Leadership & Ministry Lessons from a World War One German Officer (Part 3)

Leadership requires making decisions without all the information. Combat leadership prior to the advent of satellites and advances in communication technology meant that decisions had to be made without all the relevant information. Even with all the advances in technology that is still true in war and it is true in ministry. You may think a road looks safe but it turns out to be disaster. You can let the unknown freeze you up or you can lead through it.

“Leaders must nearly always issue orders without exact information. Our mission and our will are often the only things untouched by obscurity. These will frequently form our only basis for an order. If a leader awaits complete information before issuing an order, he will never issue one.” – Adolf Von Schell, Combat Leadership, 31

He mentions two important things that assist decision making when one does not have all the information: our mission and our will (the will of the leader and his troops). That means the overarching mission drives the leadership decision. The question should be asked, does this decision drive us in the direction of the overarching mission or does it distract from it? That question will help make the decision clearer even when all the information in not available. As Christians, we would tweak the second…it is the will of God that helps us in our decision making. We ask the question first, “Is this what God wills?” If he does, then we have to move our will in line with His.

In ministry, we are going to have to make decisions based on incomplete information. At the end of the day, if even things get rocky as a result of those decisions, we have to be able to say we believe the decision was in line
with our Christian mission and was God’s will as best as we could ascertain that.


About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

2 Responses to Leadership & Ministry Lessons from a World War One German Officer (Part 3)

  1. Chris says:

    Wow. I am really enjoying these posts from Battle Leadership. Last week i watched a movie with Rick Schroder called The Lost Batallion based on a true story in WW1 where an inexperienced American battalion into battle against the Germans. They follow the foolish orders they are given and eventually get trapped behind enemy lines. But they continue to fight with courage and dignity despite the odds. And eventually they change the face of that long entrenced battle. I don’t know if the screenwriters read Battle Leadership, but each of these first three concepts was portrayed in the movie.
    Personally, the one I struggle with often is this one – paralysis by analysis. Waiting for all the information to come in so that my decision requires no faith in God for it to be successful. I suppose it plays into control issues and is somewhat reactionary to many poorly thought out and planned “religious” activities in which I have participated (and led.)
    This is so different from keeping in step with the Spirit. Walking with God doesn’t mean we don’t study, prepare and plan well, but it does mean that we are not paralyzed by indecision until there are no variables left. I have been exploring ths keeping in step with Him for awhile… Challenging, eh?

    • mattdabbs says:

      Great points Chris. That happens far too often. We don’t want to be irresponsible and we don’t want to lead people down the wrong path. So we wait and wait and put things off even when a decision must be made. It does take faith and it does take reliance on God. And yes, it is challenging! Thank God for grace.

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