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Lead First

Take part in the Army’s one year leadership development programme; get on the fast track to becoming a Commissioned Officer and spend up to 12 months learning to command and lead the Army’s most valuable asset, its people.

Ready to apply?

Lead First is an intensive leadership development course, then spending up to a year gaining experience in a variety of junior officer roles with the Army. You'll be trained at Sandhurst and be awarded an Officer’s Commission in the Army Reserve. You'll then be responsible for leading and managing soldiers, whilst completing up to 12 months on a programme of varied activities and experiences. Think of it as your own graduate leadership training scheme, or a gap year with a difference. Or a taste of life in the Army, but with the responsibility and challenge that comes with being an Army officer.

The Lead First scheme is open to people with no previous Army Reserve service and those already serving in the Army Reserve, including those who have recently earned a commission in the Army Reserve. Once you've completed the programme, you can continue to serve as an officer in the Army Reserve as well as pursuing a civilian career.

With 12 months experience behind you and the Army’s leadership and management training, you will have improved your employability and increased your potential. Standing out from the crowd, Lead First will set you on a path to a successful dual career – one in your chosen civilian profession, the other being as a Reserve Army officer.

Training at Sandhurst

TheRoyal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) in Surrey is the Army’s centre of excellence for command and leadership. All Regular and Reserve officers in the British Army are trained at the Academy, where they develop the skills needed to successfully command soldiers.

If you do not already hold a commission in the Army Reserve and having passed the Army Officer Selection Board, you'll attend an 8 week leadership course at the Academy. Along with other Lead First applicants on the consolidated Reserve Commissioning Course, you will learn foundation level military skills, whilst developing your leadership style and command ability. You will also be taught low level tactics and develop the ability to plan, communicate and lead, in dynamic and testing circumstances.

Your time at Sandhurst will help you build on the following skills:

  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Management
  • Subordinate development
  • Management of stress (in themselves and their teams)
  • Dealing with crisis
  • Communication
  • Influencing and negotiating
  • Effective intelligence
  • Enhanced judgement
  • Reliability
  • Decision making under pressure in complex environments
  • Learning agility
  • Ambition and confidence
  • Enhancement of self worth by making a contribution to the security of the nation

The new skills and competencies learned, as well as practical experience gained from the course will prepare you for the year on Lead First, and beyond. You'll end the course marching up the steps of Old College at the end of the Commissioning Parade, in front of family and friends, as officers in the Army Reserve.  As well as the Queen’s Commission, you will earn a Chartered Management Institute Level 5 Qualification in Management and Leadership.

The Reserve Commissioning Course is demanding and challenging, you will need to be fit, robust and determined; but on completion you will be a capable leader, confident and ready to embark on an exciting 12 months with the Lead First programme.

Your Lead First
Once you complete the Commissioning Course, you'll start a Full Time Reserve Service (Lead First) contract. Normally of 6 to 12 months, Lead First officers will be employed full time, paid, fed, equipped and accommodated in an equivalent manner to a Regular junior officer.

Each candidate will have a bespoke employment plan which will outline the programme for the duration of the contract. Written by the Commanding Officer of their host Army Reserve unit and approved by the Commandant RMAS; it will include training specific to the host units role, and should include attachments to Regular units, military exercises in UK or overseas, adventurous training and other career-enhancing courses. You have a hand in designing it, although the Army will ensure it is both coherent and beneficial.

you must meet all of the standards for officer entry to the Army

Lead First candidates go through the same selection steps as Regular and Reserve officers.

Lead and Learn - Degrees while you work

For those joining as an Army officer without a degree, you can now earn one while you train and serve. Your training will count towards a BSc in Leadership and Strategic Studies.

Young officers

Planning a gap year?

Complete 8 weeks of training at Sandhurst and you'll be given the rank of Second Lieutenant. After that, you'll command some of the finest soldiers in the world.

Gap year student