Saturday, January 24, 2009

Command is a Sacred Trust

When we select our commanders, we expect them to create a vision, and motivate and inspire their people toward that vision. We also expect our commanders to face squarely any situations that may undermine unit effectiveness and cohesion. We expect our commanders to be more than the head of a unit; we expect them to be leaders and to be accountable for mission performance. Those who recognize the interdependence of leadership and command are the most effective commanders, can best translate intentions into reality, and sustain momentum. Therefore, we must select for command those who will, with resolve and persistence, meet all the responsibilities––both pleasant and unpleasant––inherent in command.

Command is a sacred trust. We surround the change of command with dignity and ceremony deliberately to dramatize the sacred meaning of military command. A commander is not just the person in the top block of the unit’s organizational chart. A new commander becomes a different person than he or she was prior to accepting command. Commanders are awarded a special trust and confidence to fulfill their units’ missions and care for their people with leadership, discipline, justice, fairness, and compassion, in peace and war. Therefore, we must select them with utmost scrutiny and care, and for the right reasons.

Commanders must be role models, leading by example as well as by authority and influence.
• Commanders must be open and accessible, but not “one of the gang.”
• Commanders must promote a positive vision and culture within the unit, and not look the other way to avoid having to face a difficult problem.
• Commanders must distinguish between mistakes and crimes, and deal with them differently.
• Commanders must apply discipline fairly and consistently across the board without regard for friendship, rank, or other discriminators.
• Commanders must avoid favoritism, nepotism, and cronyism in all their forms.
• Commanders must understand trust and loyalty to the entire unit, and not misplace them.
• And finally, commanders must understand when to administer discipline and compassion, and not get the two mixed up.
General John Michael Loh

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