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                 The people under our charge typically do not want to feel vulnerable or appear to be viewed as weak by their leadership. Therefore, problems are hidden, results are fluffed and truth sometimes gets skewed.
High performance is valued over trust. To leverage another Simon Sinek analogy, a high performer with low trust is simply (excuse the language) the organization’s “asshole.” He or she performs at a high level but nobody trusts them. Just about everyone can point them out and dismiss their behavior as “that’s just how they are,” and fail to realize the impact on the organizations overall trust factor. This further erodes unit cohesion;
after all, you can’t have cohesion without trust. A morning session of PT or a six hour staff ride does not cohesion build.
To state this third approach simply, commanders must adapt trust building approaches to
the organization and individuals within the organization. In some cases trust may already be
a strength of the unit, so how do you sustain it? In others, trust may be completely eroded, and in this case, how do you build it? The BLUF is that there is no cookie cutter solution but it is my premise that a philosophy won’t get you there but a flexible approach may get you closer to what you desire.
A commander’s approach to sensing, seeing and gauging trust is never ending. Therefore, an equal amount of energy must be placed into approaches to build, sustain and maintain trust. In this endeavor, nothing is off the table. I leverage lots of approaches at Fort Jackson; town halls, coffee and conversation, million step challenge and hand- written notes to name a few approaches to building, sustaining or creating trust.
I’ve spent a great deal of words, analogies and quotes to defend a simple argument that command philosophies are not bad things but should not be the only thing that guides a commander through command. Units are living, breathing and thinking entities and a set theory or attitude developed about how to command may be a little shortsighted.
Consistency plays a major role in command and commanders must be consistent in how they lead. This further implies that a consistent application
of varying approaches to achieve mission success should be equally understood. I am by no means indicating that the three approaches that I offered are a panacea, but over the years, I’ve been able to consistently rely on them as going in approaches to command vs. some arbitrary philosophy.
Command is not static and evolves from one level to the next. Doctrine does a great service
to help us understand leadership at the direct, organizational and strategic level but does little to illuminate various approaches to command at these levels.
Much of what we know as commanders is learned through experience, observations of others and honestly trial and error. How we formulate these lessons into our outlook of leading and commanding varies widely. Nonetheless, a lesson learned is only a lesson noted until it changes behavior. In this sense, a commander’s challenge
is to influence others by providing purpose, direction and motivation and along with this comes behavior change at an individual and unit level. A philosophy may get you partly there but your ability to know when, where and how to leverage varying approaches to deal with command will separate you from the rest of the field.
The BLUF comes down to your actions over your intentions. Philosophies have always struck me as intentions and approaches as actions... actively adjusting and adapting. We judge ourselves based on our intentions but others judge us based on our actions. As stated by Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire people to dream more, learn more, achieve more and become more, you are a leader.”
BG Milford H. Beagle, Jr. is the Commanding General of the United States Army Training Center and Fort Jackson.
Command Philosophies
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