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Tactical Spotlight: Leadership

By Raptor, on 2023-02-05

Leadership is everywhere. Countries, states, companies, organizations, and so on all over the world are held together by a single, or a small group of leaders. Leadership works because leading is hard and it means taking responsibility; we, as humans, don’t like having responsibility and following is a whole lot easier than leading. Leadership can be used for virtually any kind of group, achieving something good, achieving something bad.

Leaders set tasks and directions, they keep the group together. They delegate work to achieve something, leaving those who he leads with tasks rather than decisions. Doing this, the group can, with a good leader, become more efficient than the sum of its members.

Military Leadership and Chain of Command

The one area where leadership is always required and very important is the military. From generals, over lieutenants to sergeants and corporals everyone is led by someone and is a leader of his own. This is a necessity. Always.

Military leadership works in a tree scheme, through the Chain of Command. Except the outermost branches, every branch grows out of a branch out of which further branches grow. Most branches now only indirectly grow out of the trunk.

While a general might decide to intervene in a regional civil war to stop it and another below him might decide the general course of action in a sector, only the lowest-ranking commanders will make direct, immediate decisions. A platoon commander may decide to guard a township, assigning squads to all entries of it. The squad commanders decide the placement and duties of their fireteams and the fireteam leaders will command the single soldiers. Like this, every commander commands two to five elements below, instead of one person leading 30 single operators.

In any combat situations, immediate decisions are often critical - another reason for a Chain of Command to be established. Any part of the group has a leader nearby (remember that every leader only commands 2-5 elements, leaving him generally less busy) for immediate decisions and guidance.


As stated earlier, there is one significant difference between the commanders on platoon-level and lower and those above. The lower the commander, the more immediate and critical are the decisions he has to make. To make effective decisions there are a few principles for leaders to keep in mind.

Tactical Maneuver

More specifically, fire and movement. Fire serves little to no purpose without movement happening at the same time. Movement without fire can and will result in failure and thus, casualties. Every commander should attempt to keep any moving elements with an overwatching element of similar strength.

Taking Advantage

Everything at the disposal of the leader which benefits the mission should be exploited. The leader should seek to use the strengths of his units to the maximum and at the same time make the enemy incapable of employing their strength while exploiting their biggest vulnerabilities.


Set maneuvers and tactics will not work in every environment. If this were the case, leaders would not be necessary and combat could be controlled by artificial intelligence. Key components of the situation are easily remembered with the US Army’s mnemonic "METT-TC": Mission, Enemy, Terrain and weather, Troops available - Time available, Civilian considerations.


Good leaders confront the enemy with a dilemma rather than a problem. A single problem has a single answer (you attack, they defend). Imagine friendly forces attacking an enemy with both direct (like gunfire) and indirect fire (like artillery). The enemy is left with an unsolvable dilemma; if he gets up, he is shot, if he stays down he gets blown up.

Combat Power

The best tactical maneuvers become completely useless if the unit is simply unable to fight. Leaders have to make sure their units are equipped and ready for the task at hand and will be able to remain combat ready even should the task unexpectedly double in length.

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