Sergeant, why do I need to know this?

We are dealing with the why generation. Why do I need to do this? Why am I doing that? At times it can be quite annoying, but it is not necessarily a bad thing. Any military leader can be quite perturbed at being challenged or questioned by subordinates. However, we must understand that asking why is not the same thing as challenging authority. In fact, it provides an excellent opportunity to garner buy-in from subordinates.

After the age of five, “I told you so” probably was not an effective parenting strategy. After basic training, “I told you so” is not an effective leadership strategy. There are plenty of Army board questions about leadership. In fact, some would say that all Army promotion board questions should be about leadership. Army board questions are constantly evolving and updating, much like Soldiers in formations are constantly changing.

Army board questions can certainly hit this topic. Situational Army board questions at competitive and promotion boards have an increased chance to ask a question along these lines. A sample Army board question could be, “You have assigned a subordinate a task. The subordinate does not see the purpose in the task and asks why they are doing it. How do you respond?”

If you are feeling risky at this point in your board, you may gamble with a response to this Army board question and begin with a statement that you wish you had more Soldiers who sought to understand why they are doing something instead of mindlessly following instruction. However, a safer course of action is to respond that when a Soldier asks why, it is an excellent time to provide him the purpose and motivation for a task.

Soldiers may not see the big picture. Soldiers may struggle to understand how the task they are doing relates to accomplishing the mission. It is your job to explain that to them and the significance of the task. If you are not able to do so, why are you doing that task?

For example, a Soldier may not understand why they need to shave every morning if they do not grow very much facial hair. This would be an excellent time to explain to that Soldier that not only does a shaved face present a uniform and neat appearance across the ranks, but also it is a way to build discipline. It takes discipline to wake up every morning and shave your face. That discipline is going to be used throughout the Army – to do PT, stay awake when pulling security, maintain the standard for weapons maintenance, etc. If a Soldier cannot be trusted to do something simple like shave their face, how can they be trusted to guard someone’s flank?


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