Unit Leadership Principles - Administration - United Task Force (UNITAF) Arma 3

P15-133 Unit Leadership Principles

UNITAF / Arma 3 / Administration Procedures

Version 1 / 23min read / Updated Sun 08 May 2022 / 1474 views / of verified

Table of Contents


    For some time now, I have been asked to publish some information on how UNITAF selects it’s future Leadership. While there is no definitive answer to this question, what I will try to do is mark some of the principles that; through success and failure have served us well along the way in leading an organization in excess of 100 people. What follows, not just in this section but in this series, is a collection of thoughts, principles and strategies on Leadership.

    It’s important to note that this series is not about Field Leadership, which in UNITAF is defined as Leading People and Units in the Field. Rather just leadership, the running of our organisation and the influence of our entire force, although the majority of what is contained here applies universally, irrespective of application.

    These principles are not limited to the running of a virtual military task force either. Strong and effective leadership is what has carried UNITAF as an organisation, both strategically and operationally forward and propelled us well ahead of many of our peers in what we do. Leadership within UNITAF has many challenges, such as the diversity of our force, the virtual nature of it, amongst others. That said, general principles of Leadership apply here, and we put a very strong light on them, expecting our Leaders to develop over time. I strongly believe many of the fundamental principles outlined herein are valuable life skills in human psychology and influence.

    Leading isn’t easy, especially if you’re a new leader. A leader’s role is ultimately to get people to do what’s required to support the team and our mission. In-game that means the Commander's Intent but out of game that means the aims and objectives of the entire organisation. The purpose of this document is to help our leaders to develop, understand and apply those principles both in real-life and within UNITAF, through various skills and techniques; leadership strategies and leadership tactics.

    Major James, Commanding Officer
    United Task Force



    Micromanagement is defined as “someone trying to personally control and monitor everything in a team, situation, or place.” And it’s generally always bad. Micromanagement by leaders stifles creativity and often is counter productive to the team's goals. If we want people to work effectively, then we must give them complete control and creative freedom to find solutions, this applies both in game and out. You will often hear us refer to this as;

    “Tell me what to do, don’t tell me how to do it”

    As a leader, give subordinates the power to approach any given task using their own initiative, you will often be surprised with the passion, success and speed in which they approach it, perhaps even better than you had imagined. It also frees you up to focus on the bigger picture. In game, this could be as simple as letting subordinates pick their own positions or targets, while you plan ahead or communicate.

    Out of game this could be anything from allowing them to deal with a situation in their own way, with your direction to delegating and entrusting them with an important task.

    The final reason for the avoidance of Micromanagement is ownership. People cannot execute tasks or plans they don’t believe in effectively. Imagine being a Squad Leader, and your Platoon Leader comes to you and delivers a step by step plan for mission execution, with no wiggle room and doesn’t want any input from you. If you didn’t think the plan was ideal, how well and how passionately would you execute the plan?

    Not very, is the answer.

    Tell subordinates what you want them to do, and allow them to form their own plan, own it and execute it with your guidance. No leader can do everything or make every decision. A good leader clearly communicates the goal/intent, then equips, empowers and trusts the team to execute them.


    Chain of Command

    Chain of command is one of those things that people initially might think is just part of the fluff of a unit and that has no real purpose. On the contrary, Chain of Command is at the core of UNITAF as an organisation and controls everything we do at every level of the organisation. To outsiders this might seem excessive but ultimately the OPCOC and ORGCOC help UNITAF by limiting communication flow, and empowering our Leaders to make decisions.

    As Leaders this is important because it means we must defend the chain of commands at all times. This usually entails combatting what’s known as ‘jumping the chain of command’ which is when someone for example in the ORGCOC communicates outside of their immediate upper or lower chain. Imagine for a minute that you are in a mission as a Squad Leader where one of your fireteam leaders is somehow communicating and taking orders directly from the Platoon Leader, and you’ll notice the problem.

