Showing posts with label business leadership. Show all posts
Showing posts with label business leadership. Show all posts

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Reflection on Military and Civilian Leadership

Leadership in civilian and military organizations caries some of the very same characteristics. Even though each organization may emphasis different aspects of leadership the same traits that were successful in one arena, such as the military or civilian world, may transfer across sectors. A comparative analysis in the Journal of Military & Strategic studies offer some perspectives on leadership manifestation in multiple arenas (Horn, 2014). 

The leadership styles in the military and the civilian world may not be so different even though the definitions may change. Each has their own way of looking at leadership due to the needs of their environment. The actions that make one successful in one organization may also make the same person successful in another.

Consider how a logistic's officer in the military may require certain levels of knowledge and skill in order to reach leadership status. The same idea would apply in civilian distribution centers that rely on similar processes and technologies. The leader learns to be adaptive to these adjustments and reach success over new environments.

Even though the same skills apply between various organizations it does take time for new leaders to understand the unique cultures and definitions of leadership in each organization. When learned skills begin to apply and make improvements the overall process of leadership may be mirrored. The basic skills of leadership do not dissipate when moving from organization to organization.

Leaders have basic abilities that can apply across multiple organizational types and industry sectors. A military leader may be able to apply these basic leadership traits across various military departments in the same way that a successful executive in one company may repeat that success in another organization. The personality and learned knowledge simply doesn't disappear when moving from one company to the next.

The comparative analysis helps us to understand that each organization may have their own impression of leadership and emphasis certain leadership traits and behaviors. Developed leaders can transfer knowledge and skill across one area to the next. This may be one reason why it is beneficial for the civilian sector to consider the merits of hiring military leaders and why the military may consider civilian leaders. After a learning curve there is a higher likelihood of success. 

Horn, Colonel B. (2014). A reflection on leadership: a comparative analysis of military and civilian approaches. Journal of Military & Strategic Studies, 15 (3). 

Academic Journal

By: Horn, Colonel Bernd. Journal of Military & Strategic Studies. 2014, Vol. 15 Issue 3, p229-249. 21p. Abstract: The article provides a comparative analysis of the military and civilian approaches onleadership. The author suggests that leadership is not a one size fits all activity and depends on the personality and approach of the leader and respective situation and circumstance. Also examined are the strengths of military and civilian leaders and as well as their common weaknesses. (AN: 96718054), Database: International Security & Counter Terrorism Reference Center

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What Military Leaders Can Teach Business Executives?

Leadership in tough situations requires one to dig deep to find values, meaning and strength at a more basic level. A paper by Jennings and Hannah discusses the concept of leadership identity formulation among those who experience some of the world’s most intense situations. They create a more concrete formulation of the idea of ethical leadership in the military even when the situation is tough and the right path is not easy to discern. The report focuses on the choice between moral versus legal aspirations.

The ultimate aim of any military is to project and employ force to defend their people, rights of their citizens, interests and very core values of their people. When stressful situations occur individuals within units have multiple competing interests. They may engage in self-preservation, protection of their unit, protecting civilians, engage their personal values, or engage the unit’s values. Each creates different avenues and opportunities for action. How someone chooses between these competing interests determines their ethical leadership stance.

According to Coker (2007) a soldier’s occupation may be fighting but his vocation is to combat the need for war. Thus, the soldier should develop character and virtue rather than simple behavioral compliance with societal norms. To think on this level requires the internalization of concepts such as honor, courage, sacrifice, and patriotism beyond simple social approval. Difficult situations test the very fabric of a person and their ability to draw on internal values versus external compliance.

The author describes military morality a little like Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. At the lowest level is simple grammatical adherence in writing while a higher form of expression breaks all the rules to create an eloquent form of communication.  The professor may give an F on the paper but an A on their ability to think beyond simple substance.  Those who take those types of chances are often judged for breaking codes and standards but can also create new standards that push the envelope.

Essentially, rule following is an extrinsic motivation based in a negative feedback model that creates self-regulation (Bandura & Lock, 2003). Identity conferring constructs are an intrinsically motivated positive feed-forward model based within self-challenge and self-efficacy (Bandura & Locke, 2003). One focuses on social acceptance while the other focuses on complete self-development.

