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Critical Review of Passion of Command: The Moral Imperative of Leadership Patrick DeMarchia American Military University

CRITICAL REVIEW OF PASSION OF COMMAND Critical Review of Passion of Command: The Moral Imperative of Leadership In his book Passion of Command: The Moral Imperative of Leadership, Colonel B.P. McCoy explains abilities and strategies that are needed to be a great leader. To do so Col. McCoy uses experiences from his own life to describe how to implement the tactics. The book takes a straightforward approach to teaching leaders and future leaders what they can do to be efficient and successful in their positions. While Col. McCoy points out the importance of mastering the basic skills, he also looks beyond what one learns by going to Officer Candidate

School or during NCO Leadership Training, and concentrates on the morality and mentality that is needed for success. This book is intended to teach the importance of the morality side of leadership. The passion to command is embodied in the commanders will power, his love for his men, and personal aggressiveness in battle. (McCoy, 2011) The Passion of Command is divided into six sections, each pertaining to a different individual element of leadership. In the first section, entitled Predator and Prey, McCoy focuses on one of the most crucial times a leaders needs to be at his best, during combat. When in the actual battle a leader must maintain focus and have the will to achieve whatever they are facing. Strong dedication, to overcome whatever one is being faced in war, comes from maintaining the psychological viewpoint of a predator. The greatest chance for tragic results on a mission is when a soldier stops focusing on being a predator and begins focusing on the emotional effects of killing an enemy if needed. These emotions are common and natural to have, but when they occur on the battlefield the soldiers set themselves up to become the prey. McCoy continues on the subject of combat leadership in section two, explaining that one of the most important keys to success on the battlefield occurs before the battle ever begins. A good leader focuses on the tactical side of command during combat and also looks past them to

CRITICAL REVIEW OF PASSION OF COMMAND focus on love as well. To succeed as a leader there must be love from a leader to their soldiers and vice versa. When a commander earns the love of his troops he also earns their trust in his judgment. That trust helps to assure the leader that when a mission begins he can rely on his troops to what needs to be done to complete the task, even if it costs them their lives in the end. Entitled The Five Habits and the Courage to Close with the Enemy, section three of Passion of Command, is the largest and most educational section of the book. While the two main topics partially relate to each other, it is only a brief connection followed by a poor transition into the next topic. As a whole this section has too much information and too little

correlation between the two topics to remain as one and Colonel McCoy should have considered dividing The Five Habits and Courage to Close with the Enemy into two separate sections. The first topic McCoy writes about, The Five Habits, is a strategy of continuously training on five essential skills needed when for combat so that they will become habit. Doing this increases a soldiers chance of survival because they will have the knowledge, confidence, and courage needed to take action during battle without hesitation. These skills are combat marksmanship, combat conditioning, casualty evacuation, battle drills, and discipline. Combat marksmanship is the most critical skill of combat where ones proficiency can be the difference between life and death. Combat conditioning involves training for combat even while not in a combat environment. When deployments end and soldiers come home, training exercises are done less often and physical fitness training goes back to running around tracks and working out at the gym. Our conditioning focused on preparing for the rigors of combat. These included long foot marches under heavy loads, martial arts, grappling, and physical conditioning with combat equipment on. (McCoy 2011) As a leader you must prepare for the possibility of casualties during combat and what to do when they occur. Casualty evacuation training creates


confidence that if you or someone else gets shot, treatment and evacuation with be done properly and promptly. Battle drills prepare soldiers for situations that could occur during combat and what actions to take if they do happen. They also force leaders to make on the spot decisions and relay them to their soldiers immediately. Doing battle drills often helps improve both soldiers and leaders readiness for combat ensuring they act appropriately no matter what the situation may be. The final skill is discipline. Discipline is reinforced habit designed to produce a specific character, or pattern of behavior, that is strong enough to override creature comforts, personal wants, and lapses in fortitude. (McCoy, 2011) Whenever put into a leadership position, there will always be someone that is your leader and who will set forth specific expectations that you are required to adhere to. Meeting these expectations sets you up with the key traits and skills needed to succeed in your position. McCoy gives several examples of these expectations beginning with ensuring that not only you but also your soldiers are maintaining all of the previously mentioned skills at all times. One of the most obvious requirements is a leader can not waiver in their position. When put in the position where a decision needs to be made you have to make decisions, you can not worry about being popular you just have to make the correct decision and once you do then dont waiver from it, support your own decision 100 percent just as you would your superiors. Another common key to leadership is to never lose focus even if a casualty occurs during battle. When one does occur you finish the task to finish off the enemy and then take care of the wounded afterwards. If you falter in your position in such a critical time as combat you risk becoming a casualty yourself and then you are useless for helping the others. There are expectations that will be given that do not focus on tactical keys to success as well. One example is treating your soldiers as human beings and not just soldiers inferior to


yourself. This helps build relationships with your troops by displaying compassion and interest to whatever needs your soldier may have. Another key to proper leadership is mentorship. You should never turn down the opportunity to teach your soldiers something they didnt already know, or to further their knowledge in topics discussed in the past. The one trait any good leader displays fight the same fight and perform the same jobs as the soldiers assigned to them. By showing your soldiers you can and will do the same tasks you expect them to do earns respect and cooperation from the troops. In section four of Passion for Command, Colonel B.P. McCoy teaches the reader about the importance of the moral side of being in command. This means understanding and accepting the immense amount of responsibility being placed upon you. To do this leaders must maintain their readiness not only for the physical and tactical aspects of contact but the moral and intellectual factors of combat leadership as well. Being able to command your troops and having them follow orders not because it is required but because they trust and respect you as their leader is a true sign of success. Being a moral leader helps to earn this achievement when working with your own troops. A moral leader is not one that is seen simply barking orders for task his soldiers are to complete but rather the one assisting and working with his troops his complete the goals as a team. All of the sections mentioned above are what Colonel B.P. McCoy views as the keys to mastering the art of command. The leader whose soldiers' respect and actually want to follow without being told to is one that is successful. These are the leaders who have built and maintained relationships with their troop and who have no doubt that his soldiers will follow them into battle without hesitation no matter what the situation or risk may be.


McCoy, C. B. (2011). The Passion of Command: The Moral Imperative of Leadership. Quantico, Va.: Marine Corps Association.