Führen mit Auftrag, a multifaceted leadership concept roughly translated as Leading by Mission, has been the foundational leadership principle in the German military over the last two hundred years. It has its roots in the famous Prussian Reforms of the early 19th Century when the Germans did a comprehensive root cause analysis of why they were so suddenly and thoroughly defeated by Napoleon‘s armies.
Führen mit Auftrag – leading by mission – is how Germans define Menschenführung or leadership of men. The officer issues to his troops a mission, a goal. It is generally formulated, includes a time component and an indication of forces required. It is then up to the next level to devise how they will complete the mission independent of their leadership.
Unique about Führen mit Auftrag is the degree of freedom on the tactical level given to those issued the mission. As long as they complete the overall mission, they decide independently which approach is best, including significant adjustments to possible changes in the situation. Required at the tactical level are flexibility, creativity and executing independent of next-level leadership.
Of critical importance to Führen mit Auftrag is that the tactical level understand clearly and thoroughly the strategic thinking of their commanding officer, and are trained to act independently of that commanding officer, yet in the spirit of his strategic intent.
Those on the tactical must also possess both good judgement and the will to make independent decisions. They must have a strong sense of responsibility and duty. The commanding officer, for his or her part, must make their strategic thinking clear, transparent and understandable for those on the tactical level.