This article titled 'Reflections on Command' by Rupert Hoskin was originally published in the Australian Army Journal, and is a reflection on his time in command. Whilst this is aimed at the Unit Command level, the observations and reflections are also relevant for current and prospective Sub-Unit Commanders, Sergeant Majors and Second-In-Command appointment holders. A brief summary of some key observations made in the article are as follows:

  • It is simplistic and lazy to suggest that Mission Command is 'staying out of subordinates' way.' Creating a sound command climate takes a lot of time and effort.
  • Commanders must provide clear intent (busy commanders tend to 'shoot from the hip'), insist on back briefs, and check up or visit the subordinate commanders in the execution of that task.
  • Be self-disciplined with your own time, consider: base everyone's time management around MS Outlook and insist everyone shares their calendars with a strong culture of diary management (set the example so people can see what you allocate your time to and respect the plans people have made in allocating their time).
  • Programming time for family activities good leadership.
  • Avoid/disguise after hours activities wherever possible – don't send weekend or late night emails, save them to draft and send them in the morning.
  • 'The Army is not a cut-throat, competitive organisation where you only advance by undermining others. There is an equitable and transparent system. If you work hard, uphold values, have faith and let the system do its part, then right things will happen. Not everyone gets to be a General or serve overseas, but such is life. Grace and realism are the keys to happiness, not success.'
  • In more senior command positions, your muscle memory from experience provides great intuition and it often takes little to trigger your sense of disquiet. Follows your instincts and ask probing questions if something doesn't seem right.
  • The truth sets you free – making tough decisions is a command responsibility. There are consequences for every weak decision.
  • 'Nothing in war is ever as good or as bad as the first reports of excited people would have it.' Most likely the initial prognosis is exaggerated and the crisis never eventuates.
  • Listen to legal advice, consider it carefully, but make your own decision.
  • Command can often be lonely.
  • Bad things can still happen in good battalions. Problems are a fact of life – decisive, well-considered and ethical action will be respected.

Read the article in full and consider having a discussion with your immediate command team.

  1. What measures can you put in place to ensure there is a healthy command climate in your organisation?
  2. What boundaries need to be established to ensure people are not overwhelmed by work tempo?
  3. How can you better support each other through the difficulties associated with command at the sub-unit level?