Followership: Exercising Discretion

The U.S. Army has been fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for over 10 years and in the process produced a new military doctrine called mission command. Mission command doctrine was conceived from a wartime environment to allow followers in the field to act according to the dictates of the situation on the ground, giving them maximum discretion. The concept of mission command fits nicely into followership research and theory. For a military widely dispersed both by geography and mission, this concept represents an effective way to empower followers and encourage them to take initiative and accept prudent risk. Mission command doctrine expects officers and exemplary followers to be courageous. It requires them to act on their own, be wise in assuming risk, be actively engaged in executing the commander’s intent, and find multiple ways and options to accomplish the mission. Since mission command is a philosophy born of our recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the question remains of how this philosophy will fare in an inter-war period of forced reductions, downsizing, and substantial budget reductions.