I shared a conversation recently with a senior enlisted member of the special operations community, who prefers to remain anonymous. In this article, we’ll just call him Senior.

He and I were talking about professionalism. I wanted to know the things that make operators respected in the community. As a beloved leader himself, he had some incredible insights, and I can’t wait to share his tips with you.


Senior, military member, professionalism

Senior says a true professional won’t wait for someone to tell him what to do. He will take the initiative by looking around himself and doing what needs doing. He will be efficient and do things in a timely manner.


If there is one thing that Senior finds annoying, it’s when someone brags about themselves. He says, “You shouldn’t have to tell people how amazing you are. If you are good at your job, your work will speak for itself.” Smug, arrogant, condescending operators are the worst, which brought him to his next point.


Senior enlisted member

A true professional will always be willing to take the time to pass his knowledge and experience down to those less experienced. A reliable leader builds up those around him. In a dangerous line of work, like that of Senior, this is especially vital. By passing down your knowledge and building up those around you, you’re empowering the next generation with confidence in their own skills. No matter how good they are as an operator, a condescending, belittling superior does nothing for his team.


Don’t be so quick to point fingers or blame others without first being honest about where you have failed. You will gain more respect from everyone involved by owning your mistakes than you will by trying to save face and pass the blame. Senior despises when someone tries to pass the buck – especially when seniors try to blame junior personnel. He points out that it’s hard to respect someone who won’t take responsibility for their actions.



A trustworthy person with candor is a valuable asset. Senior prides himself on his reputation for shooting straight without judgment or sugar-coating. Be honest and straightforward and tell it like it is. Remember, honesty doesn’t need to be brutal. Be tactful and give an extra ounce of grace because we’ve all messed up.


Both situational and self-awareness seem to be rare commodities these days. Senior says that while his community is known for a relaxed work environment with lots of jokes, a true professional has the self-awareness to know when it’s time to buckle down and be serious. He says when in doubt, err on the side of being strait-laced. Have the wherewithal to read the room and accurately interpret how you should act and how others perceive your behavior. Adjust accordingly.




There you have it. Perfect professionalism requires proactivity, humility, mentorship, ownership, candor, and a healthy pinch of awareness. I find it is good practice to run through a list like this every once in a while, to take a self-inventory and see where I could improve. What about you?


Melanie Lemus is the Communications Specialist for Vision to Purpose providing self-help, business, and career-focused topics. She lives in Virginia with her wonderful husband and witty daughter. Melanie loves her freedom – in Christ and America. She’s passionate about natural health and homeopathy, and she’s always down to take a hike through the mountains.


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