No matter the situation, whether in our personal or professional lives, everything we do and learn will affect the style of leadership that we all have. In the military, we have a very diverse combination of people from all different cultures, who all learn in different ways. And each separate branch of the armed forces also has its own culture so to speak with their own separate views on leadership. These days, the military is encompassed by active duty personnel wearing the uniform, The Air National Guard, the Reserves, the Department of Defense (DoD) civilian employees, and their families. In each of these parts of the military, the leaders are still somewhat of the same, and they differ greatly from the normal civilian leader in the fact that they are appointed by regulation and if they cannot push their followers to do something by strength of character they can always resort to the use of a lawful order. The military uses a distinct ranking structure governed by written directives which tells leaders and their subordinates how they should act. There is a large amount of money spent on the military between training and education for future leaders. In both the military and civilian sectors, leaders are expected to make the tough decisions that move the organization forward.
In the Air Force Pamphlet (AFP) 35-49, Air Force Leadership, defines leadership as “the art of influencing and directing people to accomplish the mission” (pg. 8, 1985). What is the best leadership style? This being the question that is at the top of any great leadership debate. There are so many great qualities in any style of leadership that it is hard to really know which one is best.
The situational leadership approach is based on the theory that each scenario is different so no one approach can fit all situations. According to Waddell “situational leadership does a good job of highlighting the appropriate style based on the maturity and development level of the followers” (para. 4, 1994). Since there is truly not a single style of leadership that works for all military scenarios, the leader must assess the problem and try to use the style that most appropriately fits the situation. The decision to join the military is not one based on money, but based on a calling and duty to serve. Military personnel feel they have a moral responsibility to serve, based on duty, service, and self-sacrifice, placing the needs of others ahead of their own.
On the other hand, with a commercial business the well-being of their shareholders is placed above that of their employees. This happens because when the leaders meet the needs of the shareholders they are sometimes met with financial rewards for the job well done. In the military, the men and women of the armed forces are placed first on the priority list so that they will in turn take good care of the stakeholders, who also just so happen to be the citizens of the USA. There are no financial rewards for members of the armed forces. And if there were ever financial rewards for military members, the outrage from the us citizens would be far worse. “In times of war, the mental state of followers takes on greater significance since fear complicates their ability to perform” (para. 40, Waddell, 1994). On the military side, a leader cannot use financial rewards or time off awards to motivate followers because why would a person risk their life for extra money when they may not live long enough to enjoy it. During war, Airman must be led in other ways that inspire and transform them into willing, rather than required, participants. Transformational leadership would be appropriate during the times that require trust, confidence, and charisma in a leader. When leaders are liked and respected, followers are more willing to do what is necessary to accomplish the mission. DoD civilians on the other hand, do not risk their lives for the most part and would probably like a money or time off award so transactional leadership may be appropriate in this instance. The words of Waddell still hold true, “In light of unprecedented technological developments, rapidly changing world events, and compressed cycles of social change, the need for adaptive, flexible, empowering leadership has never been greater” (para. 53, 1994).
