There’s an old saying in the military: “rank has its privileges.” This is often quoted as a boss bullies their subordinate in a game of “Rock, Paper, Rank.” But a leader worth their salt won’t use their rank to coerce their troops, they’ll use it to help them.
Of course, a leader shouldn’t always bend over backwards to appease the troops below them. Instead, they should use their power and position to offer a helping hand to the men and women that depend on them. Here’s how:
Leaders can use rank as an “avalanche shield”
There’s another quote that’s often said in jest — “sh*t rolls down hill.” Meaning, a tiny snowball-sized problem from up top will continue roll down the ranks until it’s an avalanche-sized turd that knocks the lower enlisted silly. Fantastic leaders will try to keep most of the problems away from their troops so they can continue to focus on training.
Many troops don’t even realize how lucky they are to not deal with the repercussions caused by the actions of some joker in a completely different unit. A good leader knows their troops and knows that they can be trusted.
Offering to pay for little things
It’s in bad form to refer to or think of fellow troops by their pay grade instead of their rank — but that doesn’t change the fact that the platoon sergeant is making more than the FNG.
The leader doesn’t need to buy everything for their troops, or even that much. But picking something up from the gas station once in a while can’t hurt.
Rank can help defend troops from peers and superiors
No leader wants to get the phone call or text informing them that their subordinate screwed up. If they’re going to be NJP’d, a good leader should act as a pseudo-lawyer between them and the commander.
The subordinate could be dead-to-rights wrong and could be a constant problem for the unit, but it’s still up to a good leader to try and showcase the tiniest bit of good in them to make sure their punishment isn’t unjust.
On paper, the commander and senior enlisted are in charge of a unit — but it’s the supply guy who really has the most power.
A good leader can procure whatever they need from supply if it’s going to benefit the troops. This can range from lost gear replacements to better gear to better training aids. It’s all for the greater good, so long as you’re not bullying supply.
Speeding up paperwork
Just like with supply, rank can also give you more oomph when you’re trying to get paperwork done.
Pvt. Snuffy may not be able to get a word in as they try to get a leave packet approved, but they’ll listen to you.
Turning down peers to work with their troops
If a leader is of a high enough rank, they can tell others that “all hands” means “all hands.” Nothing earns a troop’s respect faster than an NCO or officer sweating as much as the lowest private.
The one constant among all of the great leaders that I have had the honor to serve under is that they all would much rather get dirty with their troops than brown-nose the higher-ups.