FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (Army News Service, March 30, 2015) -- The number-one metric of leader success is how your subordinates regard you, Gen. David C. Perkins told some 300 ROTC and U.S. Military Academy cadets.

"Will they curse you or claim you?" is the central question, he said.

Perkins, commander, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, also known as TRADOC, spoke at the George C. Marshall Award ceremony here, March 30.

The number-one concern expressed by cadets is, 'when I become a lieutenant and take my first platoon, how will my non-commissioned officers, or NCOs, who have years of experience, including combat, regard me, a person who has no experience,' he said.

"When officers first come into the Army, we know they don't know everything we want them to know and we also know when we put them in charge, there's a lot for them to learn," he said.

"The good deal is that NCOs will be there to help you," he said. "You're responsible for the platoon, but they're responsible for your training and development."

To become a truly great leader, rely on your NCOs, as well as your senior officers to mentor and guide you, he exhorted.


In turn, Soldiers and NCOs expect their officers to be looking out for them, he said.

When you take your first platoon, the test will be informal and will happen very quickly, Perkins said. They will be watching closely to see where your motivations are derived. "Is it about you? Or, is it about your Soldiers and your unit? What makes this lieutenant tick?"

You should be looking for their feedback and how they regard you, he said. Most of the feedback will be unspoken, but some of it will be voiced. For instance, how do they talk about you to other people?

"Are they proud of their boss or is it a burden they have to bear," he continued. "If you can get your subordinates to claim you instead of cursing you, you're firing on all cylinders when it comes to being a leader."


Testing of Army leaders continues throughout their career, he said, explaining that when he became the TRADOC commander, he relied on his command sergeant major for his own training and indoctrination.

"'He's my general and I'm going to have to train him,' is not insubordination," Perkins said. "I couldn't get a better compliment than for a non-commissioned officer to claim me as his."

Besides the claim you or curse you test, Perkins said there's the Newman test that hopefully no one will need to be tested on.

The Newman test relates to Pfc. Newman, who was seriously wounded in the 2003 attack on Baghdad. Even as Soldiers carried him away to safety, they were receiving incoming fire. Although badly wounded, Newman fired at the enemy from the stretcher on which he was being carried, Perkins related.

Once he was out of the line of fire, an embedded TV crew came over to see how he was doing, Perkins continued. The Soldier gave them his name and the name of his unit, displaying pride in his fellow Soldiers and his leaders. It could have been the last thing he said.

That's an extreme example of the recognition someone can get for being a great leader and it's what every Army leader should strive for, he said.

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