- Military Review by by Lieutenant Colonel Harry Garner, USA Retired Developing An Effective Command Philosophy
- Air Force War College Leadership Research – Developing a Leadership Philosophy
- Strategy Bridge – The Problem of Mission Command
- Strategy Research Project – Mission Command: A Time proven leadership philosophy that Emphasizes Trust by Colonel Gregory Penfield
- 4TheRucksack – What is your Command Philosophy?
- Naval Proceedings by CAPT Carl Meuser- Embracing an Enlightened Command Philosophy (requires subscription to view)
- CAPT Mark Hardy’s blog – A template for A command Philosophy
- Tom Deirlein’s blog – Why you should have a Written Leadership Philosophy
- Naval Prospective Commanding Officers Course – Taught by the Naval War College
- Army Commanding Officers Course – Taught by the Army’s Command and General Staff College
- Marine Corps School of Advanced Warfighting – Taught by the Marine Corps University
- Squadron Officer School – Taught by the Air Command and Staff College
What is Philosophy? and What is a Command Philosophy?
Whether you know it or not, you already have a philosophy. You already have a way to view the world, respond to the world and exercise power over your corner of the world. Furthermore, if you have gotten to the point in your career where a command philosophy is applicable you already have a set way of leading that works for you, the people under you, and has been validate by your superiors. However, as a future commanding officer your next step is to take that informal philosophy and formalize it into a product that your subordinates can use to guide their actions.
Know Thy Self – What are your “Crucible events”? and What are your Values?
- Present Benefits vs. Future Benefits: How do you balance sacrificing present benefits for the hope of future rewards?
Excellence vs. Compliance: Do you prefer rule based compliance or more flexible, but less organized, excellence
Strive to Win vs Do not Loose: Playing to win holds much more risk; is that risk you are willing to accept for your self and your crew?
High Risk vs. low risk: Do you like to play high risk games with hail-mary passes, or keep it safe with base hits?
Benefit the unit vs benefit the individual: Where do you fall out on Ship/Shipmate/self?
Black and white thinking vs shades of grey: Is there always one right answer for most problems? or is your most likely answer “it depends” Are you willing to operate in the grey, or does every problem need a book answer before you find it acceptable?
- Strong vs. Smart: Do you prefer being around smart workers or hard workers?
Standard SOP vs Diverse SOP: How much latitude do you want to give your people when executing your instructions
Operational Focus vs. Administrative focus: Is it more important to have admin or operations at 100%. Is your hazardous safety program run so tightly that all work is stopped? or is it so loose that the crew is in danger?
Good vs. fast vs. cheep: all three have upsides and downsides
Minority vs. Majority: Similar to ship/shipmate/self. Will you benefit the majority even at the cost of the minority?
Generalist vs specialist: Do you want a shallow bench of specialists or deep bench of generalists
New vs old: Do you tend to believe new is better, or do you like to stick with the old and proven?
Do right vs do no wrong: Is avoiding error better than achieving success?
- Wide Focus vs. Narrow Focus: Do you want to give a little energy to a lot of things, or lots of energy to a small number of things?
- Quality or Quantity: Is more better or is better better?
- Decision making with 60% of available information vs. Decision making with 95% of available information: How much information do you need before making a decision and how does that effect the pace of operations?
The Hardest part – Brain to Paper
- We prioritize action over administration: Do not wait until a product is 100% complete for my input. Even in Garrison I want you to have a wartime mindset of taking action, moving quickly and getting my feedback. A Good plan executed violently now is better than a perfect plan executed next week – Patton.
- We will strive for Excellence even at the cost of compliance: When presented with a delema of doing the right thing (excellence) over the book answer ( compliance) I expect you to do the right thing immediately and then notify me of your intended action.
- We will keep a narrow focus: I want you to keep a narrow focus and always prioritize this command first. Keeping with the philosophy of “make your bed first” We are no good to the Navy or the Nation if we are not operating at 100% of our capability.
- We prioritize self care: The most basic unit of the Unites States Navy is the Sailor. Therefore if the sailor is not opperating at 100% they will be unable to take care of their shipmate, ship or protect the United States
What a Command Philosophy must accomplish
It must be the one document that answers one thousand other questions.
It must be one page, easy to read, and easy to refer to,
- It must be easy for you to memorize and speak to it at every chance you get.
- It must prioritize values
- It must help others make decisions in your absence
What a command Philosophy should not try and accomplish
An everything is important document. The more you things you prioritize, the harder it will be for your crew to adjudicate over conflicting priorities. Saying you prioritize everything really prioritizes nothing.
That you prioritize leave, liberty, family or fun. (really? who doesn’t)
- Restate basic rules: Stating that “lying, cheating or assault is unacceptable at your command” tells sailors little. It may be better to say how your will respond if rules are broken. Remediate and correct vs. one strike and you are out.
Talk about your philosophy at every chance you get
Command Philosophy Criteria for Success
Feel free to reach out and I’ll happily share my business rules, priorities and goals.
Example Command Philosophies
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