Infantry Drills

FM 3-21.8 – Chapter 1 – Section V – Individual Leadership

Section V —  Individual leadership

1-111.  Tactical leadership is ultimately about one thing—leading Soldiers to accomplish the mission. Leadership is influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improve the organization (FM 1-02). Leaders need—

– Purpose: the reason to accomplish the mission.

– Direction: the means to accomplish the mission.

– Motivation: the will to accomplish the mission.

1-112.  Leaders use command and control (C2) to influence their subordinates to accomplish the mission. Command is the authority leaders exercise over individuals in their unit by virtue of their assignment.  Control is the direction and guidance of subordinates to ensure accomplishment of the mission. Leadership is the art of exercising C2 to influence and direct men in such a way as to obtain their willing obedience, confidence, respect, and loyal cooperation to accomplish the mission. Leadership is the most vital component of C2.

1-113.  Professional military leadership involves a combination of personal character and professional competence with a bias for the right action at the right time for the right effect. Leading Soldiers in combat is the Infantry leader’s most important challenge.

1-114.  There are three core principles that underlie the application of tactical leadership: leadership by example; authority; and mission command.

leadership by Example

1-115.  Follow me!—the Infantry motto—best summarizes the principle of leadership by example. This simple expression is further developed in the Army’s leadership philosophy: BeKnowDo. Character describes what a leader must be; competence refers to what leaders must know; action is what leaders must do (Figure 1-11). These concepts do not stand alone. They are closely connected and together make up who leaders seek to be (FM 6-22, Army Leadership).


Figure 1-11. Leader by example “Be, Know, Do” principle.


1-116.  Authority is the delegated power to judge, act, or command. It includes responsibility, accountability, and delegation (FM 6-0, Mission, Command, and Control). All Infantrymen in positions of authority are leaders. Leaders exercise authority as they make decisions to accomplish their mission and lead their Soldiers. Authority involves the right and freedom to use the power of position to carry out military duties. It carries with it the responsibility to act. Battle command is the exercise of authority against a hostile, thinking enemy.

1-117.  Although commanders alone have the ability to enforce obedience under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), all leaders can expect subordinates to follow their orders. Commanders who delegate authority to subordinates are responsible to ensure their subordinates’ lawful orders are followed. This authority to enforce orders by law if necessary is one of the key elements of military leadership, and clearly distinguishes military leaders from civilian leaders and managers.

1-118.  Infantry leaders also have another source of authority: personal authority. It stems from values, attributes, personality, experience, reputation, character, personal example, and most of all, tactical and technical competence. Personal authority, freely granted to a leader by subordinates, ultimately arises from the actions of the leader, and the trust and confidence generated by these actions. It is often more powerful than legal authority and is the basis for leadership in the Infantry.


1-119.  Responsibility is the obligation to carry forward an assigned task to a successful conclusion. It includes the authority to direct and take the necessary action to ensure success (FM 1-02).

1-120.  Leaders have three major responsibilities. First, leaders are responsible for accomplishing all assigned missions. Second, they are responsible for their Soldiers’ health, welfare, morale, and discipline. Third, they are responsible for maintaining and employing the resources of their force. In most cases, these responsibilities do not conflict. However, the leader’s responsibility for mission accomplishment can conflict with their responsibilities to the Soldier. In an irreconcilable conflict between the two, including the welfare of the leader himself, mission accomplishment must come first. However, leaders must understand that the excessive loss of Soldiers and resources can severely inhibit their ability to accomplish their mission.

1-121.  Clear, legal, unambiguous orders are a responsibility of good leadership. Soldiers who receive illegal orders that clearly violate the Constitution, the Law of War, or the UCMJ must understand how to react to such orders. Soldiers who receive unclear or illegal orders must ask for clarification. Normally, the superior issuing the unclear or illegal order will make it clear, when queried.  He should state that it was not his intent to issue an ambiguous or illegal order. If, however, the superior insists that his illegal order be obeyed, the Soldier should request the rescinding of that order. If the superior does not rescind, the Soldier has an affirmative legal obligation to disobey the order and report the incident to the next superior commander.


