The Team Leader: Duties and Responsibilities
By Mr. Leigh E. Smith Jr
MSG US Army (ret)
Curator, US Army NCO Heritage and Education Center
The smallest maneuver element in the US Army is a fire team. It is usually comprised of three to five Soldiers. The fire team is led by a Team Leader, commonly a Soldier that has at least 2-3 years of experience in the Army and typically holds the rank of Sergeant (E-5). In some instances a Soldier with the rank of Specialist 4th Class in a promotable status or a Corporal may be assigned as a Team leader.
The Army puts a lot of responsibility on its lower-level leaders. The team leader is the lowest level of NCO leadership in a unit and is considered one of the most important jobs. Team Leaders serve as the first line leaders, they are the eyes and ears of the Squad Leader and also serves as the first line in the NCO support Channel. This rung on the ladder of the NCO Corps is the first important step that NCOs will take during their military careers. NCOs will develop the skills necessary to become a successful leader as they progress through the NCO ranks and various leadership positions where taking care of and training Soldiers is a part of the leaders daily scope and duties.
Team Leaders have a direct impact on the training and success of his/her subordinates that he/she is charged with taking care of. As a Team leader, you have duties and responsibilities which include leading and taking care of your Soldiers. A Team Leader does this by developing a genuine concern for their well-being. A leader must understand their Soldiers well enough to train them to a high level of proficiency as an individual and to bring the skills of each soldier together to function efficiently and effectively as a larger unit and to have confidence in their ability to perform well under difficult and demanding situations. Successful accomplishment of unit missions begins at the individual level and the supervisor of those individuals; the Team Leader.
To be a proficient and effective leader, you must learn what authority you have and where it comes from. Once confident that you understand the extent of your authority, use sound judgment in applying it. Only when you understand the limits of your authority then you will become a leader respected by your soldiers and superiors alike. You are accountable for your personal conduct and that of your Soldiers, therefore you are responsible to ensure your Soldiers understand their individual duties and obligations.
As Team Leader you are no longer a follower, but a leader. Your Soldiers will watch everything that you do, and with everything, you must set the example, the standards for others to follow and emulate. To be an effective and respected leader, you will need to hold yourself to a higher standard and be willing to accept the responsibility of your soldiers’ successes as well as their mistakes and failures. As a Team leader you must be proficient in your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) in order to properly lead, train, and supervise your Soldiers. You must lead by example and you must set tasks and goals for each team member. Once these tasks are assigned, the Team Leader sets the standards and holds each member accountable for each assigned task. A Team leader should be constantly learning and training to become a better leader. When you become an effective leader, you will gain the respect from your subordinates, peers, and your leaders as well.
Leader Development is a deliberate, continuous, sequential and progressive process grounded in Army Values. Leader development occurs through lifelong synthesis of education, training and experience. Leaders gain needed skills, knowledge and experience through a combination of institutional training, education, operational assignments and self-development.
Time has not altered the truth of what Baron von Steuben wrote at Valley Forge in 1778 in his “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States”:
“The choice of noncommissioned officers is an object of the greatest importance: The order and discipline of a regiment depends so much upon their behavior that too much care cannot be taken in preferring none to that trust but those who by their merit and good conduct are entitled to it. Honesty, sobriety, and a remarkable attention to every point of duty, with a neatness in their dress, are indispensable requisites; a spirit to command respect and obedience from the men, an expertness in performing every part of the exercise, and an ability to teach it, are also absolutely necessary; nor can a sergeant or corporal be said to be qualified who does not write and read in a tolerable manner.”
Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States: Baron Von Steuben, 1782
The NONCOM’s Guide, Sixteenth Edition, 1 February 1962
FM 22-600-20: The Army Noncommissioned Officer Guide, November 1986
FM 22-100: Army Leadership, Be, Know, Do, August 1999
TC 7-22.7: Noncommissioned Officer Guide, April 7, 2015