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Monday, January 6, 2014

The Changing Nature of Military Leadership


Military leadership has changed over the decades to overcome numerous challenges faced by the environment in which they have come in contact with. A study by Stanley Halpin from Fort Leavenworth Research Unit discusses the need for increasingly sophisticated leadership studies due to complex and challenging environments that the military now often finds itself faced with.

The U.S. 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, pp. 1–2). Leadership is seen as an ability to effectively give proper direction, motivation to  achieve objectives.

Despite these definitions a clear definition of leadership doesn't exist. Porter & McLaughlin (2006) reviewed 16 years of leadership literature and found that an integrated leadership definition has not yet emerged. Different ranks and members of the military define leadership in different ways depending on such things as position, culture, rank, and other demographics.

The author argues that leadership may be on the verge of going through a paradigm shift. Such leaders must deal with complex information in an ever changing world. Organizational and historical factors are playing a larger part on the concept of leadership and should be better understood to encourage development.

The major conflicts of the world throughout history have brought adaptation. Moving from traditional models to more modern models of leadership is a process of learning. Each conflict provides opportunities for greater knowledge and understanding of decision-making under duress. 

The general approach of layering knowledge and abilities throughout the ranks and careers to encourage higher levels of leadership in preparation for increased responsibility may need improvement. As the nation engages in tight conflicts, civilian populations, and political environments. Lower level officers may need to be prepared to handle these difficulties through a new set of skills.

Concepts of shared leadership responsibilities and cross-cultural issues are becoming more important. Leaders need to deal with issues and information in isolated situations and may need to be prepared to handle complex cultural situations. The author argues that there is little doubt that as the situation changes and the nature of conflict adjusts so will the skills of leadership development. As a living and breathing organization the military will continue to overcome and adapt.

Department of the Army. (2006, October). Army leadership: Competent, confident, and agile. Field Manual 6-22. Washington, DC: Author

Halpin, S. (2011). Historical influences on the changing nature of leadership within the military environment. Military Psychology, 23 (5)

Porter, L. W., & McLaughlin, G. B. (2006). Leadership and the organizational context: Like the weather? The Leadership Quarterly, 17, 559–576.

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