The authors use examples of Above the Call of Duty to highlight their point:

Example 1: The rule-following member does not act to value civilians because he views his life as more important and the rules do not explicitly require him to act to protect others.

Example 2: The identity-conferring member moves beyond the rules and risks his life to protect others because he is guided by his military ethic of what is good, beneficial, and honorable.

The two persons are fundamentally different. The first person is more interested in their life and ensuring that they have the social acceptance of others. The second person is less interested in immediate agreement and moves to take on higher ideals of value. To do so requires a whole different thinking about self in the context of events. He is not only the rule-following soldier only but also the authentic soldier-protector who finds higher value in what he does. He recognizes the value of following the rules but can move beyond them if there is a higher principle worth engaging.

The authors focused on informing and inspiring military conduct under extreme conditions. Previous research fails to develop beyond basic transactional ethics and into the realms of virtuous behavior in combat situations. Exemplary leadership should be seen in terms of transformational and authentic leadership that moves beyond defined standards. As the nature of warfare changes to high civilian interactions and insurgencies the ability to maintain certain ethical considerations in isolation becomes even more important. The author contends that militaries will need exemplary ethics and leadership now and in the future to be successful.

Comment: It can be beneficial to look at leadership in high stress situations where a large array of possible decisions can be made to help organizations formulate a greater understanding of leadership management. This report helps us understand that rule and norm maintenance is an external value system based in self-interest. In day-to-day operations, and standard situations, these rules provide structure and should be followed. Occasionally, it is necessary to think beyond the rules and into greater value systems when difficult situations call for it. Where trust has been broken with the public it is even more important to ensure corporations act in the betterment of society and foster those strengths within their executives so they may think for themselves beyond the social approval of their internal social structure. There are a few examples where business leadership has gone above and beyond the call of duty even when they have taken all the risks.

Bandural, A. & Locke, E. (2003). Negative self-efficacy and goals effects revisited. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88.

Cocker, C. (2007). Warrior ethos: Military culture and the war on terror. New York, NY: Routledge.

Jennings, P. & Hannah, S. (2011). The moralities of obligation and aspiration: towards a concept of exemplary military ethics and leadership. Military Psychology, 23.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Altruism as an Enhancement to Leadership

Leadership is something of interest to businesses administrators, students and politicians. Leadership is often defined using  both its results as well as its traits. Recently, altruism has garnered greater interest among researchers as an additional trait of inclusion in high performance leaders. New research helps to understand what connection altruism has with networking, interpersonal influence, effectiveness and success.

Leadership ability often comes from the social capital built within greater networks. Nothing great can be done alone. These networks are described as a purposeful focus on how a person is perceived in relationships (Luthans, et. al, 1988). It is this perception of self that creates positive affectivity by balancing the leader’s personal image with that of others. If you don’t have an understanding of how people are perceiving you it will be impossible to enhance that impression.

The researchers further move on to argue that performance, satisfaction and subordinate organizational commitment are symptoms of effective leaders. Such leaders should be able to encourage performance in others, develop a level of commitment to particular causes, and ensuring the needs of followers during this process.

To develop maximize performance and create strong social networks that encourage focused action a level social intelligence is needed (Kolodinsky, 2003). Social networks must run both inside and outside organizations to create effectiveness. Without being able to understand the subtle nature of social cues and influences it will be hard to develop higher levels of influence. 

This influence also relies on emotional stability, optimism, intelligence, analytic ability, intuition and interpersonal relations (Kotter, 1982). By using these skills to a higher degree, leaders can develop a level of effectiveness that sets them apart from others. Each skill should be toned and developed to its full bloom to create a multitude of methods in order to see and solve problems adequately.

Few would trust a leader if their social intelligence were used only for self-serving purposes. A level of altruism and concern for the greater good needs to be part of  the decision making process. Therefore, leadership cannot be separate from moral character (Kanungo, 2001). That moral character is the ability to serve others and go above the call of duty to create ethical successes (Price, 2003). 

