LL6: Command and Control

I am reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink. You can read what Malcolm says on his website about the book and for more information click here. It’s a book about snap judgments, rapid cognition, and thin-slicing. Read it. It’s pretty good. I write all of that to say that it’s not a book on leadership per se, but he writes about a general giving a lesson about leadership.

“The first thing I told our staff is that we would be in command and out of control.” Van Riper says, echoing the words of the management guru Kevin Kelly. “By that, I mean that the overall guidance and the intent were provided by me and the senior leadership, but the forces in the filed wouldn’t depend on intricate orders coming from the top. They were to use their own initiative and be innovative as they went forward. Almost every day, the commander of the Red air forces came up with different ideas of how he was going to pull this together, using these general techniques of trying to overwhelm Blue Team from different directions. But he never got specific guidance from me of how to do it. Just the intent.”

Malcolm writes that this management system does have it’s risks. It was messy, and he had to give up control, but it enabled rapid cognition. According to Gladwell, rapid cognition is much more trustworthy than long meetings. Read the book.

I have seen management styles that are about Command and Control. I have seen senior leaders that want to micro-manage and control every detail. They command and control everything. It is a definite management style that at some points might be needed – help me understand this if you have an opinion on it.

I like the idea and the lesson of being in Command but not in Control. Any thoughts?

For all of my Leadership Lessons


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