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Management and Leadership: Military Essay


Though popular consensus is that management and leadership are interchangeable terms with the same purpose and meaning nothing could be further from the truth. Management can be defined as influencing one or more person’s actions and activities through planning, organizing, leading, controlling and guiding toward accomplishing set goals or objectives. Leadership can be defined as effectively influencing and directing others in a manner that encourages obedience, confidence and loyal team support in accomplishing organizational goals.

From these two definitions one might have a subtle hint as to how management and leadership differ. The purpose of this paper is to differentiate between managerial and leadership positions within military organizations, describe the roles that military managers and leaders play in creating and maintaining a healthy organizational culture, and explain how the four functions of management support the creation and maintenance of a healthy organizational culture within military organizations. The final discussion will include two recommendations to create and maintain a healthy organizational culture.

Leadership and Management

Just as the definitions suggest a distinct deference between management and leadership all military organizations have distinctive positions for management and leadership purposes. Military organizations use a designated ranking structure for the purpose of immediate distinction between management and leadership. Leadership personnel hold the title of officer in all branches of military service. Management personnel hold the title of noncommissioned officer (NCO). While officers are immediately recruited and appointed into the leadership position NCO’s have to earn their title and managerial position in the course of progression through the ranks from private to NCO. Though these two positions differ on many levels each is equally important to military organizational culture.

“A leader is anyone who by virtue of assumed role or assigned responsibility inspires and influences people to accomplish organizational goals” (FM 6-22, 2006). Therefore, an officer’s (leaders) main focus is to motivate soldiers both inside and outside of their immediate chain of command to pursue actions, focus thinking, and shape decisions for the greater good of the organization (FM 6-22, 2006). Officers influence military personnel by setting a personal example (leading by example) on and off duty hours.

Officer’s actions have a direct correlation to the amount of influence they will have in conveying purpose and vision, providing direction and motivating others. Being able to convey purpose and vision is important for officers’ to give subordinates the reason to take the necessary steps needed to accomplish missions. Open communication is essential in providing clear direction on how subordinates will go about accomplishing the mission.

In order to provide clear direction officers are responsible for prioritizing mission tasks, assigning responsibilities and confirming that subordinates understand all directives given. Motivation is the key to encouraging subordinates to do whatever is necessary to accomplish the mission. An officers’ role in motivation is to understand or get to know as much as possible about the needs, capabilities or limitations of his or her subordinates to determine what motivates who and personally praise or encourage when necessary. The process of getting subordinates to do whatever is necessary to accomplish the mission falls to the NCO (managers).

According to Army Regulation 5-1 (2002) “management is linked with leadership, just as doctrine, systems, processes, facilities and equipment are connected with the people who use them.” Therefore, NCO’s have the authority to make decisions based on the needs of set missions in accordance with organizational policies. The NCO’s main focus is on daily operations, and immediate subordinate’s actions toward accomplishing set tasks in order to fulfill missions.

The NCO’s mission is to provide instruction and supervision over subordinates to ensure tasks are being performed effectively, efficiently and in a timely manner. NCO’s implement the four functions of management in every mission presented. Planning is used to determine a working strategy to accomplish each mission assigned to the division. NCO’s will use organizing to determine how to break down missions into smaller tasks that can be performed over time. Once tasks and timelines have been determined human resources (available manpower) is evaluated according to knowledge and experience to determine who will be most effective on which task then tasks are assigned to individuals or teams.

Once teams are assigned work commences and leading begins. NCO’s are responsible for overseeing each team’s daily progress, making on the spot corrections, giving additional instruction, motivating and directing each team to ensure that all projects are going according to schedule and all workers are performing effectively and efficiently toward achieving set goals. When issues arise NCO’s are responsible for controlling situations through risk management, bringing subordinates back on track, on the spot training, enforcing organizational rules and regulations and so forth. Types of controls that are used in any given situation will vary depending on an individual’s leadership or management style.

Though leadership and management styles vary depending on individual preference three specific styles stand out with both officers and NCO’s in military organizations: (1) autocratic, (2) participative and (3) delegating. Bateman and Snell (2007) describe each of these strategies as:

Autocratic: leaders and or managers make decisions about what needs to be done at their own discretion then tell subordinates what to do and how they want it done.

Participative: leaders and or managers will involve one or more subordinates in the decision making process on specific task planning and organizing.

Delegating: leaders or managers will delegate authority to capable subordinates allowing them to make decisions for specific tasks while the leader or manager will still take full responsibility for any decision that was made through delegation.

Each style is effective in its own right and in specific circumstances. Officers and NCO’s who use all three styles at different times are more effective than those who just stick to one.

