Even at the earliest stages in our career, Naval Officers are taught that we should aspire to Command.¬†Joint Pub 1-02¬†defines Command as…

The authority that a Commander in the Military Service lawfully exercises over subordinates by virtue of rank or assignment. Command includes the authority and responsibility for effectively using available resources and for planning the employment of, organizing, directing, coordinating, and controlling military forces for the accomplishment of assigned missions. It also includes responsibility for health, welfare, morale, and discipline of assigned personnel.

Most Naval Officers would agree that there is no greater privilege or responsibility than Command. Many of us would freely admit that we hope to one day earn that privilege, but few will. Few will, not because more are not worthy but because the opportunity to do so is scarce (i.e., there are relatively few Commanding Officer positions in comparison to the overall number of positions across the Navy). I have been fortunate enough to have had Command and I am blessed with the opportunity to do it again beginning later this year. As excited as I am for the opportunity, I must admit that the definition of Command I shared above is not what excites me, as I like to think that I am already Commanding the things that are most important.

I never expected the opportunity to Command in the doctrinal sense, but it remains a constant goal of mine to Command…

  • Command Respect
  • Command Trust
  • Command Partnership
  • Command Additional Responsibility
  • Command Confidence

Over the course of my career, I have seen many people in Command (doctrinally speaking), command none of that. Likewise, I continue to work with many people who command all of that, but will never have Command (again, doctrinally speaking). I agree with the traditional Navy culture, we should all aspire to Command. But we must understand that the most meaningful things we can command are not limited to Command. These things are earned not because of position, not with a pin on our chest, and not because we are the senior person in a given situation. We have the opportunity to command these things from wherever we are assigned, whatever our rank, and whatever our primary duties.

It is not lost on me that the definition of Command does not mention the word “leadership” at all. Not all in Command are leaders and most leaders will never have Command in the doctrinal definition. As I recently read in General McChrystal’s book My Share of the Task, “People are born, leaders are made.” Taking that thought a few steps further, Commanding Officers are selected, not all choose to lead; a small fraction of true leaders will ever have Command, but they most certainly command that which is most important.

  • What do you aspire to command?
  • Are you more interested in Leading or Commanding?
  • Are you capable of Commanding Cooperatively?