Decentralized Command


Have you ever tried to manage dozens of people?

Each year, one of our publications at Peake Media hosts a leadership summit during the Kentucky Derby. We take 40 attendees to Churchill Downs to watch the races, enjoy the atmosphere and bet on the horses.

But, the challenge is getting from point A, the bus we bring them on – to point B, our seats in the grandstands. As someone in our company put nicely, “It’s like herding 40 cats through crowds of thousands of people.” It’s incredibly difficult to manage that many attendees, especially with the hectic venue.

In “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” by Leif Babin and Jocko Willink, the authors explain that no leader can effectively manage dozens of people. “Human beings are generally not capable of managing more than six to 10 people, particularly when things go sideways and inevitable contingencies arise,” they shared. “Teams must be broken down into manageable elements of four to five operators, with a clearly designated leader.”

From there, each leader must be empowered to lead. This starts with each leader knowing, understanding and believing in the mission. They must understand the why behind the mission as well.

Decentralizing command also increases effectiveness. When you empower your Coaches to make decisions within their roles, the Coaches can do so without always needing your opinion or your voice. Since they know, believe in and understand the mission, their decisions will be aligned with the vision. And if they are able to take extreme ownership of their roles, that frees you to be proactive in your business.

But, you cannot lose sight of what your troops are doing. It comes to finding the balance between giving up and maintaining control. “Determining how much leaders should be involved and where leaders can best position themselves to command and control the team is key,” wrote the authors.

And you are free to move from team to team. You should go where you are most needed. Decentralizing command frees you up to do this, to float from one problem to the next. Sure, your leaders have been empowered, but sometimes they will need you to step in and solve problems with them.

Even if you only have two employees, Affiliate, you need to decentralize command. When it comes to planning a large-scale competition, or when you open that second location, you’ll need it. And it’s better to start now, decentralizing command on a small-scale, so when you grow, you’ll continue to decentralize command on a larger scale.

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at