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                  Challenging Command Philosophies BG Milford H. Beagle, Jr.
In my 29-years of observations and fortune to serve as a commander on multiple occasions, it is interesting to observe the various
philosophies exercised by peers, subordinates and superiors when it comes to command.
As defined, a philosophy is a theory or attitude held by someone that acts as their guiding principle whereas an approach is a “way of dealing with something.” Command philosophies are useful as frameworks but should not be the only guide that
a commander leverages to command. The danger of going into command with a set philosophy can limit a commander’s perspective of command and cause one to use their philosophy as a hammer and every command challenge are all nails.
The purpose of this article is to illuminate the practical difference between a philosophy and an approach for command. Many of the assumptions that I use in which to base my argument are
linked to the premise that command and leading in command requires a high level of agility and flexibility in thinking, operating and executing. A fixed mindset or philosophy simply will not do. In addition, I will highlight three practical approaches that I have leveraged in various levels of command.
Taking one’s time to think about command in a philosophical way is for sure a good thing. Prior to assuming command, every commander should
take the time to outline his / her overall philosophy, reconcile personal and Army values, describe expectations and establish a framework that can
be understood and leveraged to guide him / her in command.
As a young commander (CPT level), we were taught formally and informally that command philosophies were written in memorandum format and covered everything from physical training to field training and everything in between. Higher command philosophies were even more elaborate and the longest that I received as a subordinate commander was a four page command philosophy! Paragraph after paragraph described how the unit would operate, standards expected, priorities,
etc. What often occurred was vastly different. Philosophies weren’t aligned at echelon, “firm” red lines would often faded to shades of pink and leaders didn’t abide by their own written words.
As a platoon leader, my first company commander didn’t have a published philosophy but he was a pretty effective leader. He acted and operated in a way consistent with Army values, communicated well and modeled the behaviors expected of a commander. I often marveled at
his ability to deal with practically any situation
that came his way. He consistently applied the
right approach to the situation at hand while exacting a standard of unit discipline, cohesion and
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