Research conducted by Moss & Barbuto  (2010) analyzed interpersonal political skills and its success as moderated by altruism. They used a multi-level model centering on employees from four organizations to create a variety of conditions. A total of 217 participants were used gauge overall perceived effectiveness of such leaders in determining the association of elements. 


-Interpersonal influence was positively related to effectiveness.
-Networking ability was positively related to effectiveness and success.
-Altruism strengthened the relationship to social intelligences and effectiveness.
-Altruism decreased the relationship between networking and success.

Business Analysis: 

Networking and connecting with others is an important part of leadership. Through this networking, people are more able to be effective and successful in their endeavors. Altruism seems to enhance one’s social intelligences and overall effectiveness in their leadership abilities. However, altruism also seems to have an opposite effect on networking and success. It is possible that there is a level of selfishness in some people’s use of networking. It may lead to an assumption that many people use their social networks to gain personal success but that that success is not based in the need to enhance people. Further research could uncover the percentage of people who network for their own benefit versus the benefit of others.  History seems to confirm this belief that politicking and altruistic behaviors are not necessarily mutually exclusive but are different activities that lead to effectiveness. It is we that define what effectiveness means. You may want to ask yourself what the differences are between greater and lesser leadership.

Luthans, F., Hodgetts, R. M., & Rosenkrantz, S. A. (1988). Successful vs. effective real
managers. The Academy of Management Executive, 11, 127-132.

Moss, J. & Barbuto, J. (2010) Testing the Relationship Between Interpersonal Political Skills, Altruism, Leadership Success and Effectiveness: A Multilevel Model.  Institute of Behavioral and Applied Management.

Kolodinsky, R. W. (2003). The role of political skill in intra-organizational outcomes: An
initial empirical examination. Paper presented at the Academy of Management
national conference, Seattle, WA.

Kotter, J. P. (1982). General managers are not generalists. Organizational Dynamics,
10, 5-19.

Kanungo, R. N. (2001). Ethical values of transactional and transformational leaders.

Price, T. L. (2003). The ethics of authentic transformational leadership. The Leadership
Quarterly, 14, 67-81. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, 18, 257-265.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Effective Leadership under Fielder’s Contingency Model

Leadership is often situational in its effectiveness and outcomes. When a leader’s traits match the requirements of a situation a positive result can occur. Fielder’s Model of Leadership helps put within proper context how leadership traits mix with a motivational type to determine the effectiveness of a leader within a particular contextual situation. Crises situations call for one approach while periods of rest require another to develop maximum optimal behavior.

Fielder’s model of leadership is one the oldest leadership models around. It follows a couple of beliefs:

The performance of a leader depends on two interrelated factors: 1) the degree to which the situation gives the leader control and influence-that is, the likelihood that the leader can successfully accomplish the job; and 2) the leader’s basic motivation-that is, whether self-esteem depends primarily on accomplishing the task or on having close supportive relationships with others (Axtell, 1991).

Fielder believed that individuals have a single leadership style that maintains consistently throughout their lives. This includes either relationship orientation or task orientation. Each style influences how leaders act and solve problems that make them successful. The style doesn’t necessarily take into account those people who can be either task or relationship orientated depending on the situation.

Crisis Leaders

Under high stress situations some leaders focus on relationships which can cause improper decisions based upon a misalignment of leadership style (Fiedler and Garcia, 1987). During a crisis situation the focus on tasks is more effective than a relationship approach.  Overcoming a crisis requires quickly executed tasks that accomplish specific goals to overcome the problem. Relationships and the social subtleties that make up those relationships temporarily go on the back-burner until the crisis is over.

Peace Time Leaders

In low stress situations the relationship orientated approach is more important in accomplishing organizational objectives.  It is these relationships that create social cohesion and togetherness in managing an organization. According to Gannon (1982) relationship leaders are effective when 1.) Leader-member relationships are strong, 2.) the task is unstructured, and 3.) when positional power is weak. Such leadership flourishes in highly intellectual organizations where freedom of thought is needed to be productive.

