also heard of many enlisted men complaining that when their commissioned officers do try to lead from the front that they make many mistakes and begin to do other men's jobs, making the whole objective that much harder. Is there something those officers could do to prevent that and effectively lead? Or is this a huge gray line in itself?

Again, I want to clarify that I am not asking how to be a great officer because there is already a very informative thread on that topic (http://www.shadowspear.com/vb/threads/things-every-o-should-know.3877/), but rather how can an officer effectively lead from the front, and (I assume) ultimately gain the respect of their men? I know I am young, but I would like to learn from the mistakes of those before me, and hopefully attain a better idea of how to effectively lead my men when my time comes.

All help is appreciated, and thank you in advance.

P.S. This was a primary inspiration for this thread http://www.shadowspear.com/vb/threads/marsoc-major-receives-award-for-actions-in-epic-battle.5773/
 

fox1371

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You are taking the context of "lead from the front" incorrectly. It doesn't mean that a good officer is going to go charging at the enemy yelling for all of his men to follow him. Think of it more along the lines of not asking something of somebody, that you are not capable of yourself. For example, you cannot tell your Marines that they must all be able to run 3 miles in 18min if you as an officer run 3 miles in 20min. Expect the same standard for yourself as you do your subordinates. Combine that with the thread on what makes a good officer and I think you will have your question answered.
 

Teufel

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In times of great chaos someone must remain sane to steady the group and drive their men through the point of friction. This is the job of all leaders of all ranks. This is generally the role of the NCO but sometimes a situation is so dynamic and uncertain that an officer will have to stand up and make something happen. The officer's role in combat is to plan how to get his Marines to the last three hundred yards through a good use of terrain, and direct and indirect fire support assets. At the last three hundred yards in front of the enemy's defense, the NCO assumes the burden of the fight and will push their Marines through the line of enemy dead. That being said, officers have an influence disproportionate to their number on the outcome of a battle, especially within the last three hundred yards. At times the momentum of an assault will stall under heavy fire, especially if it is conducted over open or difficult terrain. History has shown us time and time again however, that Marines will rally to their leadership when officers move to the front of their formations, usually at great risk to themselves, and drive their Marines into the breach. In the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom a very high percentage of NCO, SNCO and officer leadership were wounded leading their Marines from the front in some very kinetic and precarious situations. I believe in the fighter leader concept. It is something that I was taught very early in my career and it is something I have always tried to live by.
 

Diamondback 2/2

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Speaking from an Army stand point; “Leading from the front” is aspect of everything you do as a leader. Either through meeting/exceeding standards, doing the right thing when everyone else does the wrong thing, being able to get your men to follow your orders and directives and most of all being able to jump out in front of them and encourage them to keep moving forward.

That doesn’t mean that you are the guy always in front of the formation, or the guy who is always the first in contact during an assault. However, sometimes it does calls for you to do that. The best understanding I could give any leader of this is leading by example in everything you do, everything. No matter if it’s uniform regulations, weapons quals or tactical skills, physical fitness or from the most basic of duties to the most complex combat operations. You set the example for your men to follow; you set a higher standard and show them you deserve to be leading them. When you do that, even good leaders will follow you.

If you want to lead the best, you have to be the best.

This is not just for Officers or NCO's, but also service members as a whole. Seeing as everyone in the Army is a leader (or so they say).
 

AWP

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One other aspect to consider was taught to me by an Armor officer: "You don't have to be the best at breaking track, but you need to know how to do it. You dont' have to be an expert on changing an engine, but you need to know how to do it. You don't need to know...." and the list goes on. By having that knowledge you can better lead/ manage your troops. Like the others have poinited out, when things stall the men look to their leadership and sometimes you just have to be out in front of everything.

Your questions, while very good, have answers which are situationally dependent. There's a time to lead and a time to hang back. You aren't much of a PL if you are on point for a patrol. Your commissioning process and experience at your first platoon will provide you with the knowledge to make those decisions.....not to mention the words of a good NCO or two at your first platoon.
 

Marauder06

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Generally speaking, the higher you go in rank as an oficer, the less literal and more figurative "lead fron the front" becomes. You should always set the example for your troops to follow, and that never changes. But your physical position on the battlefield does change as you gain rank- or at least it should. An officer always needs to position himself wherever he can best control his formation. For company grade officers, that's generally right in the thick of the action. For field grades, it can be towards the foward edge of the battle, or it may be offset slightly to allow better command and control. General officers are almost always found well to the rear of the current battle, where they can better manage the operatonal or strategic fight. Thus the physical act of leading from the front diminishes with promotion, but the moral act of setting the right example remains.

The problem with continuing to physically lead from the front during battle is that it requires the offier to be continuously decisively engaged, which impacts his objectivity and his ability to see the big picture. Even as an infantry lieutenant, I was taught, "your primary weapon is the radio," meaning my major contribution to the fight was command and control, to include managing air and artillery support.

Also, the larger the formation, the more important things like communications, logistics, and intelligence become, and not every commander understands that or can handle it right away. In fact, some officers experience a bit of a problem in going from the company grade ranks to the field grade ranks for this very reason. Generally speaking, the better a commander's staff, the more time he can spend doing battlefield circulation and participate in the physical act of "leading from the front." If a commander doesn't have a good staff, he'll spend the majority of his time un-screwing logistics, comms, and personnel actions.

Many officers are taught to plan for the maneuver of forces "two levels down" from them. Therefore in their tactical planning, platoon leaders direct fire teams, company commanders track squads, battalions platoons, brigades track the maneuver of companies and divisions track battalions.
 

Cheef

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Thanks everybody, I know this is a question that I probably would have learned with experience but things have definitely been cleared up for now. I appreciate all of the input.
 

RetPara

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There are some very good comments here.

An officers place on the battlefield is dependent on the level of command and the situation of the fight. A Platoon Leader will be right there with his troops, but, if possible staying out of the fight himself. He has to answer questions from his Co Cdr, direct his FIST, communicate with his Sqd Ldrs..... The PL is going to be busy as hell.

The Mel Gibson movie "We Were Soldiers....." (except for the bayonet charge at the end - which didn't happen during the battle) depicts a good example of a BC running a battle. There may or may not come a time when an officer MUST get out there in front of the troops and physically lead from the front. It's not an every day occurrence.
 

Diamondback 2/2

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There are some very good comments here.

An officers place on the battlefield is dependent on the level of command and the situation of the fight. A Platoon Leader will be right there with his troops, but, if possible staying out of the fight himself. He has to answer questions from his Co Cdr, direct his FIST, communicate with his Sqd Ldrs..... The PL is going to be busy as hell.

The Mel Gibson movie "We Were Soldiers....." (except for the bayonet charge at the end - which didn't happen during the battle) depicts a good example of a BC running a battle. There may or may not come a time when an officer MUST get out there in front of the troops and physically lead from the front. It's not an every day occurrence.
I was thinking about posting the same thing.... Great post!
 
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