I just found this 2500 character-limit essay I wrote when applying to West Point. To be honest, I am pretty satisfied with it:
From my short time in the Army, I have concluded the most important qualities for becoming a successful USMA cadet and Army officer are humility, balance, vision, grit, and extreme ownership.
Humility is essential to long-term, successful leadership. Without it, prideful leaders cannot make an honest self-assessment and will have difficulty owning up to and learning from their mistakes. They are less willing to consult the opinions of others and risk becoming a toxic leader, which can have disastrous effects on unit morale and mission accomplishment. In an organization with as high stakes as the Army, this kind of egotism is unacceptable. A USMA cadet’s purpose is to prepare to lead Soldiers, and he must not have his ability to learn and grow be obstructed by something as pointless as pride.
An officer must be able to find and maintain a balance between contradictory qualities. For example, he must be close to subordinates and understand their motivations, but not so close that he shows favoritism. He must act with confidence to instill it in his team, but he must avoid being overconfident, which brings complacency. A cadet must practice balance in his daily life between athletics and schoolwork, and in the relationships he builds with his superiors and subordinates.
Vision is the ability to see the big picture when only limited details are available. The success and failure of a team often rest on the ability of the leader to see the big picture and adjust accordingly. An officer cannot lead his unit to success without having a clear vision of how his unit’s efforts fit in with the operational environment and his commander’s intent. A cadet must be able to see past his daily struggles at the academy and understand how his actions are affecting his future ability to lead troops.
Grit is a key component of resilience and is an especially important quality for leaders in an organization as demanding as the Army. When good intentions and motivation give way due to physical and mental exhaustion, grit will keep one driving onward towards success. Upon finishing a long patrol, an officer, exercising grit, will require himself and his men to execute the priorities of work. Thus, food and sleep must come after security, weapons cleaning, and hygiene. Likewise, a USMA cadet must develop grit to complete all of his duties satisfactorily and bounce back to his feet when he fails in doing so.
Extreme ownership truly defines leaders. It’s based on the principle that leaders are ultimately responsible for the success and failure of their teams. “There are no bad regiments; there are only bad colonels,” said Napoleon Bonaparte. It is not an officer’s job to blame his men or his superiors. It’s his duty to own his entire world and figure out the solutions to the problems. If his Soldiers are making mistakes, then he probably is not ensuring they receive proper training. There is no room for blame.
Likewise, a cadet must take extreme ownership over his educational, athletic, and leadership development and understand that he is responsible for his progress–USMA can only facilitate growth.