Leading from the front - Lessons learned from the battlefield to the boardroom.

Updated: May 31

For a good leader to succeed, they must be prepared to make decisions that have a positive impact on his or herself, and, if need be, a team or company. Some seek leadership positions in their career, while others can find themselves thrust into positions of authority unexpectedly, and for some, they learn that they are unprepared for the level of leadership they are asked to perform.

Leadership for me has been an important part of my personal development for many years but what I’ve learned to be key is that you must become an effective leader for yourself before you expect to lead others. If you are unable to make good decisions for yourself, decisions which are beneficial to your life and have a positive impact on what you’re doing and where you’re going, then you cannot expect to make effective decisions for those who look to you for leadership.

As a leader, you might spend a lot of time focusing on internal company factors — processes, people, targets, goals, and growth of the company. You may be constantly trying to shape and influence these factors to bring you and your team closer to your goals and objectives. But how often as an individual and a leader do you spend time focusing on you? By focusing on you and developing strong personal leadership traits for yourself, you will become more productive, knowledgeable, and focused. Work on spending more time on growing yourself and less time focusing on any external factors. By making yourself a priority and aligning your values and strengths with your passion and purpose, you’ll start to get the best out of yourself and those who are working under you.

Self-leadership will give you the chance to grow as a person, it will help you to make good decisions with less stress and emotion, and it will give you more confidence in everything that you are doing. Leadership is not just for those with their own office or who have several fancy certificates hanging on the wall. Leadership is not just for those with the title “Chief” or “Vice President.” The reality is that leadership happens in a variety of different contexts, including in the self-context, and at every level of an organization. Whether you’re a teenager leading a community team, or an adult running a small or big business, leadership comes in varying ways and with different requirements, but the position that you hold needs to be executed with strength and confidence, and that comes through leading yourself first.

If you learn how to influence yourself positively, if you work on self-skills that you are building for yourself, and if you are making you a priority, then you’ll start to take onboard key elements of self-leadership which you can use in your everyday life to pursue your objectives. I focus repeatedly on you being the CEO of your life because it's true and important, irrelevant of age or professional position, you hold that powerful title and are representing your most important assets and that is yourself, your wellbeing, and your ability to be the best that you can be.

If you are leader of people and you make a bad decision in a company or team, you may consider adopting new methods, learning new things, and taking onboard key feedback from your colleagues. That bad decision might be minor or major, but a bad decision is a bad decision. If you make a bad decision in your personal life, what processes do you have or take on to help you improve on those bad decisions? Do you recognize that it was an error in judgement but continue regardless? You might well do that, but the key is to recognize that a bad decision was made, and to ensure that you learn and adjust so that those bad decisions become fewer and are replaced with good ones for yourself.

Self-leadership is having a developed sense of who you are, what you can do, where you are going, and how exactly you are going to get there. It’s a clear and accurate understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, and potential, so before you expect to lead others effectively, you first need to be able to lead yourself and build the foundations required to exercise leadership. When you lead from the front, that is first and foremost about you being front and center of everything, equipping yourself with the knowledge and tools to become a well-rounded, well taken care of person both physically and mentally, through well thought out decisions and actions. You may have heard the phrase “Leading from the front," but this is something that can be misinterpreted, because one might think that to be a good leader then you just need to get your hands dirty and immerse yourself in the work, but that isn’t always the case.

I’ve been around poor leaders in both the military and the private sector, but I’ve also worked with and for some extremely respected and strong ones. These are the people who truly lead from the front and have those under their command all working towards the same objective, pursuing the same goal to achieve mission success. These leaders have been people of all backgrounds and positions, not just Colonel’s or General’s, Vice President’s, or CEO’s. They are focused on their goal of leading projects, missions, tasks, and above all, people, but to do that effectively they first and foremost take on that self-leadership and self-development process.

I began learning about leadership when I entered basic training for the Army. It started with simple things, such as maintaining a head count for my platoon amidst chaos or making sure my team was on time for a parade — that chaos would be sure to come our way if we were late and so the pressure was thrust upon me as a 16-year-old with the other recruits to keep on time. Immediately I recognized one of the key fundamentals of leadership and that was to lead from the front by example.

We don’t hear the term “lead from the back” because it doesn’t happen, people might hear you offering words of encouragement, but they need to see you. In the private sector, where you might be working for a company, it is critical for leaders to lead by example. This means following the processes and procedures outlined by the company, not breaking promises, and not asking anything of anyone that you are not willing to do yourself. In combat, as in with business, the best leaders lead from the front, they get their hands dirty and show their team that they are willing to do what it takes to accomplish the mission. In the military, leaders aren’t born; they are made. That is no exaggeration: The military invest well in those who they believe can become good leaders.

In battle, leaders must make very serious decisions, often based on little-to-no information for which there may be no time for verification. This is a worst-case scenario when it comes to leadership, but it is one that has allowed me to build the foundation of learning; not only learning what it was all about but also everything that it entailed and what was expected of me as a young leader.

Read more in my book 'The Fortitude Warrior' at

Copyright 2022 by Glen Burton. All Rights Reserved.