Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Thoughtful Leader

As leaders we often insert ourselves into situations to drive decisions.  Once engaged we want to solve them, quickly extricate ourselves, and move on to the next challenge.

If we haven’t thought these situations through – our involvement, the desired end state, and how we will get there – we can find ourselves caught in the ever-tightening grip of our problem.  How might we better manage our challenge?


Are we victims of our push for speed?  For the great majority of situations we encounter, the “standard” speed to solution will work.  Certainly there are times when we must make fast decisions…and we do.  I heard a phrase once that goes, “If you want it bad, you’ll get it…BAD”!  How many times have we seen things get redone because of the pressure applied to reach a fast decision?  Time, people, resources, and profitability can be wasted.


To create a framework for success, what can we do?  We pause, analyze, consider, decide, and execute.  If one thinks about all elements of a situation (WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY) perhaps one might not find themselves imprisoned by their own good intentions.

Many years ago I learned a tool primarily used to create a document for the effective planning and execution of military operations.  I learned it as the Five Paragraph Field Order.  It consists of five paragraphs within which a leader captures the basic elements of a plan to successfully accomplish a mission.

Here is a quick look at the five elements:

SITUATION.  Before diving into creating a solution, the situation at hand must be accurately described.  This includes all positive and negative factors impacting decisions.

MISSION.  After understanding the situation, the leader can intelligently articulate the objective or goal.  This is a thoughtfully composed planning component that includes the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and WHY.

EXECUTION.  Here is where the leader clearly lays out how he/she sees the operation unfolding to accomplish the mission.

ADMINISTRATION AND LOGISTICS.  This incudes the leader’s guidance on the use of all available resources for mission accomplishment.

COMMAND AND COMMUNICATION.  It is important that all involved parties are clear on individual and group responsibilities.  All must understand “who’s responsible for what,” and how we will communicate status.

In any environment – civilian, military, for profit, and non – collaboration and delegation must play a part, too. An intelligent leader will take the time to understand if she or he is even needed. Can the employees handling the situation do it on their own? Can we create a developmental opportunity through which others can learn and grow? Sometimes the top person doesn’t need to be involved at all.


Not every challenge faced by today’s and tomorrow’s leaders will necessarily require something of the magnitude of the Five Paragraph Field Order.  It is up to us, as thoughtful leaders, to discern the level of planning and execution required to drive our organizations to success. What’s important is that there is a thoughtful process used to navigate challenges.

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This article was written by Gary Steele, Vice President with Learning Dynamics. Visit his personal profile page to learn more about Gary’s career and expertise.

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Learning Dynamics offers several customizable leadership development programs including Coaching for Results. Contact us today to learn how we can help your organization develop your supervisors and managers into leaders.