    The ORGCOC just like the OPCOC means that sending messages and intelligence through all connected chains means that everyone who needs to be informed, or take part in decisions at every level gets the opportunity to do so. That could be having the say in someone's promotion, reprimand or praise for simply giving their advice on a matter.

    You should only break the chain when the issue you have involves the next person in the chain to you, or when that person is not available in a reasonable timeframe for the issue you have. Outside of these circumstances jumping the chain is frowned upon and will affect your relationship with both your upper and lower chain when they find out.

    A common mistake I find, is far too many leaders think that the lower chain is there to serve them. Quite the opposite, I am here as Company Commander to serve my Troop Commanders, and so they should be there to serve their Section Commanders.

    In a section below we will touch on giving trust. But I can’t emphasise enough, with every decision you make, seek the advice of your lower chain and if you frequently find yourself acting in the opposite direction, I would be concerned.


    Praise in Public, Correct in Private

    Positivity is one of the most important aspects of leadership. It doesn’t mean that we can’t be negative, or constructive. What it means is we must be positive in front of subordinates, and if we have to be corrective, or negative, that we do it in private - where it won’t affect the opinion of others.

    It might seem obvious, but if you have something good or positive to say, shout about it and let as many people know as possible. Good examples of this are promotions, great feedback from missions or about specific members from your Troop or Section. Not only does it show you care and act as positive reinforcement, it can also provoke others to do better in order to also get noticed and increase morale.

    It’s important to Praise people for positive contributions, and our COC Report system enforces this by formalising the process, just don’t forget to do so, don’t underestimate the positive impact of recognition.

    If you or someone else has something negative to say then we discuss and correct in private. This means getting together in private to work out issues, using the Chain of Command to correct people stepping out of line and to reset expectations, or to discuss issues. This process involves only those needed in order to reach a proper resolution



    Accountability is a big part of Leadership, especially in the Operational and Organisational Chains of Command. In Operations this means being accountable for everything your team does, and outside of that, maintaining accountability for your Section, Troop or Company, and doing all of the above with pride. Ultimately accountability means taking ownership of everything that your team does, including their mistakes and failures. When things go wrong, don’t make excuses or blame others. 

    As leaders we accept the blame and take full responsibility to fix the problems. When things go wrong, ask yourself ‘What could I have done differently to avoid this situation?’ In fact, take preemptive ownership to; prevent problems wherever possible, and mitigate the impact of unexpected events through contingency plans.

    Remember that while you are accountable for the team, don’t forget to take credit for their successes too!

    In UNITAF we don’t look down on failure, failure and mistakes are encouraged and this is where the best leaders are forged. But where possible and by reading a series like this one, hopefully you’ll do well by learning from our past mistakes so you can avoid them yourself.



    Your relationship with others is a fundamental part of your ability to be effective as a leader. You will not get very far as a leader if you cannot get along with everyone in the team. Leaders who don’t, usually don’t last very long. While this is not a popularity contest, Leaders who are not liked or respected, cannot effectively command the respect of a team.

    As leaders we must be willing and able to put our relationships over ego and self interest. Make sure you pick your battles carefully and by that I mean don’t waste your leadership capital on trivialities; keep it for what matters and focus on the long term. Leadership capital is the extent to which you can effectively attain and wield authority.

    Leadership and manipulation are both about getting people to do what you want, or by extension what the team wants and needs. The difference is: manipulators focus on things that benefit themselves, while leaders focus on things that benefit the team. 

    If you constantly put the team and it’s mission above your own interests, people will notice and grow to respect you. 


    Give trust to gain trust

    Trust is the foundation of any relationship. Decentralized command is at the core of UNITAFs ORGCOC and OPCOC, it means empowering subordinates to act on commander’s intent. Decentralized command is the most effective way to weaponize tempo at both the operational and tactical levels. Decentralized command is only possible if we can trust people to handle the tasks independently. 

