Staff Skills

How to Fail as a Staff Officer

By The Cove May 16, 2019


Once we are fortunate enough to be promoted to the ranks of Sergeant through to Major in our military careers, we will increasingly find ourselves filling roles in organisational higher headquarters. Within units we have probably all been guilty of viewing our superior HQ through unkind lenses, wondering how on earth they could be so disconnected from the realities of unit life. Equally, those who have found themselves in HQ positions have almost certainly had moments of frustration dealing with units who fail to appreciate the many competing priorities a Staff Officer has on their plate.

This article by Captain Nate Stratton via The Military Leader provides us with a list of seven practical instructions on what NOT to do when filling a Staff Officer appointments on either a Brigade or Formation-level HQ. Importantly, it highlights those things that are crucial for Staff Officers to remain cognisant of, in order to maintain their professional reputations once their time in the HQ is completed. Once you have reviewed the article and you may want to reflect on the following:

  • What are your top three lessons for Staff Officers to remember?
  • If you have performed a Staff Officer role, what do you think is key for subordinate units to understand? Looking back, how good were you in communicating that?
  • For those who have experienced both sides of the relationship between higher HQs and subordinate units, did you find it difficult to realign your thinking when moving from one to the other?
  • The Australian Army is in the process of reviewing its leadership doctrine. Do you think being a staff leader differs from being a combat leader? How? Do you need a fundamentally different skill set to leverage a staff team?
  • Nate's view is an American one, based around the American style and culture of C2. Do you think the Australian Army style differs? How might this effect your behaviour as a Staff Officer?



The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

Add new comment

Cove App


Fast access to The Cove anywhere, anytime. Additional feature of receiving notifications for new content.

Reflective Journal


Record your reflections in a structured way to improve your performance.