Situational Leadership Essay

6008 words - 24 pages

A SITUATIONAL LEADERSHIP® MODEL FOR MILITARY LEADERS Col Donald E. Waddell III Leadership remains the most baffling of arts . . . as long as we do not know exactly what makes men get up out of a hole in the ground and go forward in the face of death at a word from another man, then leadership will remain one of the highest and most elusive of qualities. It will remain an art.--James L. Stokesbury The art of leadership that Stokesbury alludes to is a subject studied more seriously in military schools than in civilian institutions. Given the life-and-death nature of our business and the importance of the military to a nation's survival, this should surprise no one. What is surprising, however, is that most Air Force professional military education (PME) schools rely almost exclusively on the civilian-oriented Hersey and Blanchard Situational Leadership® model to help teach military leadership and management.The Air University Leadership and Management Program Advisory Group (LMPAG) recently discussed the Hersey and Blanchard Situational Leadership® model used extensively by the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), the Officer Training School (OTS), the Squadron Officer School (SOS), and the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy (SNCOA). While most were happy with the model as presented in the various schools, the group decided to review other models to see if they might better portray military leadership. At the same time, Air War College was looking for a model to use in studying leadership in its academic program.The general feeling was that the Hersey and Blanchard model is useful but has some significant limitations. Specifically, the model does a good job of highlighting the appropriate leadership style based on the "maturity" or "development level" of the followers but does not adequately address other military considerations. These considerations include the level at which leadership is exercised; different styles that may be required because of the demands of combat; staff versus operational leadership; or the differing styles appropriate to service, joint, or combined leadership. The purpose of this article is to suggest another leadership model that is helpful in modeling leadership situations unique to the military. While this model will be used in the Air War College curriculum next year, it has numerous applications and is particularly appropriate for midcareer officers faced with transitioning from unit-level to leadership positions involving more people and more complex missions.Evolution of Leadership Theory As a backdrop, we should first review the evolution of leadership theory in this century. Almost all leadership theory is based on the relative importance assigned to the leader versus the follower in mission accomplishment. Those who believe that leaders are sufficiently enlightened or heroic1 (to use Morris Janowitz's term) cite examples of bold leaders such as Napoléon, Alexander, and Frederick the...

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