United States Army Sergeants Major Academy

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The Army has broken down leadership into three levels in attempt to facilitate better leadership. Army levels of leadership focus a leaders’ attention to influencing their element so no organizational level lacks effective leadership. The three levels of Army leadership are direct, organizational, and strategic. Direct leadership is face-to-face or first-line leadership. Organizational leadership is indirect leadership through their subordinates. Strategic leadership includes military and civilian leaders at the Department of Defense level. (U.S. Army, 2006) This structure allows for effective leadership and information flow at all levels.

The information can flow upward from the direct level or downward from the strategic level. Direct level leadership is designed to influence the Soldier or small elements directly at the unit level.

Direct level leadership is the leadership level that pertains to brigade sized units and smaller. (U.S. Army, 2006) This includes face-to-face leadership and first-line leadership. (U.S. Army, 2006) This level of leadership allows leaders to engage their Soldiers directly to create immediate action.

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It also allows for brigade elements and smaller to achieve instant results within their ranks. A great example of direct leadership is an NCO training his/her Soldier. This is a direct approach and provides one-on-one instruction for a specified task. Training at a lower level ensures personal participation so the Soldiers understand the task. It also allows direct engagement with Soldiers to develop their career and knowledge. Leadership at the direct level receives and reports information to organizational leadership.

Organizational leadership allows for divisions and other large elements to disseminate information smoothly through their leaders.

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Organizational leaders influence several hundred to several thousand people. They do this indirectly, generally through more levels of subordinates than do direct leaders. (U.S. Army, 2006) This structure allows direct leaders to develop their Soldiers’ while organizational leaders focus on organizations as a whole. “We begin our careers at the direct leadership level, having daily face-to-face contact with those in our charge, and getting the job done. As organizational leaders, we must place more focus on the second aim of leadership – to improve the organization.” (Olinger, 2017) Strategic leadership is the next higher level above organizational leadership.

Strategic leaders include Army and civilian leaders at the major command through Department of Defense levels. The Army has roughly 600 authorized military and civilian positions as senior strategic leaders. Strategic leaders are responsible for large organizations and influence several thousand to hundreds of thousands of people. They establish force structure, allocate resources, communicate strategic vision, and prepare their commands and the Army for future roles. Strategic leaders work in uncertain environments that present highly complex problems affecting events and organizations outside the Army. The actions of a geographic combatant commander often have critical impacts on global politics. (U.S. Army, 2006) All levels of Army leadership affect one another, as well as the Army as a whole.

Leaders at all levels recognize the Army is a team consisting of teams. These teams interact as numerous functional units. They are designed to perform necessary tasks and missions that produce the collective effort of all Army components. Everyone belongs to a team, serving as either leader or responsible subordinate. (Army, 2012) The team leadership element helps information to flow effectively throughout the three levels of leadership. When leaders of different elements align to a collective effort, they create the greatest amount of synergy to achieve the desired results. Successful leadership depends on the alignment of purpose, direction, and motivation. Coordinated actions of teams and units working toward the same purpose accomplish missions. (Army, 2012)

The three levels of Army leadership are a thoroughly thought out leadership plan. As leaders progress through the levels, assignments become more complex and interdependent, requiring more responsibility, accountability, and authority. Leaders at each level must be able to address unanticipated situations. Many may have to make decisions in stressful situations that can easily have strategic or political implications. (Army, AR 600-100, 2007) As leaders promote into higher positions, they are able to bring their experience and perspective to a new leadership level. This allows the three levels of Army leadership to be extremely effective. Minimizing the areas leaders are responsible for allows them to focus on their set leadership group. This maximizes the amount of change and influence that leaders are able to create.


Army, U.S. (2007, March 8). AR 600-100. AR 600-100. Army, U.S. (2012, August 1). ADRP 6-22. U.S. Army.

Brooks, S. A. (2004, November 1). Providing that much needed “direct leadership” in your practice.

Retrieved from Dental Economics: https://www.dentaleconomics.com/articles/print/volume-94/issue-11/departments/viewpoint/providing-that-much-needed-direct-leadership-in-your-practice.html

Olinger, R. G. (2017, September 25). The Other Side of Organizational Leadership. Retrieved from Field grade leadership: http://fieldgradeleader.themilitaryleader.com/organizational-leadership/

U.S. Army. (2006). FM 6-22. U.S. Army.

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United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. (2020, Sep 13). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/united-states-army-sergeants-major-academy-essay

United States Army Sergeants Major Academy

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