In recent years the Army developed focused attention towards decentralized subordinate leadership. In the Army’s collective mind, the complex battlefield of the future requires a leader to understand the situation quickly and seek the initiative before higher issues orders. A leader is a passionate professional who executes daily self-assessments, seeks the initiative and earns the respect of peers and subordinates. There is no research, at present, which describes the effect of empowered subordinate leadership; however, a case can be made organizations with leaders of character get results.
In this essay I will show that A leader with empathy, confidence, and trust is directly related to a positive organizational culture. This paper is organized as follows. An introduction of the theory based on Army Doctrine Publication 6-22 “Army Leadership”, wherein leadership attributes are listed and described as effective qualities of a leader. Finally, implications of theory and practice are examined by way of two self-assessments; which lead the reader to accept the above thesis for a balanced and effective leader.
The notion of self-assessment is evident as far back as Marcus Aurelius and Meditations wherein he attributes his leadership qualities to lessons learned from friends and family. Aurelius directly instructs leaders to start everyday by asking oneself a series of questions about hypothetical situations and how he is going to handle the day’s news. A leader strives to foster a truly remarkable work environment by building teams of mutual trust and respect but this cannot be done without self-examination. In a similar fashion there is no formula or checklist which a leader can follow to find the “ideal type” of leadership qualities, a la Max Weber.
The Army defines a leadership as one who is innovative, focused on organizational goals and motivates others, by his example, to build teams of mutual trust. ADP 6-22 describes a balance between the humanistic approach of Aurelius and the organizational approach of Weber. A leader must be and know the following six attributes to be a balanced leader: Character, Presence, Intellect, Develops, Leads, and Achieves. For the purpose of this essay we will focus on only three attributes which are considered to be the core attributes.
Character is the principle attribute of a leader since it speaks to the spirit of an individual. This spirit is the application of lessons learned from a life of maturation and development before military service with the addition of Army values. A leader of strong Character is selflessness, empathetic, and disciplined. An empathetic leader is observant to the feelings of others and equally aware of the diversity of beliefs amongst the group. This attribute is an internal self-examination and only an individual knows if they are a genuine leader of strong Character.
Presence on the other hand is outward facing and the perception others have of our leadership. The leader with strong Presence has exemplary military bearing and the confidence to get others to follow. The key characteristic of a leader with Presence is the ability to sense stress, especially in subordinates.
Leads, is the ability to build teams of mutual trust. A leader with this attribute finds ways to encourage others to unite and complete a shared goal. A successful leader with this attribute is keenly aware of individual strengths and weaknesses and leverages the talents to complete the task. Moreover, a leader of this attribute extends influence beyond their organization; they are outgoing and seek ways to improve the larger organization through clear, effective communication.
According to the 16 Personalities self-assessment my personal traits are extraverted, sensing, feeling, and judging. My strongest attribute, extraverted means I gain motivation by working in groups and draw energy by making a group come together. As a sensor I pay attention to nature but more specifically I am observant of others energy and I seek to be inclusive. Feeling accounts for the compassion I have for diversity of though and the duress others may experience. Judging means I tend to want to take charge and am laser focused on task completion. I am more comfortable with work before leisure. The VIA Institute on Character self-assessment agreed with the above assessment but described me as a fair leader with humor, gratitude, and a high degree of perseverance in spite of obstacles.
The results of both assessments are not news to me; I am aware of my leadership strengths and weaknesses. A large part of my formation, as an officer, included mentorship which encouraged self-reflection described by Aurelius. For a short period, it was mandated in the US Army to execute feedback from co-workers to make the organization more effective. I capitalize on extroverted nature to solicit honest feedback and encourage all to list areas of improvement since that is the only way I will get better.
My experience of peer and subordinate feedback resulted team reminiscent of a family. I overtly shared my gratitude for the talent on the team and routinely shared when I did not have perfect information. My observation was the Soldiers found this quality endearing, but more importantly, it empowered them to take the initiative to account for my technical shortcomings. They recognized my passion for the broader organization and they identified with that common goal. My attention to tactical decision-making and planning meant (at times) I missed the commander’s intent; the team aware of the expanded purpose ensure success by making up for my shortcoming. The key to soliciting honest subordinate feedback is to balance out my strong assertive tendency and expressing my openness to hear diversity of opinions.
We started this examination with Ciulla who argued leadership qualities by first theorizing the benefits of the organizational approach. Is there “one best way” to form the ideal leader? By the conclusion of Ciulla’s argument she describes a leader as one who embraces the humanistic approach “which enhances everyone’s freedom and capacity” to successfully complete a common goal. Through self-assessment tools I’ve been described as an extroverted, fair-minded leader with a keen awareness of others feelings. In kind, the Army describes a successful leader with the same attributes. The success of my organizations was never due to my superior technical and tactical competency, but directly attributed to my openness to listen to my subordinates. The culture of matured fairness fostered a truly remarkable work environment and emphasized the business of the Army is centered around relationships.