Leadership Tip of the Week: Task and Purpose

The sniper team left at the first hint of darkness so they could infiltrate and get into their hide site. Their task was to report the location of enemy positions and their purpose was to help get a better understanding of the positioning of enemy forces.

A few hours later, they started reporting the exact times of enemy convoys and the exact location of enemy camps. This piqued my curiosity because it was a lot more information than expected. They returned to base a few hours later and filled us in on the rest of the story. They found the enemy and noticed they had very poor security, so they walked into their base and stole a radio. They used that radio to extract critical information from the enemy. This was more than I asked for, but they knew their task and purpose; this helped take advantage of an opportunity that presented itself. It was just a training exercise, but it reminded me of how powerful it can be to provide guidance and get out of your team’s way so they can do great things.

The snipers took initiative because they understood their task and purpose. The Army uses it to provide a common language that helps leaders maintain control, communicate responsibility and structure the roles of others toward the team’s goal. This is incredibly impactful when chaos and the ‘fog of war’ create uncertainty or when everything goes wrong and you have to go in to crisis management mode.

Task – states WHAT is to be done

Purpose – states WHY it has to be done

The purpose is the more important of the two. Things don’t always go as planned, and providing a clear purpose will help team members adapt when they need and still meet the overall intent.

Seems too simple? Think about how many times you have been asked to do something but you didn’t know why. Understanding both the task and purpose, along with how they’re different, can help prevent you from causing confusion for your team.

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