[July 2, 2020] It’s familiar practice for senior military leaders to provide a day for junior enlisted men or women to step into the Commanders’ role. Being “Commander for a Day” is an opportunity to open one’s eyes to leadership responsibilities, hard work, and effort necessary to shoulder such a position.1 It also allows a Commander to walk in the shoes of junior military members.
It may be difficult for Commanders with so much on their plate to put their own duties on hold while they experiment with a lower-ranking person’s job. It’s still a great way to bridge the gap between different ranks.
There are many variations in the Commander for a Day. In some cases, the Commander switches places with a junior military member. In other cases, the Commander mentors the junior individual. Either way, it provides people with the opportunity to experience the day-to-day activities of a senior military leader. As the temporary commander, their authority also varies, but the idea is proven to be a real winner. It’s a win-win.
When a junior person walks away from that day as “Commander,” they have acquired an understanding of why certain things are done. Many believe that senior military leaders don’t work much and spend a lot of time away on boondoggle missions. The program sets junior folks up to see what a jam-packed day is for a commander. It also allows them to appreciate the difficult thinking – based on relevant experiences – required to make the right decision.
Such programs have an additional benefit. It can be a mentoring springboard for those inspiring to serve in leadership positions. From the experiences, they walk away with insight into the challenges senior leaders face daily while balancing mission requirements and needs of personnel.2
Most important is that the program offers an excellent platform for learning about leadership. For example, while many aspects of leader roles change from location to location and within the various military ranks, the facets of leadership remain the same. Yet, with the increasing scope of responsibility, it is impossible to lead all those under you. Leading from the top is more of a challenge than most of us might imagine. This program helps overcome this issue.
- The program goes by several names. Another name is the Commander’s Shadow Program.