Is there an exact role that power and influence have on leadership styles? If so, what impact does it have within organization? These are questions for all leaders in any business or organization. “Power and influence are essential parts of leadership” (PSU World Campus, 2013). The definition of power in leadership is “the capacity to produce effects on others,” while influence is described as, “the change in a target agent’s attitudes, values, beliefs, or behaviors as a result of influence tactics” (PSU World Campus, 2013). The ability of a leader to influence their followers comes from power, and without power and influence leadership is impossible. Power is having the ability to make things happen, overcoming potential resistance to change and getting the group to achieve the desired results. ‘According to Chapter 11 in our book, Weiss believes power resides in all relationships that include individuals, groups, and coalitions inside and outside organizations. Power is the potential to influence. Influence is a person’s ability to affect or change the actions, behaviors, and opinions of others in desired ways (pg. 1, 2015). When a leader holds all the power and is the only decision maker in the organization, he displaying personalized power. It is impossible for an organization the size of our military to have all the decision making power for every event in the hands of one person. Military leaders delegate some power to allow followers the freedom to make decisions for the group. This lets followers develop an ownership of the work being accomplished, builds trust among workgroups, and helps eliminate hurt feelings about whose job it is. It gives the leader a better chance of reaching the common goals of the organization. Legitimate Power is what you will find most on military installations. It is a person’s ability to influence others’ behavior because of the position that person holds. It usually comes from a position of authority. The Commander is given the right to influence and direct all employees under his or her control. Their rank also gives him legitimate power over any junior ranking military personnel even if they don’t work for them. By law, this person has the right to make demands on others and expects them to be compliant. It is very important to use this type of power correctly. On the civilian side of the house, reward power is used along with legitimate power. Weiss says “reward power comes from a leader’s ability to reward followers” (pg. 1, 2015). A leader can give his employees bonuses, pay raises or time off for superior performance but even here they must be aware of the perceptions of favoritism and special treatment. If a supervisor is seen or is perceived as abusing that power he may be able to achieve short term success, but over the long run this type of behavior will be a detriment to the whole organization. People will lose trust, confidence and respect for that individual. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. It’s easy to tell someone to do something if you have the rank or position that makes everyone listen. The trick is to motivate and inspire them to do what is needed because it’s the right thing to do and because they want to do it. Most people don’t like to be told they have to do something all the time, and would rather be asked if they could or would do it instead. Eventually, unethical behavior will catch up to you. If leaders exercise their power over others with sensitivity, avoid intimidation and abrasive behavior, and rely on their expertise and personality to influence followers, they will improve their overall effectiveness. Effective authentic leaders increase their power by empowering others and letting them contribute.
The Vandenberg AFB organization uses a combination of Transformational and Transactional leadership theories. Different situations, different missions, and different organizations will require different styles as you move from one place to another and progress in rank. Good leadership demands that you be able to adjust your style to meet the needs of the different cultures, diversity of followers, and changes in environment as you move from one place to another. Vandenberg AFB is unique in that the civilian population working in each organization is triple in size as that of the military. There are roughly 12,000 civilians and about 7,000 military members on this installation. What worked at an all military installation at your last base will not work at Vandenberg? Civilians are governed by a different set of rules, have different motivation factors and expectations than an all military organization. Civilians are more set in their ways and do not adjust to change as quickly as active duty personnel. Day to day business under normal conditions, requires transactional leadership first. According to Weiss, transactional leadership works in more mechanistic rather than organic settings where there is hierarchal authority; centralized decision making; vertical communication, well defined performance criteria; high extrinsic rewards, and high follower and power information (Weiss, 2015). Using this style, leaders and followers can focus on the here and now and can get things done quickly. Followers receive rewards or incentives to achieve results, and leadership uses correction and punishment for unacceptable performance. Civilians receive annual appraisals based on whether or not they met, did not meet, or exceeded the critical tasks of their Core Personnel Document. Rewards are decided based on the information provided in the appraisal and this helps determine the size of the financial award or time off benefits given to each person. Under current rules, if you just met all your objective you would not receive much in the way of financial rewards. But you could still receive your regular step increases based on time. This type of leadership style allows followers to realize self-interests, minimize anxiety, and concentrate on clear organizational objectives, such as increased quality, better customer service, cost reductions, and increasing output (Weiss, 2015). Transactional leadership sets the foundation and transformational leadership improves and expands or grows out of it. It improves upon effort levels, perseverance, and performance of the team. Transformational leadership is used when advancements in technology become available, processes or procedures change, when reductions in personnel happen, and when we go to war. At times like these, transformational leaders need to motivate all personnel by creating a compelling vision, strategy, and culture. The goal of transformational leadership is to get follower commitment for the long term, create pride and self-esteem, change attitudes and values, and transform an organization into a team. The big change being instituted now in some parts of the air force is a new pay for performance rating system under the AcqDemo reassignment. This one will be hard to sell because under this program you must perform just to keep your current pay. If your performance is rated unacceptable or minimally acceptable your pay can be reduced based on your performance output. This will not only require a change in thinking but will also require a change in culture. Intellectual stimulation will be required to help employees realize that their outlook on life will change for the better if they put the effort into learning the new system. These things are possible with the right leadership in place.
