What do Zappos and the World War I German Army have in common?

I’m so glad you asked.  You may need to bear with me on this one, but I think I can explain this pattern that I see.

ww1My son, a Marine Captain currently in Japan, sent me an article after a Skype discussion we had on leadership.  The article is titled “An Elusive Command Philosophy and a Different Command Culture.”  The author contrasts the leadership style of the WWI German army with today’s military leadership style, which he considers to be prescriptive and controlling.  The German army taught their leaders differently; they taught Auftragstaktik.  This was a command concept in which even the most junior officers were required to make far reaching decisions, and demanded a significant change in officer education. The difference:

Traditional military orders detail a plan, and how to execute that plan.

Auftragstaktik orders detail the objective, and expects the leader to assess the local context, and determine the best way to execute that order. (more…)