• Crissman covers myths of mission command

  • Crissman delivers February ALx talk.

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  • Tisha Swart-Entwistle | Combined Arms Center Public Affairs Office
    Maj. Gen. Doug Crissman, director of the Mission Command Center of Excellence, addressed more than 100 soldiers, civilians and virtual attendees on the topic “Developing leaders to exercise mission command” during his Army Leader Exchange address Feb. 26 in the Lewis and Clark Center’s Arnold Conference Room.
    Hosted by the Center for Army Leadership, ALx serves as a community of practice dedicated to enabling professional conversation on all things leadership and leader development. The ALx series of talks features speakers from industry, government, education and military who offer unique insights on leadership.
    “I’m pretty passionate about these two topics — developing leaders and mission command,” Crissman said.
    Crissman said he is passionate about developing leaders because he has been fortunate to serve with some great leaders.
    “(Leaders) that developed me into a better leader and a better person and kind of made me who I am today,” Crissman said. “And made me better than what I would have otherwise been without their developmental efforts.”
    He said he is also passionate about mission command and not just because he is the Army’s director of the MCCoE.
    “Because I truly believe it is the right philosophy,” Crissman said. “To guide, not just our approach to leading today, but it’s going to become even more necessary for us to become proficient, leading with the mission command philosophy and for us to succeed and operate effectively as an Army in the future.”
    Crissman centered his address around three main ideas.
    First, he said, to get better at applying the mission command philosophy, Army leaders need to understand it better — both what it is and what it isn’t.
    “While it’s been an accepted term in our doctrine for just under a decade, mission command, it’s not an entirely new concept,” Crissman said. “Most successful Army leaders have practiced mission command since the 18th century.”
    Doctrine has been describing the mission command approach for over a century, but it just wasn’t called mission command until 2010, Crissman said.
    Crissman discussed a few of the myths of the mission command philosophy. He said understanding what mission command is not is almost more important than understanding what it is.
    One of the myths Crissman discussed is that mission command is only a concern for leaders.
    Because the word “command” is in the title of mission command as a philosophy, Crissman said people might really believe it’s all about what the leader is doing and that subordinates, followers or junior leaders have less responsibility or no responsibility to contribute to its success.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I think it is quite the opposite actually,” Crissman said.” I think mission command, because it is meant to decentralize decision-making authority and seeks to give our subordinates significant freedom of action, it actually demands more of our subordinates at all levels. Because those subordinates have to understand more about that bigger picture, have to understand their role … to be able to see first and then seize those opportunities to exercise initiative.”
    The mission command philosophy functions best when the climate and culture in a unit makes it a natural act, Crissman said.
    “You can’t just have a leader who leads by mission command if all those who are his or her followers haven’t been brought up in that climate and that culture and don’t know how to follow a leader who is leading with mission command as a philosophy,” Crissman said.
    Crissman brought up trust and how important it is to build the trust and cohesion in a unit. He offered suggestions of how to build trust faster in a training environment.
    One of his recommendations is to increase contact time between the leader and the led.
    “The more time your subordinates get exposed to you, the more they begin to understand how you think,” Crissman said, “and, therefore, how you will likely think in a particular scenario when they might be required to act without your specific guidance.”
    Developing a climate and culture conducive to mission command doesn’t happen on its own, he said.
    “It doesn’t happen just because the leader stands up and says that’s the way we are going to lead,” Crissman said. “It’s a deliberate act, it requires time, multiple contact points and repetitions.”
    Crissman said developing the climate and culture are inextricably linked to unit leader development efforts.
    “The time that we dedicate to developing leaders is also contributing directly to establishing a climate where mission command can flourish,” Crissman said.
    The address was broadcast live via Facebook and the video will be preserved for academic use. The link to the full address is https://www.facebook.com/armyleaderexchange/videos/955941701275168/. Facebook users can also search for the Army Leader Exchange Facebook page or visit the website http://armyleadership .org/ALx.html.
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