When I was in the Marine Corps, the term “Command Intent” was used regularly to describe how leader empowered their followers to accomplish the mission. Simply stated, command intent meant that a leader gave the vision, the mission, and left it up to their followers to figure out the best way how to do it.
As it’s core was empowerment and a sense of commissioning. The commander said, “This is what needs to be done, not go out and do it.” It left a wide open road in terms of methods and tactics. The successful completion of the mission was the goal. The followers were empowered to determine the best means forward—to figure it out.
Consider Commodore Matthew Perry, famous for his expedition to Japan in 1852. In 1852 Perry set out from Virginia, empowered and commissioned by President Millard Fillmore with an incredible amount of empowerment- levels of authority that would be unheard of today in most organizations.
Perry wrote in his diary…
It is my duty and it certainly is a pleasure to say, that the President and every other member of his Cabinet evinced the liveliest interest in the Expedition and extended towards me the utmost kindness and consideration, authorized me the most liberal equipment of the vessels, invested me with extraordinary powers, diplomatic as well as Naval.
The Letter of instruction provided by Fillmore’s Secretary of the Navy is a model of command intent.
Letter of Instruction to Perry
The Secretary of the Navy will…be pleased to direct the Commander of the Squadron to proceed, with his whole force, to such point on the coast of Japan as he may deem advisable, and there endeavor to open communication with the government, and if possible, to see the Emperor in person, and deliver to him the letter of introduction from the President with which he is charged.
Perry was empowered and commissioned to lead. He knew what this “command intent” was and was given the power and freedom to best bring out the desired ends.
But this is nothing new. The greatest mission ever given, the Great Commission of Jesus, empowered and commissioned with the power and freedom to best bring out the desired ends.
To teach others is to empower others. To equip others is to empower others. Click To Tweet
Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: ‘God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.’ Matthew 28:18-20 MSG
Jesus empowered and commissioned us with a clear vision and mission, but left the means, the planning, the strategy, the tactics, etc., up to us.
If Jesus was authorized and commanded and He did the same for us, shouldn’t you be doing that as a leader?Delegation isn’t just about power, it's about trust. Good leaders delegate duties while great… Click To Tweet
Harvard professor John Kotter in his article, “What Leaders Really Do,” writes that setting the vision and direction is the first priority of leadership.
Since the function of leadership is to produce change, setting direction of that change is fundamental to leadership. Setting direction is never the same as planning…The direction setting aspect of leadership does not produce plans; it creates vision and strategy. These describe a business, technology, or corporate culture in terms of what it should be over the long-term and articulate a feasible way of achieving the goal.
We have an advantage the Perry did not have. The President could not provide Perry any instruction after Perry set sail. No phones, no email, no telegraph lines linked Perry to Washington. But we have the Holy Spirit and The Bible and we can remain in constant communication with the one who commissioned and empowered us for this mission.
What does it say about the trust and leadership Jesus provided for His Church when he commissioned us on this mission?
What does our trust and empowerment say about our own leadership?
Just because you can send that email, send that text, make that phone call, or call that meeting does it mean you should?Poor leaders give too many directions. A Servant Leader gives a destination and empowers their… Click To Tweet
Commodore Perry was provided extraordinary levels of empowerment and Jesus has empowered us in extraordinary was as well—because we have an extraordinary mission!
Photo Source https://archive.org/details/mma_commodore_matthew_calbraith_perry_283184