Commander’s intent


As a student of history and leadership, I read a lot of biographies and watch YouTube videos on these subjects.

One great video I watched recently was an interview with former US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (he was a four-star General of the US Marines when he retired) about his leadership philosopy. What he said caught my attention because it describes how great leaders do their work.

Mattis talked about “commander’s intent” as an approach to the leadership role. It will help explain why Presidents like Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte can afford to play golf at night or even “vanish” from view for two weeks. A leader doesn’t need to cook lugaw and serve it to the people. He doesn’t need to be on Facebook or YouTube everyday to have his presence “felt”.

This is a good lesson for those who are ignorant about the work of leaders.

According to Mattis, a good leader only needs to articulate what needs to be done, his vision of how an organization should pursue its goals and objectives. He calls it the “commander’s intent”. Once this is communicated to the organization, the people working in the organization are given wide latitude in formulating their strategies to accomplish the mission. A good leader does not look over the shoulders of his subordinates.

The only requirement is that the “commander’s intent” is clear and leaves no room for doubt.

This is the leadership style of President Duterte. He has outstanding men and women working with him on the team. Most, if not all, possess sterling leadership qualities of their own, honed by long years of experience in the government, military, business or academe. There are a few bad eggs, but not enough to spoil the entire basket.

It also explains why President Duterte has shown a bias toward retired military and police generals to handle the heavy work.

Many people found it hard to understand why President Duterte appointed retired General Rolando Bautista as DSWD chief. In the past, women with no experience in logistics and organization work handled this portfolio. That betrays a lack of understanding of the true nature of social welfare services, especially in times of disaster.

Military generals spent decades learning and training in making sure people, weapons, ammunition, transportation and the like placed at the right spot at the right time. That experience is invaluable. If these generals fail to achieve that confluence in the delivery of vital items at a time they are needed, many lives could be sacrificed.

With his background, Secretary Bautista doesn’t need close supervision on how he does his work. It may not be perfect, but in the last two years when the country was hit by earthquakes, typhoons, volcano eruptions and, of course, the Covid 19 pandemic, Bautista has done a good job.

The same thing can be said about General Carlito Galvez. This quiet individual shies away from the spotlight and works quietly. And despite the handicaps, Galvez has succeeded in bringing vaccines into the country to start the counter-attack on this unseen enemy. All the political noise didn’t distract him. It won’t be long before his work will unravel itself and prove that government is not sleeping.

Much more can be said about the former generals on the President’s team.

Suffice it to say that Mayor Digong’s leadership style isn’t a “hit or miss” approach. He has set the direction on his compass, and everybody works harmoniously with each other. There are occasional gaffs, but that’s not surprising with the complex problem we are facing. Leaders are not afraid of making mistakes, and everybody on a team must also embrace that attitude. Being afraid of mistakes is a barrier to innovation and confine team members to old playbooks that may have become obsolete.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

2 Responses to Commander’s intent

  1. Felicitas Nagui says:

    Good content, thank you and continue doing a good job. Stay safe and healthy po.

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