As the world becomes smaller in terms of more cross communications and the need for more cooperation, leadership challenges continue to evolve. For example, most military operations are now conducted with the support of other nations, government and nongovernment agencies. Therefore, leaders are required to form consensus and collaborate with members outside their organizations.
Based on the material discussed in this module, describe how the military can best prepare their leaders to be able to lead in a world with increased diversity. In your experience, how do leaders inspire members that are foreign to their organization?
Module Notes: Leading Globally in a Complex Environment
As you begin to think about leadership within the military and via a global context, it is important to understand a few key principles that guide leadership within the military. It is also important to note that while the U.S. Military is world renowned for its incredible depth of leadership foundations, it is just like any other organization and deals with poor leaders who have veered from the intended purpose of leadership.
Leadership: Consistent Purpose, Transforming Methods
The Army defines leadership as “the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization” (Department of the Army, 2006, pages 1-2). The Air Force has a similar definition; “the art and science of influencing and directing people to accomplish the assigned mission” (Department of the Air Force, 2006, page 1). Regardless of which definition you employ, the essence of leadership is to influence or inspire others in order to achieve a common goal or objective. While the purpose has not changed, the manner in which leaders exercise leadership has. Some of the challenges military leaders face include;
New Technology: it is often said that two of the most critical virtues of leadership are Presence and Expertise. According to some historians, effective military leaders exercise presence on the battlefield. For example, Field Marshal Rommel was often at the front. General Patton was always visiting his forces closest to the fight. It can be argued, the closer they were to the fight the more efficient they became. However, today’s leader may lead forces that are over thousands of miles away, and exercising presence, becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible. While technology allows leaders instant communication throughout the force, it changes the definition of what it is to have leadership presence. The other virtue is expertise. Leaders are expected to be the experts on all warfighter functions. However, in reality, capable forces depend on a diverse force. Today’s military must be able to conduct joint operations. Leaders have to work with other nations’ military forces, civilian organizations, and other governmental agencies. Therefore, leaders are no longer experts on every aspect of the operation but rather are facilitators and coordinators between several organizations.
Relationships: since military operations are often based on joint operations, leadership has changed from hierarchical authority to shared leadership (Halpin, 2011). In a joint operation often leaders must influence members of an organization that are not under their authority. Therefore, they have to build relationships and foster mutual trust and purpose. Although some may think that these challenges are encountered only by senior leaders, the reality is that junior leaders must also work with local leaders, government and non-government agencies.
Cultural Changes: the military is a very structured organization. As with any organization, it needs to change and adapt to new capabilities, challenges, and opportunities. However, changing an organization is not an easy task. Once a process is implemented, and people feel comfortable with their responsibility and level of authority, they may be reluctant to change. Despite the difficulties, however, leaders must be able to change their organization to embrace and apply the new technology and build relationships with others.
Although the above challenges are not the only ones military leaders encounter in a global environment, they can serve as a starting point as you identify other challenges. It is critical to recognize that some of these challenges influence each other. It is also essential to recognize that the challenges presented above can become opportunities with the right approach.
Is Leadership Compartmentalized?
After over ten years of war, the military is considered to be a force with extraordinary experience. It is also considered by many as an out-of-balance force. Today’s military has extraordinary experience fighting the nation’s wars but lack leaders with skills in environments other than war. Some argue that the military promoted leaders too fast and created leaders with limited experience. Others argue that these same leaders have proven their metal in combat thus becoming more efficient leaders.
Regardless of your position, it is important to recognize that leaders must be effective in any environment. While the military’s primary purpose is to fight the nation’s wars, it is critical for the military to maintain the confidence of its client, the American people. Would it be fair to say that leadership cannot be compartmentalized to be effective in one environment and ineffective in another?
Although the military has transitioned from war to a peaceful environment before, it was conducted with a different force. During the Korean and Vietnam wars, for example, the military was not an all-volunteer force. Therefore, it is fair to say that “never before has an all-volunteer force conducted such intense and sustained military operations while at the same time being required to evolve back to a predominately garrison-based force. Military leaders and researchers must perform the critical tasks of determining how this transition will influence the recruitment, selection, training, and retention of U.S. forces, as well as how it will affect the leadership of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines.” (Morath, Leonard & Zaccaro, 2011, page 455).
You have had the opportunity to explore a few key elements: presence, expertise, relationship building, and cultural awareness. These elements are just a few foundational skills that make for successful leading within the context of a global world. You will now be able to make a case for whether you believe that the military is prepared for the ever-changing world and also whether there is an inherent problem with leadership deficiencies within the military.
Halpin, S.M. (2011). Historical influences on the changing nature of leadership within the military environment (Links to an external site.). Military Psychology, 23:479-488.
Morath, R.A., Leonard, A. L.; Zaccaro, S. J. (2011). Military leadership: an overview and introduction to the special issue (Links to an external site.). Military Psychology, 23 (5): 453-61.
Video 1: https://www.youtube.com/embed/RfXmgSzUVA4
Video 2: https://www.youtube.com/embed/xFaK1GXekjA