In most organizations and especially in the military, clearly articulated roles and responsibilities are critical to enabling mission accomplishment. Authority, responsibility, and accountability are easy for all to see based on little more than an organizational chart. In fact, when trying to familiarize another with our team or an upcoming operation, the organizational chart is among the first tools for which we reach. We see nice boxes connected by clearly defined solid-lines, a few dotted-lines, and maybe a few other line variations. The lines we draw tell the story. These lines describe relationships, these lines differentiate between responsibilities, and these lines define authority. If we think it is important enough to draw the line, it’s important that we draw it properly.

When it comes to athletics, lines are drawn to communicate intent for the next play and to divide the field or court into zones of responsibility. When we assess our own values and apply them to a given situation, we decide where we draw the line. As a nation, we determine “redlines” that serve as tripwires that initiate a predetermined response. And sometimes our desire for good order and effective planning is reason enough for us to rush to draw lines. There are many good reasons to draw these lines, but with each line we draw we take away flexibility and the opportunity to demonstrate initiative.

My personal experiences have taught me that sometimes it makes far more sense to draw blurred lines if we are to draw them at all. Life is rarely black and white and a clear delineation between my role and that of my teammate is more likely to result in a gap in coverage than a duplication of effort. Likewise, the best outcomes are often delivered when we merge opposing views in favor of choosing between the two. It is my opinion that we need a little less commanding and a lot more cooperating, as well as a little less competing and a lot more partnering. We ought to at least consider blurring the lines we (or others) once drew. If we have a clean sheet of paper, we should consider whether or not we want to draw any lines at all.

  • Are you more likely to compete or partner with another?
  • Where do you draw the line?
  • Which lines in your life are most worthy of blurring?