Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Military Leadership Style

The style of leadership most prevalent in the military is authoritarian. This means that the person in a position of power autocratically uses his/her judgement to direct subordinates wihtout much input from others. Further, most often they leave little choice and flexibility for creativity in how the task is to be done. This often borders on or becomes micro-managing.

This style, though in many ways flawed, works oftentimes due to the culture of the military. Often if people are given choices, freedom, and flexibility in the military, they do not know what to do with it. Further, many people in subordinate positions disdain any ambiguity due to a fear of failure or disappointment. They feel that it is easiest, and therefore best, if they are told exactly what to do, when, and how to do it.

Sometimes authoritarian leadership is required in the military. In situations where time is critical and action is required, authoritarian leadership is far preferred to any other type because it is fast and effective. However, in situations where time and resources are less scarce, like planning, authoritarian leadership styles can stifle creativity and cause inadequate, flawed, and premature decisions to be executed.

Therefore, leaders who try to use more participative styles often run into some difficulty. They encounter others who feel that by asking for input, they are shirking their responsibility as a leader to make the decisions. This can turn the most open-minded leader into another authoritarian military leader quite quickly.

The key is to know when to take charge and unilaterally decide, and when to step back and ask for input.