Academic journal article Military Review

Developing an Effective Command Philosophy

Academic journal article Military Review

Developing an Effective Command Philosophy

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The underlying philosophy of leaders has a significant impact on the way they relate to others, attempt to influence others, judge the actions of others, and make decisions affecting others. Most leadership theories, however, neglect this factor.

--Steven J. Mayer, Ph.D., "Leadership Philosophy"

IN THE FIELD of military leadership, few concepts provoke as much confusion and misinterpretation as a leadership philosophy. The ritual of every incoming military leader providing his organization some type of "philosophy" document even before the completion of his change of command ceremony endures in Army culture as a symbol of organizational ownership. Who can forget those nights before assuming command, when we anxious young captains fumbled through a file of command philosophies attempting to extract our "philosophy" of leading? In many cases, our efforts were little more than exercises in futility and attempts to fulfill some fictitious expectation. Given the recent high-profile reliefs of command and reported cases of toxic leadership within the Army and Navy, I suspect the level of deep thought and self-analysis many senior leaders give to the preparation of their leadership philosophies is comparable to that of young captains. Field Manual (FM) 6-22, Army Leadership, is strangely silent on the concept of a personal leadership philosophy, leaving the reader to wonder what one, in fact, is. Research reveals a variety of articles on the subject, but rarely do any two agree on its purpose, content, or meaning. In most cases, leadership philosophy denotes an organizational philosophy or what the military refers to as "command philosophy." However, an effective command philosophy is contingent on first developing a personal leadership philosophy.

The U.S. Army Command and General Staff Colloge requires each student to write a personal philosophy of leadership. The learning objective of this exercise is to encourage our mid-level Army leaders to codify their thoughts, beliefs, and values about leadership as they prepare for their next leadership challenge. I routinely receive used copies of company-level command philosophies with their focus on unit vision, goals, and objectives. It is obvious to me that most mid-level Army leaders have little time to think about leadership or reflect on those critical life events that shaped their personal values, beliefs, and ethics and how these events impacted their leadership behaviors. I believe the primary reason for this is the failure of the military educational system to clearly define the vague and ambiguous term commonly referred to as "leadership philosophy." A well thought out leadership philosophy is a critical foundational tool to use to develop influential leaders and create positive organizational climates.

This article examines the power of a properly written leadership philosophy for mid-career leaders. By reflecting on one's past experience, values, and beliefs, leaders can determine "what they believe" concerning leadership. This discovery and subsequent codification of leadership values and beliefs creates a map that guides the leader as he attempts to shape a positive organizational climate. Through the application of a personal leadership philosophy as manifested in the organizational command philosophy, the leader imparts his values throughout the organization and affects its moral and operational compass.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

All military officers are what John Maxwell refers to as "360-degree leaders" and thus require a viable leadership philosophy. (1) Developing a personal leadership philosophy is essential because, although most military officers are in positions of command for just a brief period, they are in leadership positions for their entire professional careers.

Defining "Leadership Philosophy"

Professor of philosophy Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues that--

   Some people say philosophy is too abstract
   and even controversial. … 
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.