Authoritarianism or similar rather than leadership

Leadership is not about the tell it is about the do. To many people look at a leadership task as telling other people what to do. They take an authoritarian perspective on the principle of getting things done. I see this in garrison mentality of senior military leaders and the compliance checklist mentality of government and industry types. If only we told people more, quicker, faster, with bigger negative consequence what to do.  Only to see such schemes fail upon birth. Authoritarians though love carrot and stick analogies while completely missing the abject moral failure.

Leadership is not about getting people to do something when you ask them. Leadership is about people doing things before you need to ask them. The first is non-scalable and creates a leadership deficit quickly. The second requires building leaders and the ability to discuss a vision and mission in concrete terms.

Though the principle of mission command has existed for a long time you see the authoritarian influence all over the concept. Rather than working to provide more concrete mission and vision directions as commanders intent you see more robust definitions and inflection of lawyers into the process. If you must redefine common words to make palatable mission profiles you are doing it wrong. Some of this is caused by a command influence to inject an inordinate level of law and punishment into military matters. Where commanders hold people accountable for being grammarians rather than warriors.

It isn’t political correctness but a lost sense of mission for the military that subsumes leadership.

This definitional construct of “what is war and how do you define it” is a horrible impediment to actually winning  a war. The vision is pretty simple for the military. Go forth, kill and break the adversaries people and stuff, until the adversary gives up.  Lawyers and others talk about selectivity in targeting and principles of just war theory to justify killing people and breaking stuff. If you use the ultimate power of existential level power rarely then people have a tendency to complain less. Then again you shouldn’t be doing stuff that is bad enough to make people complain or you shouldn’t care very much if they complain. War on others is diplomacy of another kind to friends and neutrals alike.

Leadership is getting people to invest in the ability to make the right decision at the right time. Leadership is not about taking the ability to make decision away from subordinates.  Leadership is about getting people to do stuff before you ask them to do stuff. That requires vision, mission, skills and capabilities along with judgement and moral intelligence. Yet we ignore much of this equation or force the concept of morals and ethics into pseudo religious constructs that often fail under the weight of contradictory inputs. Leadership is about making mistakes that make the person, the leader and the organization stronger.

Leadership is impossible without two-way trust. The power to innovate, adapt, and overcome obstacles requires enthusiasm towards intelligent choice. We often stomp intellectual curiosity out of leaders when we hold them accountable to regulatory and statutory requirements that are neither harmonized (often in mortal conflict) and often regulatory and statutory guidance is of little relevance.

The compliance driven, check list checking, and garrison mentality authoritarians worry about social and political upheaval upon mistakes. They miss what any leader could tell them. Mistakes happen. What you do with them is what is important. Breaking a rule may be the only way to insure success of the mission. If the mission is important enough then the rule is wrong not the soldier, sailor or marine. Yes bad guys will take such rule sets and they will abuse the heck out of the missing structures of authoritarians. At an existential level who cares? Do we really want to insure the security of the nation or do we use the military as a grand social experiment?

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