There are so many traits and characteristics that can affect leadership. Weiss defines traits as a distinguishing quality or characteristic of a person’s nature (2015). Our current commander is this person without a doubt and he is an exceptional leader. He makes sure to hold everyone, including himself, to very high standards and he leads by example. He is always a person of honorable character. His Air Force career started as an enlisted member with a goal of becoming an officer which he accomplished during his fifth year in the service He has always drive, determination, self-discipline, and willpower. Always knowing what he wanted and where he wanted the organization to go he has remained successful. He has built trust throughout the squadron, with leadership and followership. He has a strong belief in family, religion, the job he performs for his country, and the people he guides to achieve this end. He lives by the Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. Other important traits that were easily identified are honesty, empathy or concern for people, consistent in rewards and discipline, flexible and open-minded to new ideas. He keeps his mind on the future as he does everything in his power to help all of us who follow him to obtain success in all we do whether it is while we stay in the military or as we transition into the civilian world.
The role of leadership in support of the mission and vision on an organization is to communicate the goals to all who follow behind them so that they can be successful. According to Weiss a vision is an idealized goal or state that an organization aspires to achieve (2015). It should be enduring and timeless, provide guidance and inspiration as to what an organization is focused on achieving, and provide direction for the organizations course by outlining a destination. Mission defines an organization’s purpose and answers the question “What do we stand for? It serves as a guide for all of the organization’s decision making. It offers insight into what leadership views as the primary purpose for being. Strategy is a comprehensive plan for how an organization will fulfill its purpose and realize its vision” (Weiss, 2015). This is the last step in the process to develop objectives, strategies, and tactics to achieve the mission. The base has incredible diversity in missions, ranging from operational support groups to specialized support services. Their vision statement is “to be the world’s preeminent space port and test range”. Their mission statement is “to provide indispensable launch, landing, and range capabilities to the nation”. The organization has some set priorities to Execute todays mission flawlessly, posture the wing for the future and support airmen at all levels. The base also has many strategies for success. These strategies range from the very broad, which encompass people and resources from many different parts of the base, to the very specific, which aim at carefully defined areas for squadrons. Leadership passes the word down from the base commander thru the squadron commanders to the first line supervisors that ensure completion of the tasks associated in driving the mission. All of the single parts working together contribute their piece to the whole.
If I had the power to change one simple thing where I work, it would be the elimination of as much actual paperwork as possible. Everyone has heard the term “red tape” and understands the frustration it causes. Computers were invented to make processing of these things easier and more efficient. I have noticed that we do all of our work on computers and then print two and sometimes even three copies of the work. The use of the computer does make it easier for all offices in the unit to have a copy of the work but still it is in the guidelines that hard paper copies are needed as well. I would rather put these documents on a disc or hard drive in order to have copies to travel with rather than print out multiple copies and use un needed waste of paper. However, some people just like having a paper copy so I don’t think it will ever go away.
In conclusion, no matter the situation, whether in our personal or professional lives, everything we do and learn will affect the style of leadership that we all have. Every organization whether in the military world or civilian sector will have a mission and vision that they live by in order to accomplish their goals. The lessons learned here today about leadership and followership are that people in all areas of life are going to the best they can in order to succeed. A leader that is able to give those under them the want and will to do everything they can to make a better life is a great leader. Strong leaders are not possible without people being willing to follow and learn from them and without the belief in leaders then no organization will be successful.