Sick Leadership

Posted by Michael J. PENNEY on

Northern Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in vicinity of Kajaki Dam; Zebruji. Formerly the King of Afghanistan’s summer residence, the hillside where a village once stood now has ghostly adobe brick structures with tin roofs and rooms segmented by plywood walls. Makeshift screens cover the windows. I stood in the main room of our “house” at the bottom of the hill and briefed my team about the upcoming event. As I did so sweat poured from my face and I shivered with fever as I fought consciousness.

The dysentery racking my body was taking a toll but the team needed to be briefed and my assistant section leader was more than capable of taking charge of the patrol. However, it required me taking the time to share the plan with the team. I laid out the situation and mission and called on the team leaders to walk through their various roles. Each member knew their job and what needed to happen. At least, that was the last thought that shot through my mind as I teetered back and forth in a haze.

As we wrapped things up my knees gave out and I went crashing to the concrete floor. Somehow I managed to get up and back into my sleeping bag atop my cot. I was cocooned inside my entire sleeping system for the next 12 hours as the team worked. My guys brought me water and some crackers every couple of hours. My assistant section leader filled me in on events a couple of times but it was a haze. Finally the fever which had gripped me through the night broke and I emerged a sweaty filthy mess in need of a bucket shower and some hot chow. This mission was a success I found out through the debrief which was conducted in my absence. I thanked my team for their care and diligence while I suffered my own battle and we continued through the deployment with many more challenges ahead.

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Could your team operate without you?

If you go down hard with an illness, or God-forbid death, could your team carry on?

In Kajaki I had a simple template for planning and executing any mission, the 5P military management method. It enabled me, as the leader, to construct an order for what needed to take place. This included my commander’s intent and desired end state for success. I didn’t know I was going to get sick. It was awful.

I left out a lot of very disgusting parts, of the story, including bodily functions I didn’t know we possess as a species. That said, I was grateful to have an outstanding team who knew their roles and could carry out any mission if only they had the vision to do so. That’s what it is required of leaders, to plan for their teams to carry out the mission and to supervise them in carrying it through. Dysentery had me out of the game so my assistant section leader and team leaders needed to step up and make things happen. It definitely took stress off my aching back knowing that good people were taking charge of my vision.

We all experience illness and injuries, things that can take us out of the game, but our team needs to know what is expected of them and how to move forward in our limited absence. In the military we have the management method. At we’ve brought the military management method to you, the modern business leader. You have the ability to plan and execute any mission the way we do in the military. And you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that, should anything ever happen to you, your team can still maintain course and accountability in your stead.

Go to to get started using the 5P Military Management Method For The Modern Workforce.



Hey folks, I am Michael J. PENNEY....

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