1-122.  Leaders are accountable for their own decisions and for the actions, accomplishments, and failures of their subordinates. Accountability is non-negotiable and makes up the very backbone of the military chain of command. It is impossible to exercise authority without accountability. Accountability is included in the Army’s core values and is what enables us to achieve and maintain legitimacy.

1-123.  Accountability has two forms: the UCMJ, and personal accountability. Use of legal authority to enforce accountability at times may be necessary. However, it should not be used as a way of leading Soldiers. It is much more practical to foster a climate that uses the trust of personal authority as a basis for ensuring accountability. Leaders know that American Soldiers respond to trust as the stronger form of accountability, and that the power of the UCMJ is used only when personal accountability proves inadequate.


1-124.  Leaders delegate authority to allow subordinates to carry out their duties, and when necessary, decide and act on behalf of their commander. While leaders can delegate authority, they cannot delegate responsibility for the outcome of their subordinates’ actions. Subordinates are accountable to their leaders for how they use their delegated authority.

1-125.  When leaders delegate authority, they ensure subordinates understand the limits of their authority or their freedom of action. A leader’s freedom of action includes his ability and responsibility to make decisions without the approval of the next higher headquarters. Disciplined initiative by subordinates can only occur when their freedom of action is clearly defined.

Mission Command

1-126.  Mission command is the conduct of military operations through decentralized execution based upon mission orders for effective mission accomplishment. Successful mission command results from subordinate leaders at all echelons exercising disciplined initiative within the commander’s intent to accomplish missions. It requires an environment of trust and mutual understanding (FM 1-02). A fundamental tenet of mission command is the importance of people over technology and equipment. There are too many variables, obstacles, and opportunities for leaders to attempt controlling everything. Therefore, mission command requires that leaders learn how to think rather than what to think. It recognizes that the subordinate is often the only person at the point of decision who can make an informed decision. Guided by the commander’s intent, the mission, and the concept of the operation, the leader can make the right decision. A second fundamental tenet of mission command is that with the authority of freedom of action comes the subordinate’s leader’s responsibility to always accomplish his mission.

1-127.  Mission orders that allow subordinates maximum freedom of planning and action to accomplish missions are an effective leadership technique in completing combat orders (FM 1-02). Mission orders leave the “how” of mission accomplishment to the subordinate. This way of thinking emphasizes the dominance of command rather than control, thereby providing for initiative, the acceptance of risk, and the rapid seizure of opportunities on the battlefield. Mission command is synonymous with freedom of action for the leader to execute his mission in the way he sees fit, rather than being told how to do it.

Disciplined Initiative

1-128.  Execution of mission command requires initiative, resourcefulness, and imagination. Initiative must be disciplined because it should emanate from within the framework of the commander’s mission, intent, and concept—not merely from a desire for independent action. Leaders must be resourceful enough to adapt to situations as they are, not as they were expected to be.

1-129.  Disciplined initiative means that subordinates are required to make decisions, coordinate with their adjacent units, and determine the best way to accomplish their missions. This includes assuming responsibility for deciding and initiating independent actions when the concept of operations no longer applies, or when an unanticipated opportunity leading to achieving the commander’s intent presents itself.

1-130.  The amount of freedom of action afforded to his subordinates is a judgment call by the leader. New subordinates or an uncertain environment call for more detail and direction, while experienced subordinates familiar with the mission profile usually need less detail and direction.

Nested Purpose

1-131.  To integrate and synchronize all of their elements, leaders need to provide their subordinates with a nested purpose, or a common focus. Initiative, taken to the extreme, risks a dangerous loss of control. To correct this problem, leaders emphasize to subordinates the importance of their battlefield visualization as well as procedural controls for accomplishing tasks whenever possible.

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