Mission Leadership

Traditionally, the business environment was measured and predicable. The most important information was held in the centre and organisations were structured into clear silos and delegation focused on responsibility for implementing plans. The core skill needed to create performance in such an environment was management. Today the environment is fast, complex and uncertain. The most important information is held at all levels, and organisations seek alignment through a mixture of cross functional teams and networks. It is not possible to lay down exacting guidance on how to operate; this needs to be inherent in the culture – simply put, the people in the organisation know the right thing to do and feel empowered to be able to do it. And the core skill needed today to drive this inherent performance is leadership.

This has strong parallels with the leadership culture of military organisations – large complex organisations that throughout history have had to operate with speed and cohesion in chaotic environments. The underlying premise is a clear understanding of intent and direction and the freedom within the organisation which this can be reached. This is known as Mission Command – or its corporate parallel, ‘mission leadership’.




‘Auftragstaktik’ or Mission Command, was initially developed by the Prussian Army after defeat by Napoleon in 1806 in order to adapt to the new fast changing, unpredictable battlefield environment. In essence the change involved a new set of behavioural norms:

Telling subordinates not what to do and how to do it, but what to achieve and why.

With mission leadership high level vision can be translated into action right down and across an organisation. It deploys and directs the talents of junior leaders instead of restricting and controlling them and taps into one of the greatest motivators of individual performance:

To know you are making a distinct contribution to a collective purpose.

It fosters behavioural norms. The behaviours involve senior people being disciplined enough to be very clear about their intentions and not to interfere with their juniors. Junior people need to be ready to accept responsibility and not to delegate it back upwards and to use the freedom they are granted. The behaviours allow for risk. Risks successfully run gradually inculcate trust. As trust increases so does performance.

Does this sound like your organisation? The ex military staff in TrafalgarPD have a lot of mission leadership experience and have applied these principles with many corporate organisations. Contact us to find out more about how we can work with you to develop a culture of Mission Leadership within your organisation.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *