The Team Leader

Anyone who studies small-unit tactics has to acknowledge one thing; they require a small unit to work. It’s been said before by myself and others in the training community repeatedly that you need to network and establish a group. Implied within that statement is that someone within that group must step up in a leadership role to provide direction and guidance to the groups efforts, or else nothing is accomplished. Without leadership, a group of friends remains just a group. With leadership, you can develop a group into a team.

Groups vs. Teams

The difference between a “group” and a “team” is purpose. A group of friends who only talk about politics and share pictures of their gun collections will never accomplish anything because they don’t have a goal to work towards. A team of like-minded individuals has a mission, and everything they do contributes to that mission. A group may go shooting together, a team conducts drills to meet a standard. A group may spend hours chatting about what they would do when SHTF, a team conducts an area study and develops contingency plans.

All is not lost for the group, however. Any mere group can become a team in one critical moment. All it takes is for one man to stand up and say “Enough talking. Let’s make ourselves a force to be reckoned with and start training.” If enough of the group gets behind that one man and settles on a purpose, the group has now become a team and that man has become their Team Leader.

Responsibilities of the Team Leader

Once the Team Leader has assumed his position, he must consider his new-found responsibilities to the team. The team leader’s responsibilities can be summed up below:

  • Managing the team. In “garrison” (non-combat), the team leader is responsible for assigning roles and responsibilities to team members in accordance with their strengths, skill sets, and ability. In combat, he must maintain control of the team’s fire and movement. The team leader’s most potent weapon is not his rifle, it is the men under his charge. He must become skilled at wielding this weapon.
  • Training the team. Just as a rifleman is responsible for cleaning and maintaining his rifle, the team leader is responsible for ensuring that his “weapon” is in the highest possible state of readiness by coordinating, facilitating, and leading training events. There are two basic types of training events:
    • Individual Training Events; Training that teaches or reinforces individual skills.
    • Collective Training Events; Training that gets the team working together.
  • Taking care of the team members. The team leader must look out for the well-being of his people, both in and out of combat. Personal relationships with teammates are a necessity. A team leader should know everybody’s home situation, their cares, and their concerns. On patrol, the team leader should take care of his men by setting up a sleep schedule, ensuring that everyone has enough water, and being aware of anything in general that affects the welfare of his people.

The Problem

The good news is that this nation is awash with “groups” of people with their hearts in the right place. The bad news is that most will never acquire a sense of purpose until the enemy is at their doorstep. So what keeps them down? The answer is that nobody is willing to step up and assume the role of Team Leader.

There are many reasons for this. For some it’s the time commitment. For others it’s a lack of mental courage. And for many, it’s simply a lack of self-confidence. Many people, especially those with no military/LE background, don’t believe that they have what it takes to lead. Or they don’t know how or what to start training on.

One thing to understand is that you don’t need to be a tactical genius to start giving your team direction. You can be a completely green civilian with no training background and still convince your people that you all need training. If you are not capable of running the training yourself, find someone who is and coordinate getting your team to train with them. For example, I’m not a medical specialist, so I don’t lead combat first aid training for my team. Instead, I coordinate getting my people to someone who is an expert in that field so we can get the best training possible.

Bottom line, you don’t need to be tactically proficient to get a team started. You just need to get the ball rolling to make your people see that they need organization and training. Everything else will fall into place from there.


Hopefully by this point you understand the difference between a casual group of friends and a focused team with a mission. If nobody in your friend group has taken up the torch of leadership to ensure that you are actually ready to handle danger when it comes, it falls to you. Be the one to get your friends thinking and talking about organization, planning, and training. You cannot afford to wait for someone else to do it, so pick up the torch and lead on.

If you would like some guidance to help you on your leadership journey, I have a class for that. Team Leader I teaches everything you need to know about how to organize a team, plan and lead training events, and coordinate maneuver with a team of shooters. Once you finish Team Leader I, you leave with the confidence and the skills to go back to your group and give them the purpose and training they need to become a cohesive team. Nobody else offers a course like this, and my students’ reviews speak for me.

Get trained, get organized, get ready.

Semper Paratus. Semper Discens.

Published by vonsteubentraining

Mike is the owner and chief instructor of Von Steuben Training & Consulting (VSTAC). A self-described “Tactical Scholar,” he spent 6 years in the Marine Corps as a radio operator and small-unit tactics instructor. He has dedicated his life to honing the tactical prowess of himself and his fellow patriots, guided by the wisdom of his commanding officer, Jesus Christ. He can be contacted via email at

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