The Unity of Command

If we could just find out who’s in charge, we could kill him!
George Carlin

Of the eight helicopters that set out in the early morning twilight to rescue the hostages, two lost their way en route to the target, a third suffered mechanical failure, and a fourth lost control during take-off and crashed. By the time the mission was aborted, eight U.S. Servicemen had died, and dozens more had been injured. An additional six aircraft were left behind, along with classified documents, which ended up in the hands of the Iranian government. Those six aircraft now serve in the Iranian Navy.

I believe that it would be fair to say that Operation Eagle Claw was an unmitigated disaster! The mission of rescuing 52 American hostages from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was doomed before that first helicopter left the deck of The USS Nimitz. But why!?

This failure was due to a violation of one of the most important principles of effective leadership, known as The Unity of Command. This principle states that the success or failure of any organization (including the military) will be predicated upon a unity of effort, with a clear objective, and under one responsible leader. The operative phrases here are “unity of effort,” “clear objective,” and “one responsible leader.”

The abysmal failure of Operation Eagle Claw was entirely due to the fact that every principle of The Unity of Command had been violated. All of the U.S. Armed Forces were involved in this operation, each with its own commander, and each commander had his/her own agenda. To make matters worse, Jimmy Carter and his generals were attempting to micromanage the entire operation via satellite from The Pentagon. No one knew what was going on, or who was in charge!

In our homes, in our workplaces, in our communities, and in government at all levels, the outcomes we create will be determined by our ability to create a Unity of Effort, Toward a Clear Set of Objectives, Under One Responsible Leader.

Am I willing to embrace the fact that The Unity of Command is the key to success in any organization?

© John G. 2021

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