As task oriented focus or people oriented focus are considered relatively stable traits that exist over a person’s lifetime, it is necessary to choose the right style of leader to handle difficult situations.  "In Fiedler's model, leadership effectiveness is the result of interaction between the style of the leader and the characteristics of the environment in which the leader works" (Gray & Starke, 1988). In other words, the situation and the leadership traits must match for optimal performance.  When the environment requires one style of leadership over the other it would not be wise to use the wrong leader.

It is important to remember that effective leadership is not gender specific. Research has lent credibility to the concept that the Contingency Model of leadership applies to both males and females equally (Rice, Bender, & Vitters, 1982). The right leader for a situation is more closely akin to the personality style of that leader versus any physical characteristics. 
 In today’s world, the concept of leadership has expanded to include new forms, models and people. Fielder’s Contingency Model still stands as one of the central lenses to understanding and predicting the effectiveness of future leadership styles in both the workplace and crisis situations. It is through understanding these models and traits that organizational decision makers can develop and place appropriate leaders to handle specific difficult situations.

Axtell, R. (1991). Gestures: the do’s and taboos of body language around the world. NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Fiedler, F.  and Garcia, J. (1987) New Approaches to Leadership, Cognitive Resources and Organizational Performance, New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Gannon, M. (1982).  Management: An Integrated Framework. Boston: Little, Brown.

Gray, Jerry L., and Frederick A. Starke. Organizational Behavior: Concepts and Applications. Columbus, Ohio: Merril.

Kinicki, A. & Kreitner, R. (2009). Organizational Behavior: Key concepts, skills & practices (fourth edition). McGraw-Hill Company.

Rice, R., Bender, L., Vitters, A. (1982). Testing the validity of contingency model for female and male leaders. Basic & Applied Social Psychology, 3 (4).

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Personal Definition of Leadership

The transformational leader who is passionate about distance learning has an opportunity to be a part of a societal change process.  America and the global community are going through a paradigm shift in regards to public perception of distance learning.  Alone, one person cannot initiate and coordinate a national or global societal change, but individually, a transformational leader can establish a vision, create a passion, and develop a leadership plan.  As I reflect on my own personal leadership plan in the field of distance education, a three-step approach was taken.  Self-reflection, honest feedback, and continual learning were the components that I used in designing my personal leadership plan.

Bennis, leadership author and guru, defined leadership as “the capacity to create a compelling vision and translate it into action and sustain it” (2003, p. 1).  Leadership can be learned.  If one has the desire to be a leader, one can be.  "Like John Kotter, Prof Bennis believes leadership is not necessarily an inborn skill and can be taught ... through personal coaching rather than group training" (Bennis, 2003, p. 1).  Throughout history leaders come to mind that were not born leaders, but learned it through their education, tenacity, and personal effort.  "Abraham Lincoln, Harry S. Truman, Sam Walton of Wal-Mart, and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant" were not born into leadership, but had undying purpose and vision to achieve their goals (Mohr, 2000, p. 76).

With everything, there is a beginning; the vision, passion, and plan must begin somewhere. Blanchard (1999) asserted, “If you don’t take time out to think, strategize, and prioritize, you will work a whole lot harder, without enjoying the benefits of a job smartly done” (p. 25). Considering Blanchard’s words, anyone who desires to be a leader should outline a plan to outline a plan with specific goals.  All one needs is the desire to be a leader.  In fact, no less an authority than Peter Drucker (2001) has placed personal energy at the very forefront of leadership qualities: "Your first and foremost job as a leader is to raise your own energy level and then to help raise and orchestrate the energies of those around you” (Cooper, 2001, para. 1).

Personal Leadership Philosophy

Leaders know themselves; they know what they can do well” (Bennis & Goldsmith, 2003, p. 81).  The transformational leader who has completed self-reflection and assessed one’s strengths and weaknesses should next ask people for constructive feedback.  Do not shy away from the good and bad feedback that you might receive.  Avoiding the pain of receiving negative feedback does nothing for your growth.  Be willing to look at your weakness with the potential to create behavioral changes.  Nothing feels better than taking a misstep and turning this into a success. 

