Leadership

I have just published a new book, which you can find on the My Books page.

This book is about more than just battlefield leadership.  Tactical skill and masterful maneuver is not enough.  Leaders need to master the principles of command.  Command skills are building blocks.  Leadership is the mortar that binds them together.  Years ago, NATO became enamoured of a uniquely German leadership philosophy called Auftragstaktik (translated as Mission Command).  But as a friend told me, “you can’t grow cactus in the tundra.”  This modest phrase launched me on a years-long quest to understand why NATO militaries have failed to incorporate Mission Command in their forces.

It isn’t that NATO forces haven’t tried.  They have.  And they have failed.  This story explains how and why.

Innovation and lasting changes to leadership concepts and their underpinning philosophies cannot be cut and pasted from one military to another.  Implementing elements of another culture’s doctrine is no simple task.  Without first undertaking an in-depth analysis of their cultural and intellectual environments, such borrowing is doomed to fail.

To implement a leadership philosophy which inspired the outstanding battlefield performance of the Prusso-German armies required fundamental change.  This book probes not only the history of the concept of Auftragstaktik.  It links the philosophy to the necessary concepts that made it possible: the creation of a dedicated general staff; the sustained study and practise of operational art; the acceptance of chaos as the fundamental nature of war.

This book is important for many reasons.  It traces the historical underpinnings of key German historical traditions and cultural practices.  It raises fundamental questions about the fusion of military and social cultures and considers whether those unique German practices can be applied in foreign cultures with their own unique norms and traditions.

The foundations of NATO’s Mission Command and Manoeuvre Warfare doctrines are flawed.  Without a deep understanding of the cultural, social, and historical bases of Prusso-German Auftragstaktik, it is impossible to achieve Mission Command in the way that NATO doctrine writers have envisaged. 

Every military leader needs to read this book to understand how the Prussians inextricably interwove the key leadership issues of mission, shared responsibility, and trust.  Seeing the process through the lens of history provides the reader with fresh insights into the cultural, organizational, and political roots of this battle-winning leadership philosophy.  Through this brief but detailed study, the reader will gain a clear understanding of those factors needed to provide the much-needed context to understand where NATO has gone wrong and how to correct it.

Finally, I offer a caution.  Our collective embrace of Mission Command and Manoeuvre Warfare while rewarding micromanagement, our excessive focus on technology, and our intolerance of failure, is a permanent roadblock to the successes that we hope to emulate.  My aim is to provide an educated insight on this critical topic in the hope that the book will elicit deep reflection that will guide the professional development of those interested in military history, culture, and leadership philosophy.

Whatever your profession, if you aspire to be a leader, you need to read this short book. 

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