By: LTC Chad Foster
I learned a lot over two years in command of a Cavalry Squadron. I also re-learned many things that I had discovered during earlier assignments, but these lessons gained a new and broader context when experienced from a Commander’s perspective. The list that follows is not definitive. However, I hope that this “top 10,” as imperfect and incomplete as it is, might be helpful to some of those lucky enough to be taking command at any level in the future.
1. To truly command, you must have the courage to give up some control.
You MUST allow your subordinate leaders to do their jobs – That sounds obvious, right? But there can be a strong temptation to control everything. After all, YOU are the Commander, the most experienced and (to that point, at least) the most professionally successful officer in the battalion. Those who are focused on their own advancement, tend to obsess about “looking bad” in front of the boss. Everything MUST be perfect, so they feel like they must control it.
No matter how strong this urge might become, fight it. Fight it with all you’ve got. Your subordinate leaders and soldiers will never develop effectively and your unit will never fully harness the power and talent of its members unless you give up some control. If you are controlling, it likely that you aren’t commanding anything. While there are times when you have to closely monitor and control actions, these are the exceptions, not the norm. Give intent rather than directives whenever possible and trust your subordinates with the freedom to maneuver while pursuing that intent. Any short term setbacks that might occur are well worth the long term developmental benefits to the unit and to those young soldiers, NCOs, and officers.