For example, a commander of a Navy ship should be able to use a participatory and responsive leadership style in day-to-day affairs, and allow the crew enough autonomy to feel invested in the experience of running the vessel. But that same commander must be able to use a more authoritarian style when commanding the ship during the intensity of a battle situation. Switching between both leadership styles makes for a better crew. Even when under the tight watch of a commander, units must be able to make intelligent, split-second independent decisions. This quality is fostered by using participatory leadership techniques during the everyday life on the ship.
But switching between leadership styles and changing ones fundamental leadership approach is more easily said than done. Furthermore, the organizational hierarchy of the organization in which one is a participant may be hostile to such alterations. The military tends to celebrate tradition and protocol, rather than a dialogue-based leadership style. But this must change, if the military wishes to flourish in the 21st century and retain high-quality people, especially given the fact that the U.S. military is no longer reliant upon the draft.
Todays military is more like a real world organization where employees are free to come and go. “I used to think that running an organization was equivalent to conducting a symphony orchestra. But I dont think thats quite it; its more like jazz. There is more improvisation” said leadership theorist Warren Bennis (Clark 2010). Such responsiveness requires self-knowledge on the part of the leader and knowledge of the individual character of the individuals under the leaders command. Communication between the leadership and his or her followers is essentials. Leadership is not synonymous with simply dispensing orders. Military leaders must be astute psychologically as well as on the field, and be as flexible in their leadership style as well as physically. It is possible to change and be responsive with the needs of the moment, provide one keeps an open mind.
Clark, Don. (2010, April 18). Concepts of Leaders. Big Dog/Little Dog.
Retrieved September 26, 2010 at http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/leadcon.html.