    Building trust is important both up and down the chain of command, and here’s how you can build it;

    Up the chain: Irrespective of whether in game or out in context; demonstrate you are competent at whatever the task at hand is. Be honest with superiors about things you think went wrong or could be improved, and offer to do difficult or unpopular tasks that aid the team or mission.

    Down the chain: Give trust to gain trust. Again both in game and out, the absolute golden rule here is to give people the complete freedom to solve and manage things themselves. Instead of simply telling people what to do (we’ve already established that telling them how to do it is a big no-no), help them to understand why they should do it. 

    If someone begins to excel at a task or skill you delegate to them, be it in game or out, progressively give them bigger or more complex tasks. If they fail, use the chance to coach and mentor them. 

    Your rank or position doesn’t entitle you to others’ respect. Influence and respect must be earned. Start by respecting others, giving trust and listening to them and considering their opinions.



    As leaders we do not always have to be in charge to make all the decisions. Even in our capacity as part of the ORGCOC or OPCOC, we can delegate our authority and take the advice of others. A good leader must also know when and how to be a good follower, this is vitally important when we are operating specifically in the OPCOC in roles well below our normal grades. If you can’t be a follower, then you will not be chosen to lead either, it's a big red flag.

    Know when to lead from the front, and when to lead from the middle or rear. No one of us can know everything, and it’s ok to ask for help, as I often do.

    This also means surrounding yourself with people who can advise you and whom you trust, and you can see this in the way that UNISTAFF and the ORGCOC is structured. These people should be those who you know will give you honest feedback and opinion, and who can keep you in check.

    Build relations with as many people as you can and make a point to understand how things work and other people's point of view. When you spend time with people and build relationships, they’re also more likely to surface issues and share what they think works or doesn’t work. 

    No matter what your rank or role, make it a point to still attend practices, especially Core Infantry training either as an Instructor or attendee. This shows that nothing is beneath you, and gives you the chance to interact with people who are much newer than you. Not only will they respect you for it, but so will your peers.


    Dealing with conflict

    It’s no secret that the Leaders who form our Organisational Command are tasked with the enforcement of the entirety of UNITAF Policy, and this duty can often see us dealing with difficult or complex situations, from the entry and exit of members to the issuing of reprimands or punishments.

    During these situations, detaching is a useful strategy, detaching is the ability to mentally step back from a situation to take stock. Detaching is also good advice to give someone 

    As a leader it’s important to be honest, I find that voice chat is far superior to text when dealing with conflict. When you consider we have over 100 members from 30+ countries, it’s very easy to be mis-understood when you are missing the key tells of vocal expression in text. 

    Remember that conflict is always handled “in private” This means if you have a problem with someone, approaching them and tackling your concerns head on. Being up front, honest and to the point can save a lot of time for all parties, and rapidly reset expectations. This is not limited to enforcing policy either, perhaps you have an issue with someone else in the Chain of Command, in which case I recommend having a to-the-point chat with them where you can openly discuss it. Ultimately we’re all here for the same reason, and for the team's goals. I can think of many examples where I have done this, it’s probably where my famous “5 minutes” came from and in every case, usually one party has misunderstood the other, leading to a failure or breakdown in communication.

    Tell the truth as early and frequently as possible, so people can take steps to rectify problems. Honestly share what went wrong, and we can best fix a problem. The stronger your relationships and communication, the easier this becomes. It’s this ability that strengthens the wider team, shows that you care and builds relationships over time.



    We all have different strengths and weaknesses, I’m not known for my ability to be brief, for example. Knowing people's traits means you can tailor your approach for each person. Leverage others’ strengths to complement your own weaknesses. Help people to understand why their role is vital and how it fits into the team and our overall mission.

    This is a valuable skill to learn both in game and out, since both the ORGCOC and OPCOC are about building and maintaining great teams. 

