Leadership Principle # 5 – Make sure that your followers know your meaning and intent, and then lead them to the accomplishment of the mission

Posted: February 24, 2012 in Leadership
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This is the fifth installment in my series highlighting and discussing military leadership principles. Even though these principles have been developed over decades, and even centuries, of military practice, you will find that they are highly applicable to leaders in all walks of life, and especially business.

This principle has two main components. The first is to communicate your meaning and intent, and the second is to lead your people in carrying it them out. To do this, you first have to know what it is that YOU want to achieve. For this, you need a plan. Then you have to tell your followers or subordinates want you want to achieve, the general strategy and scheme of manoeuvre to achieve it, and then your plan to carry it out. You may have to be fairly directive, and give specific instructions to various teams or subordinate leaders, but it is usually best to give them a mission and then let them find the best way to achieve it. In the military, this is known as mission command, as opposed to directive command (where you give every detail of what to do).

Finally, once the plan is being implemented and the operation or project is underway, you have to actively lead your team. This means being at the right place and right time to make decisions, providing guidance and direction to respond to unforeseen events and conditions, correcting mistakes, and providing reinforcement to successful undertakings, encouragement, and generally stiffening resolve in the face of the inevitable obstacles and resistance. In the military, they often say that no plan survives contact with the enemy, and that is just as valid in business and in any other undertaking.

I will continue with the second group of five military leadership principles next week. Have a good weekend.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.

  1. Although the military may state that no plan survives contact with the enemy, this is not a credible or acceptable statement for business. In business we come up against “the enemy” every day, but in our environment it is called competition. Competition is actually very healthy as it allow us to grow, calculate and develop better strategies. The business plans implemented today are designed to be flexible and expected to be challenged, not only by foreseen entities but unforeseen as well.

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    • Thanks for the comment.

      Actually, it’s the same in business, but don’t confuse the plan with the goal. If your goal is to launch a new product or enter a new market, your initial plan may have to be modified several times, either in whole or in part, before you actually achieve it. It’s the same with everything you undertake, big or small, in business or in life in general.


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