Sound Judgment: Commanders, Command Authority, and Good Decisions

  • Colonel Paul R. Norwood

How does any commander or leader invested with institutional authority make sound judgments related to justice and other command authorities? A commander’s decision to establish accountability through an array of disciplinary tools (ranging from light to severe), directly impacts the perception of organizational justice within the unit. This paper will provide a detailed analysis of an illustrative justice-related decision framework and explore how the Army trains and develops leaders to exercise their command authority and responsibility. It reviews what other ethical decision making models exist that may be of use to commanders, what is being taught to commanders and when it is taught. It considers the impacts of a loss in confidence in commanders to make these decisions and the potential outcome of a loss of authority due to poor command performance. Ultimately, this paper recommends an illustrative decision making framework which commanders may find helpful in developing their sound judgment related to justice matters. Then, training together with senior commanders, they may use their personal framework to practice making sound judgments with an eye better attuned to what makes a decision good.