Developing Army SOF Leadership Attributes is Your Responsibility

ARSOF attributes

By SFC David Hargett (US Army) and MAJ Eliann Carr (US Army).

Traditional Army Special Operations Forces academia requires rote memorization of the eight SOF leadership attributes: integrity, courage, perseverance, personal responsibility, professionalism, adaptability, team player, and capability. Standard SOF Operators recognize what these attributes represent and their definitions, but the ability to internalize the application into their life or military operations is indirectly defined. Understanding that these attributes are characteristics which must develop through external applications in a specified action are key principles to becoming a leader that focuses on being effective, not solely efficient.

Expanding self-accountability to promote the principals of these Army SOF leadership attributes through effective leadership is the model most needed and least used. In a high demand environment, such as Army SOF, there is a precedence to be reactive and reflect later, when later never comes. This constant pressure is generated by the opposition of effective leadership (producing the right results), termed as efficient leadership (producing results right). These demands, left unguided by mentorship, will result in new and experienced SOF operators becoming and developing leaders who are refined artisans at reacting.

Individual responsibility will enhance the leader to revert to their basics on step one of every process known through out SOF: planning. This is a deliberate action and requires the operator to be aware of all eight of the SOF attributes. Applied effectively, the operator will employ proactive principles resulting in a predictive analysis, instead of falling back to the time-honored efficient phrase, “This is how it has always been done.”

Exploring some of these attributes through a proactive lens will enhance the skilled SOF operator with tactics used by leaders and followers that best represent our SOF attributes. As you read the examples below, you are encouraged to apply an attribute or all attributes to the questions and statements.

  • Sense of urgency: how well can you distinguish between urgent tasks and others?
  • Level of agitation or frustration: what is your ongoing, ambient stress-level? From 1 to 10, if it is 5 or more, you tend toward efficient leadership, not effective leadership.
  • Percent of urgent tasks: If your general percentage is over 20% during any given time, you are either (1) misreading urgency or (2) may not have solved core issues effectively.
  • Handling of Important deliverables: What is your ideal way to tackle a task, through collaboration (not grudgingly), delegation, or go solo?
  • Apologizing for behavior: Whether you do or not, do you have to apologize for your work behavior? If you act in a manner that requires an apology to restore a relationship, why be that way in the first place?

The process of inherent efficiency is to place responsibility of our immediate behavior on the operational environment or others: subordinates, leaders, or colleagues. These actions circumvent the qualities an effective leader, planner, or individual who subdue the urge to react to ineffective measures for the pretense of being momentarily efficient.

The skilled planner recognizes that the effective operator must diligently dedicate their actions for the long game. To the courageous and genuine professional, it is through all eight of the Army SOF attributes that provide the catalyst for Effective Leadership. Thus, through the preparation of Effective Leadership the attributes are mastered, and efficiency, effectively achieved.



Major Eliann Carr is an Information Operations Planner and currently deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, as an Information Operations Planner. She holds a Doctoral degree in Human Development & Educational Psychology from the University of South Dakota. Previous research spans the array of social science spectrum, to include perspective of Muslim image, leadership development, and interpersonal conflict resolution in families.

Sergeant First Class David Hargett is a Psychological Operations Specialist and currently deployed in support of Operation Spartan Shield, as a Detachment Sergeant. He holds an associate degree in General Studies and is currently pursuing his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Maryland.

Photo: By SPC Eric Cerami, DVIDS, Iraq.

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