Utilizing Leadership Skills in Difficult Circumstances

Utilizing Leadership Skills in Difficult Circumstances

Leadership is the ability to influence people. As much as leadership is seen in the character of an individual one of the essential quality of good leaders is to have some charisma. It is such a leadership skill and one’s personality that makes people want to follow a leader or his actions. By looking at the experience that Sean Parnell has one can pick some crucial lessons that one can learn and thus become effective.  This analysis looks at the life of the young Sean Powell and the exemplary leadership that he shows through his platoon. The story narrates how he manages to influence his subordinate effectively. Among the things that come out of his experience are his exceptional skills in leadership as well as his personality, he leads his group of soldiers through various battles emerging triumphant. Besides, I explore how Parnell applied the Leadership Attributes and competencies during an event when a brutal skilled force ambushed him.  There is also a focus on how the relationship of Parnell and his subordinates affected his decisions as a leader concerning the Leadership Attributes and Competencies Model and how he utilized them to observe the Mission Command Philosophy.

Keywords: Pakistan, Leadership Attributes, Competencies, Mission Command Philosophy.


Leadership in Sean Parnell’s “Outlaw Platoon”

Parnell in the “book outlaw” provides an insight into the experience as the leader of a platoon in a while at a 10th Mountain Division Army Airborne in Afghanistan. Taking the leader’s position of a Platoon at a young age and in such a region did not seem comfortable. With the constant attacks from the Insurgents, Parnell is faced with the challenge of making decisions that would determine the success of his team. The author focusses on the experiences of several members of the platoon in his narrative. Powell gives an account of the complexity of office politics on bases as well as that of modern war with the details of his experiences. As a leader of a platoon, he is forced to deal with the problem that any Battalion faces in addition to the internal politics within the US forces. While trying to negotiate this treacherous leaders role, Parnell has to show exemplary leadership by being able to handle the challenges of the platoon effectively and showing them the right way to go. Over time he can learn to develop an active relationship with his superiors. From the experience that Powell offers it is evident that his relationships and interactions have transformed his leadership skills.

One of the leadership aspects that are depicted in the story is the courage that Powell displays. He lays down his life on the frontlines when leading his men. For example, when his platoon is attacked during one of their routine patrols in the Hindu Kush range, he is the first to step into the firestorm (Parnell, 2006). He refuses to leave his men even though he was wounded and having been knocked unconscious. He is committed to his team, and he is selfless. Having led from the front, his platoon greatly respected and trusted him. His team believed that their leader valued them making them recognize him as a leader and as a person. By putting himself in the crossfire to save his side, he gained an element of trust that he would save their lives if it came to it making the people follow him to battle willingly. He displays his skills in attempts to keep his team from the ambush making him noticeable from his heroic acts as a leader. He openly leads by example in the field making the soldiers have faith in their leader. With his actions of bravery and selflessness, he was able to influence the subordinate leaders in the call for action without having to use his position as the leader of the platoon.

Sean Parnell applies the Army Leadership Requirements Model during the ambush at the Hindu Kush range during one of their routine patrols between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the lower mountains. The soldiers were ambushed and pinned down in their Humvees in a valley (Parnell, 2006). From this position, if the soldiers were to remain in their position, they would have died. He takes the lead to exit the vehicle even though his driver was against such action. Parnell goes past the next Humvee and signals the men to follow him for he knew that death was upon them if they were to maintain their position (Parnell, 2006). He uses his intellect as a leader to stir his team out of their situation. Parnell leads by example, and he is the first person out of the Humvee when the soldiers are pinned down. They had been running routine patrols of the region having the team build together on trust. He communicates with his platoon of what he wants them to do. For example, when the signals that the soldiers follow him out of the Humvees. His soldiers had trained together; hence they had built trust with one another and had faith with their leaders. In their routine patrols, Parnell had grown close to his subordinate leaders; he had faith in them and high respect for their lives. He had empathic towards his fellow leaders and had gained the confidence of his men. During this event, he felt that he could lose the trust of his men; hence he should lead them accordingly. He was not willing to let any of his men die; as such, he used his intellect to have them move from their position in the Humvees by leading by example (Parnell, 2006). He also shows his resilience when he refuses to leave his men in a point-blank range action even after being wounded more than once.

Parnell can use the mission command principle to develop trust and unity in his team effectively. Among the principle that is outlined in the mission, command includes building cohesive teams through mutual trust and creating shared understanding. Parnell can use these attributes in the situation where the Platoon is ambushed. Parnell, together with his platoon, is ambushed and faces a near-death situation. In this event, Parnell had made sure that his platoon had gone through routine patrols together fostering unity in them. When they are ambushed, he sets out his intent to the rest of the platoon as their leader when he knocks on the door of the nearby Humvee (Parnell, 2006). He accepts the risks of going out to the crossfire because he knew that staying in the Humvees that had been pinned down in the valley was fatal. The leadership attributes and competencies gave room for Parnell to use his intellect to save his platoon. We also witness his skill as a leader where he acts as an example to the rest of his platoon. His presence is another critical factor as we observe his resilience even after being knocked out and wounded. He was able to fend off the attack after his exemplary leadership skills. He can lead his team out of the valley and defend themselves from an ambush as the soldiers were united and trusted him as their leader. He was aware that getting out of the Humvee was a risky move, but since he used his intellect to discern the position that they were in, he chose to accept the risk that came with it.

There are many things I was able to learn from the experience and would love to use them in my future carrier. One of the things that I would seek to apply in my carrier is the idea of building a cohesive team through mutual trust. Leading a team is not only depended on the authority that one has over them. Competent leadership would often depend on how much people trust your administration. Therefore, one thing that I would seek to focus my effect in is to develop the aspect of teamwork and to learn to build trust. Trust would come by one being responsible and honest to the other members. It also calls for one to be aware of the others and giving them room to share their concerns. With this approach, it would be possible to develop effective leadership and a team that can work effectively.

In conclusion, from the actions that were taken by Sean Parnell as accounted in his book “Outlaw Platoon.” One can learn several aspects that make a good leader. It is evident that leadership is not only focused on using the power that one gets as a result of their position but also call for other skills.  Through his experience witness, the story of when his team was for the first time ambushed in a valley in the region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. He can influence his subordinate leaders through his actions on the battlefield and builds a strong cohesion with his platoon. The value of his intellect is significantly shown by what he accomplishes as a commander as one of his leadership attributes and competencies. He applies his leadership attributes and skills to utilize the mission command. This is evident in the way can build cohesive teams and also create shared understating. One might agree that he is a good leader.




Parnell, S., & Bruning, J. (2017). Outlaw Platoon. Karakter.