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                 term priorities. The stats that need to be submitted NLT, the next blood drive, and attendance at
X event, all crash down on lower-echelons as “immediate and high priority” and are generally described as “distractions”.
It behooves every commander to establish priorities that can be linked to everything his / her unit does or will ultimately (unfortunately) fail
to do. What I mean by this is, some commanders posit a philosophy of “priorities outside of my main mission are not a priority to me or my unit.” Time and time again, I’ve seen this philosophy last about as long as it takes for the next higher commander to call and ask “why isn’t X or Y complete or being executed!!” And then the mayhem and madness begin as a “new priority” has descended from higher.
In order to keep the organization from
feeling the turbulence of priority changes, the commander’s focus is priority alignment. As
an approach, commanders must view priorities
as a hub and spoke system; the hub being the
top priority (ies) that the unit must routinely accomplish. The spokes will be many; aligned, misaligned and conflicting priorities that come from multiple echelons. To prevent the organization from experiencing the ebb and flow of constant change, a commander’s approach to priority alignment can go a long way to effectively leverage an organizations time, energy and focus.
Commander time has one purpose
In his book, The Infinite Game, Author Simon Sinek defines servant leadership a bit differently than author James C. Hunter in his book The Servant but both generally aim for and hit the same target. Some leaders and commanders roll their eyes and smirk at the mention of what some view as the over used cliché “servant leadership.”
To this very day, I see some of the same reactions to the use of the term. I typically muse at this reaction because behind every smirk or rolling of the eyes is a general thought that my “philosophy” is more compelling and useful than the over-used “servant leadership” mumbo-jumbo.
Sinek’s hypothesis is that “the primary focus of leader [commander] time, energy and
decisions goes to those that I [he / she] lead”. He further posits that servant leadership means “the primary benefit of [a leaders] contributions flow downstream.” Similarly, author James C. Hunter posits that servant leadership is about “identifying and meeting the needs of others”.
As an approach, this fundamentally makes a
lot of sense to most commanders and leaders. However, for some, it is like the old Tina Turner song “What’s Love Got to Do with It”. Command for some is fundamentally about one thing or another: check the block, hopefully achieve a top rating and move on to the next thing. In this sense, “what’s serving my people got to do with it?” For others, the illusion of not being able to dictate
how the unit should operate based on a personal philosophy and professional bias’s cause some to surmise that command was a waste of their talent, time and energy.
I make this statement from a basis of what I’ve experienced in 29-years. As a young Captain, I recall several peers expressing the desire to “get command over with,” and this was only after six months on the job. Similarly, at other levels, I’ve marveled at the physical displeasure of those around me in command. The constant facial scowls, constant displeasure with higher and subordinate units and disbelief that people were consuming a majority of their time.
As a matter of opinion, I think both Sinek and Hunter are absolutely spot on with their definitions of servant leadership. As a practical application and for arguments sake, I’ll use Sinek’s description.
Command Philosophies
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