Organizations are often hiring leadership coaches.  Typically an organizational leadership coach may work with newly promoted managers to help them be successful.  If one is not available within your organization, seek a professional leadership coach.  "With the help of leadership coaches, leaders gain perspective on the familiar while encountering alternative ways to view self and one's role as a leader" (MacPherson, 2009, p. 46).

Honest Feedback

In terms of being an effective leader, one must seek out honest feedback.  Seek a mentor.  Kelling, Barling, and Helleur (2000) conducted extensive research on the effect of training and constructive feedback on leaders.  "Results suggest that both training and feedback are effective means of changing leadership behaviors" (Kelling, Barling, & Helleur, 2000, p. 145).  After reviewing several leadership coaching websites, the need for feedback to the leader was stressed.  "Eight ways to get honest feedback", "Five proven tips to get honest feedback", and "Honest success" are examples of just a few of these websites.  Bozeman and Feeney (2007) defined mentoring as...

...a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protègè). (p. 719)

Continual Learning

Think outside the box, challenge all assumptions, and continually seek new information.  Reading new literature will not be enough, consider innovative changes that may be outside the norm of the organization.  Daniel Pink has looked into the future and considered what it will take to make change happen.  In his book, A Whole New Mind, Pink (2006) addressed six thought processes to generate innovative thinking.  Pink(2006) incorporated both the left and right brain by mastering the six human abilities of design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning.  Using these natural abilities can get you continually learning, planning, and changing.

Fundamental to my personal leadership philosophy are self-reflection, asking people whom one works with for constructive feedback, and continually seeking new information (Bennis & Goldsmith, 2003, pp. 81-82).  Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission” (Blanchard, 1999, p. 12).  Struggling with low self-esteem or constant negativity can hinder effective leadership.  Reevaluating the white water that exists in our world, challenge the false assumptions will enable you to overcome any self-doubt.  Norman Vincent Peale believed that one can look at each day in two different ways.  One’s day is either going to be good or bad, so why not look to the good there is in life and seek the positive (Blanchard, 1999).  As a leader, the most important earthly relationship you can cultivate is your relationship with yourself” (Blanchard, 1999, p. 152).


Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City during the tragedy of September 11, 2001, proposed there were three critical stages of leadership.  First, you must develop beliefs. Next, you have to communicate them. Finally, you must take action” (Giuliani, p. 80).  A plan will enable you to begin the journey to become a leader.  Having a guide to mentor you along the way is crucial to your success.  Leadership is not something you do to people. It’s something you do with people” (Blanchard, 1999, p. 140).

Author: Andree C. Swanson, EdD

Bennis, W. (2003, Aug 14). A leader on leadership: GURU GUIDE WARREN BENNIS: The prolific writer argues that trust and openness are key to success, says Morgen Witzel: Financial Times
 Retrieved from

Bennis, W., & Goldsmith, J. (2003). Learning to lead: A workbook on becoming a leader. Cambridge, MA: Basic Books.

Blanchard, K. (1999). The heart of a leader. Tulsa, OK: Honor Books.

Bozeman, B., & Feeney, M. K. (2007). Toward a useful theory of mentoring: A conceptual analysis and critique. Administrative and Society, 39(6),719 - 739.

Cooper, R. K (2001). Excelling under pressure: Increasing your energy for leadership and innovation in a world of stress, change and unprecedented opportunities. Strategy & Leadership, 29(4), 15-20. 
Retrieved from

Giuliani, R. (2002). Leadership. New York, NY: Hyperion.

Kelling, K., Barling, J., & Helleur, J. (2000). Enhancing transformational leadership: The role of training and feedback. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 21(3), 145-149. Retrieved from

MacPherson, M. (2009). Self-reflection: A primer for leadership coaches. T + D, 63(12), 46-49,6. Retrieved from

Mohr, B. (2000). Leadership - Genetic or learned? PM,76-78. Retrieved from

Pink, D. (2006). A whole new mind. New York, NY: Riverhead Publishing.