Organizational Culture

Organizational culture is the basic nature or overall actions and conduct of an organization based on shared values and goals. In order to have a fuller understanding of military organizational culture one would need to grasp military organizational structure. Military organizations use a hierarchical divisional organizational structure. Bateman and Snell (2007) describe a divisional organization structure as “departmentalization that groups units around products, customers, or geographic regions.” Military divisional organizational structure is based around geographic regions. See Chart 1 for a visual break down of basic military organizational structure.


Chart 1: Divisional Organization: Basic Military Organizational Structure.

Notice that the basic structure consists of Officers; NCO’s and subordinates (enlisted soldiers). From the battalion level down to platoons each leader is accompanied by a manager. Information goes down the chain of command while requests go up the chain of command.

Military culture is based on strict adherence to the chain of command and company policies i.e. subordinates would have to go through the squad leader and the platoon sergeant to speak to the first sergeant and so forth up the chain. Basic military organizational structure and culture is learned in _basic training_ (boot camp) where new recruits, both officers and enlisted personnel, undergo rigorous physical, mental and emotional training to establish military values and team building experience. Graduates are then separated and sent to _advance individual training_ (AIT) schools to learn specific trade skills. Through shared experiences from basic training new team building experiences develop. Again, graduates are separated and assigned to units based on their field of training. Shared experiences are the foundation for unit cohesiveness among all military personnel.

While common experiences may vary they open the path for shared ideas, values, responsibility and perceptions of military uniformity to military organizational culture that guides all military personnel toward achieving common personal and organizational goals throughout their career. Though troops and their families are uprooted and moved from post to post at the needs of the military, sometimes at a moments notice, shared experiences and personal and professional commitment to military values and mission preserve the military organizational culture. Military organizational culture is more than a commitment. Military organizational culture is a way of life for all who dedicate their lives to honor and defend this nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic.


Military organizational culture is a culture that has stood the test of time decade after decade. Retired war heroes and new recruits all have one thing in common. Each has a _common bond_ through shared experiences, dedication to military values, mission, ethics, code of conduct and so forth. Young or old, each has dedicated themselves to something bigger than themselves and committed their lives to honor and defend this nation’s freedom at all cost. While military culture has been mocked and scorned by many over the years, much can be learned from such a strong organizational culture. Many failing organizations in today’s challenging business environment would do well to incorporate some of the standards of military organizational culture into their own business.

Having _strong core values_ in place is the basis for creating and maintaining a healthy organizational culture. Military organizational culture consists of strong core values such as: “loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and courage” (U.S. Army web site, 2008). While some of these values could be considered strictly military oriented all organizations could agree that loyalty, duty, honor and integrity could be considered universal. More companies could and should integrate these types of core values into their mission and values statements to help create and maintain a more healthy organizational culture.

Having a _code of conduct_ in place establishes guidelines for acceptable employee behavior which helps create and maintain a healthy organizational culture. Military organizations have established a strong code of conduct which describes separate and military distinctive areas of specific conduct becoming of service members. While the truth is that the military code of conduct is not applicable to civilian organizations all organizations could agree that specific behaviors do exist that are expected of all people within specialized organizations.

Therefore, organizations could and should come up with a written policy explaining specific behaviors and actions that are acceptable and expected of all employees. Organizations may even have separate codes of conduct expectations for managers versus employees. The point here is to have an established and acceptable pattern of behavior for all employees to follow in order help maintain an overall healthy organizational culture.


From the research presented one can conclude that distinct differences between leaders and managers do exist. Leaders mainly focus on inspiring and motivating individuals toward accomplishing set goals. Managers mainly focus on motivating individuals through planning, organizing, leading and controlling functions of management. Based on these descriptions the main difference between management and leadership would be the method used to motivate individuals to accomplish goals.

Though organizational structures may differ from one organization to the next organizational structure does help set the foundation for organizational culture. Organizational culture sets the tone for organizational success through shared experiences, values, beliefs and behaviors. Though many theories exist for creating and maintaining a healthy organizational culture each organization must come up with standards i.e. core values, code of ethics and so on that are unique and attainable to that particular organization based on specific needs i.e. values, mission and purpose.


Army Regulation 5-1. (2002). Management: Total Army Quality Management. Retrieved July 11, 2008, from http://www.hqda.army.mil/leadingchange/Army%20Policies/r5-1.pdf

Bateman T., and Snell S., (2007), Management: Leading & Collaborating in a Competitive World (7th Ed.), McGraw-Hill/Irwin, New York, NY.

FM 6-22. (2006). Army Leadership: Competent, Confident, and Agile. Retrieved July 10, 2008 http://usacac.army.mil/cac/cal/FM6_22.pdf

U.S. Army web site. (2008). U.S. Army: Training and Doctrine Command. Retrieved July 15, 2008, from http://www.tradoc.army.mil/

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