Charge the Line

Part 6: The Art of Leadership - Disorganization

By Josh Fowler

When the general is weak and without authority; when his orders are not clear and distinct; when there are no fixed duties assigned to officers and men, and the ranks are formed in a slovenly haphazard manner, the result is utter disorganization.

Disorganization. Unfortunately, it happens in many organizations nationwide. Individuals are placed in positions of leadership without the capabilities needed to lead. There are multiple reasons as to why this occurs; however, Sun Tzu refers to three separate areas that lead to disorganization.

First, some of those in leadership positions are weak (morally, ethically, politically, etc.) and without authority. Influence is a two-way street, and like it or not, leaders influence positively and negatively. If you are weak in any of the above areas, your organization will be weak as well. Some may be fit for a position of leadership but lack the organizational skills needed to fulfill the role. This lack of organization will eventually manifest itself as disorganization within your business unless you adjust your skill set and become more organized.

Next is communication. Because communication is so vital to our existence, the ability to communicate well is critical not only for the leader, but also those being led. Sun Tzu uses the words clear and distinct regarding communication. Without clear, concise, and complete communication, disorganization will be imminent. The higher you are in your organization, the clearer your orders need to be–not only to those who directly report to you but especially those to which you delegate authority. The modern military uses the term “Commander’s Intent.” Commander’s intent, to be successful on the battlefield, encourages subordinate leaders to use initiative regarding the execution of any mission. By design, it provides those leaders with the ability to deviate from a specific plan of attack if necessary while still accomplishing the ultimate desires of their commander. Much attention is paid to understanding this, so even in the chaos and the fog of war, officers can still use their initiative toward achieving the single goal. In the fire service, command strategy often fails due to varying management styles and task level interpretation that is other than the (incident) commander’s intent. If tactics are misaligned and uncoordinated, failure is inevitable. Additionally, if personnel on the fireground are unaware of the commander’s intent, freelancing will ensue, which leads to a loss of accountability. This falls in line with Tzu’s statement “when there are no fixed duties assigned to officers and men.”

The last point revolves around order. If your business is disorderly and unorganized internally, what is to be expected by your customers and stakeholders externally?