    Discipline is the practice of training people to follow our policies and expected behaviours, generally using reprimands to correct noncompliance. Always instill good discipline, both in game and out - this requires that you have some level of authority but this doesn’t mean you need to be the bad guy. This can be as simple as maintaining order or comms discipline in a chaotic mission, or correcting someone on standard operating procedure after one. Explain the reason for any action you take clearly and let people own and drive their own actions. Remind them of the bigger picture and why it’s important for the team. If people understand the why, they are more likely to make bigger improvements.

    For example, when reprimands are escalated to me, meaning they are usually quite serious. I make a point to explain to those people exactly why those policies exist, and what effect it would have on the whole of our team if we didn’t have them so they can understand it from my point of view.



    A Leader is not something you become, it’s something you continue to work on being. Nobody is a perfect leader, we are all a work in progress. I think that anyone that says they are done learning, should reconsider their position. There is much we can learn from those around out, no matter where in the Chain of Command they are.

    If I were to leave you with just one of the lessons of this series it would be this:

    Wherever and whenever possible, let people develop their own plans. Do not dictate what they should do nor micromanage them. Clearly convey the goal or mission and let people figure out what to do. Ask good questions and offer feedback so you can stay detached, see the big picture, and let people own their plans. So long as their plan is 80-90% ideal, let them execute it since the commitment and ownership will outweigh any slight inefficiency. If the plan is only 50-70% ideal, then offer some suggestions. Or if the plan is really bad, ask questions to help them see the problems and develop a fresh plan.

    I hope you have found this useful, and I’ll keep coming back here to expand on this, or add new section as I learn more from our team.

    This section is designed as an Annex to the Principles section. It contains some more specific advice not covered in the general principles. Again we'll add to it over time.


    Advice to Leaders

    How to get chosen

    If your goal is to become part of UNITAFs leadership, the best way to get chosen is to deliver results, develop your skills and volunteer for leadership roles and challenging or difficult tasks, including the ones that others don’t want to do. If you help us to win, you’ll eventually get noticed. In UNITAF most leaders come from either experienced or potential field leaders, instructors or game masters, these are the most common routes.

    The next obvious step is to tell your Chain of Command that you are interested in joining the leadership. They will give you advice and feedback about the requirements and your progress.

    UNITAF has a selection process which means that recommendations are passed through the Chain of Command and discussed at the appropriate level. Nobody is guaranteed any position, and many factors are taken into account.

    • If you really wanted a position and you’re not chosen, don’t air your frustrations openly. Reflect on why you were passed over. Or, ask your COC for feedback respectful way then act on the feedback. In the meantime, fully support anyone who may have got the positon you wanted. 


    As a new leader, you may feel insecure or inadequate.

    • Be honest about your gaps and shortfalls, and show that you’re addressing them. Don’t pretend to know things that you don’t. Ask questions, seek advice, and focus on stepping up to the role. 

    • Be careful not to swing to the other extreme and become overconfident. Watch for signs that you’re overbearing, e.g. regular conflict or a total absence of inputs from teams that you are leading, or indeed members of your Troop or Section. 

    • The best way is to simply step up to it. You don’t need to know everything. However, you must behave differently as a leader instead of acting like one of the troops. Develop a plan, share it simply and succinctly, and listen to their inputs. Be prepared to learn/do new things.


    Honing your Leadership Skills

    A leader must be able to lead and follow. 

    • Unless there’s a leadership vacuum in an emergency or perhaps the nominated leader is not up to scratch in a given mission, don’t rush to fill a perceived gap. Pause so you can assess the situation and give others a chance to step up or at least notice the leadership void so they’ll be more receptive to your intervention. 

    • Always give the leader space to lead. When there’re many people clamoring to lead or offer inputs, don’t add to the confusion. If anything, do your best to center things.

    • You can’t dig in and move forward at the same time. Don’t get too hung up on your idea or take things personally if your idea is rejected. Keep an open mind. 

    • If you’re unsure what to do, use iterative decision making. Examine the situation and make small incremental decisions instead, based on your best guess but without overcommitting to that option. As new information surfaces, reassess the situation and your options accordingly. 

    Doing too much vs too little. Don’t try to do everything yourself, nor delegate so much that you become overly detached.

    • Whether in game OPCOC or outside in the ORGCOC,if you regularly step in to do your teams work for them, they’ll start to rely on you doing it. This hurts the team in the long run since it’ll hinder people’s growth and you’ll become so bogged down by operational details that you can’t focus on the strategic picture.

    • After you’ve solved a problem or task a couple of times, let others work out the solution and return with a proposed plan, so you can shift to a coaching role.


    People Tactics

    Leadership is a great tool for people-development because it forces people to see things from a new perspective. 

    For people who’re capable but have a negative attitude, try putting them in charge of a Fireteam or Instructing Role, say that you believe in their potential and want them to rise to the challenge. Usually, their attitude will improve once they direct their energy and experience in a constructive way. 

    To teach humility, put them in charge of something similar which is way beyond their ability. This should be difficult enough that they’d probably fail without help, but not impossible to achieve. Once they realize their limitations and ask for help, offer support and rebuild their confidence. 

    To build confidence, put people in charge of a team or instructing role (or any unrelated out of game task) they can excel in and then reward and praise them for it.

    Prepare strong leaders for future progression by giving them the chance to try and expand their skills in leadership and instructing roles. There is a much bigger chance they will get noticed, and it benefits the team too.


    If you disagree with someone or their decisions

    Never criticize or oppose openly. Be respectful and use subtler approaches: 

    • Before you reject something, seek clarification. Ask the person to confirm the task or decision, then explain your concerns in relation to it.
    • If they insist on the original path, weigh the risks of following the plan vs suffering a loss in efficiency if you were to fight it. Discuss your concerns privately rather than openly challenging. Once a decision is reached, support it. 


    Handling failure 

    Although Micromanagement is not an ideal approach, it may be necessary if a group or individual fails to deliver despite clear expectations and guidance. If this happens during a mission give progressively more specific instructions and supervision, until they’re back on track, then step off the gas again.

    With good leadership, outright punishment is rarely required. But, if someone is clearly disobedient, then they must be taken to task. Issue ultimatums as a last resort and only if you intend to honor them, the options open to you are viewable in SOP, and depend on the situation.



    Keep your team informed at all times, be it OPCOC or ORGCOC it’s vital to keep people informed. When people don’t know where they stand or where they’re going then they’ll feel lost and demoralized. Share bad news honestly, directly and in a timely fashion to avoid unnecessary speculation and rumors. But don't forget to share good news too. Be positive but realistic.


    Be clear, simple, and succinct.

    Use direct, simple language instead of technical terms, to test if people have truly understood, ask them to explain it back to you. 

    Make sure people understand the whys behind the whats. Explain it from the their perspective and share how it’ll positively affect them. If no one in the chain can explain why something is being done, then it shouldn’t be done in the first place. 


    Managing criticism

    The most effective way to deliver criticism is to do it out of real concern while taking ownership of the problem. Instead of a statement like “You failed to follow instructions”, use a more tactful approach, e.g. “I may not have explained it clearly enough. Did you understand?”

    Praise people without giving the impression that they’ve “arrived”. 



    This SOP has been contributed to by 1 editors:
    Major James

    UNITAF Standard Operating procedures (SOP)
    are adapted primarly from US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). Our written and audio procedures are a combination of the following primary source materials, as well as our own learnings, modifications and adaptations:
    - US Army Techniques Publication, Infantry Platoon and Squad (ATP 3-21.8)
    - Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks Warrior Leader Skills Level 2, 3, and 4 (STP 21-24-SMCT)
    - The Warrior Ethos and Soldier Combat Skills (FM 3-21.75 / FM 21-75)
    - Leadership Development (FM 6-22)
    - Dyslexi's Tactics, Techniques, & Procedures for Arma 3 (TTP3)

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