Mission command requires sharp commander's intent
By Gen. Gustave "Gus" PernaNovember 4, 2019
One of the most important skills a leader can learn is the art of executing mission command. Army Doctrine Publication 6-0, Mission Command, defines mission command as "the exercise of authority and direction by the commander using mission orders to enable disciplined initiative within the commander's intent to empower agile and adaptive leaders in the conduct of unified land operations." More simply, I define mission command as leadership through commander's intent.UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCETo get mission command right, leaders must first understand the difference between mission command and command and control. Commanders who lead through command and control make every decision for their organization. They are reluctant to take risks and let others lead because they fear the possibility of failing. The commander is the single point of success or failure in the organization.Conversely, mission command relies on the art of leadership. It requires trust and confidence in others to achieve the collective objective. Leaders who use mission command empower others to figure out the ways and means to get to the end state. Within prescribed parameters and guidance, commanders underwrite risk in allowing others to make decisions and execute without micromanagement.KNOW THE COMMANDER'S INTENTKnowing how to give and communicate commander's intent is absolutely critical to mission command. It requires vision, established priorities, and the ability to convey those in order to achieve an output.Mission command is not accomplished through email; it requires face-to-face interaction through battle rhythm events and regular assessments to ensure intent is understood and met. Commanders are responsible for understanding the environment and tailoring communication to achieve results based on guidance and intent.I encourage commanders to use their command sergeants major and senior enlisted advisers as scouts to commander's intent. They should be the first to get the commander's intent so they can help to spread it throughout the organization. Because command sergeants major maintain a pulse on the formation, they can assess whether or not intent is understood and if priorities and intent are being executed across the organization.Leaders should think about the end state and output of everything they do. Every action in command should have commander's intent behind it with an identified task, purpose, critical factors, and vision of the end state. I challenge commanders and leaders at all levels to consider the end state and output first. You cannot give intent without knowing where you want to end up.While some situations require directive leadership through command and control, leaders should strive to master the art of leadership through mission command. Ultimately, leading through mission command not only sets conditions for a positive work environment but also allows others to grow and develop and drives the organization in a collective direction.
Gen. Gustave "Gus" Perna is the commander of the Army Materiel Command at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
This article was published in the January-March 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.
- July 1, 2020Exiting U.S. Transportation Command Foreign Policy Advisor strengthened diplomatic support to the organization and America’s defense
- July 1, 2020ASA(ALT) Senior Leadership Organizational Chart
- June 30, 2020Perna leads AMC through command changes and evolving requirements
- June 30, 2020Romeo Crennel: Path to NFL runs through Knox
- June 29, 2020Pushing the Limits
- June 26, 2020Journey to National Guard worth the wait for this specialist
- June 24, 2020New West Point emergency manager starts job during pandemic
- June 23, 2020FamilyMWR to kick off 12-week esports tournament
- June 18, 2020A PROBLEM SOLVER TAKES ON ACQUISITION
- June 16, 2020USAR G1 and G3 Communities Preparing for IPPS-A through AOS organization
- June 15, 2020AFC organizations collaborating on sensor-based study to understand/predict COVID-19 susceptibility
- June 15, 2020Through Training Workshop, HR Pros learn value of Army Organization Server
- June 11, 2020Transit of medical patients from American Samoa achieved by FEMA and U.S. military collaboration
- June 10, 2020RID team ensures requirements meet ‘Command Validated’ criteria
- June 9, 2020AMCOM achieves readiness improvements, despite pandemic-safety measures