Throughout its evolution the British Army has relied on the ability of its commanders, at all levels, to win the day; but what sets the ranks of the British Army apart from their peers around the world? The use of the word leadership is synonymous with the title of Military Commander but what does leadership mean to the ranks and file of today’s soldiers and officers?
Leadership, as a word, is used daily, often without thought, by soldiers and officers in the British Army. But what does it mean to them? All Officers commissioned into the British Army are trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS), whose motto is: “Serve to Lead”.
For the British Army the requirement to lead is not restricted to commissioned ranks; soldiers are schooled in leadership during their Potential Non-Commissioned Officer (PNCO) Course and this education continues through each phase of their promotion. This is through a three phase programme called Command Leadership and Management (CLM) which is progressively taught on selection for promotion to Corporal, Sergeant and Warrant Officer.
The British Army operates a ‘pull through’ system of promotion, with not only opportunities for progression through the ranks, but an expectation that all its recruits will rise into leadership roles. To support this it facilitates internal targeted training; aimed at specific rank, trade and role groups.
The function of leadership in the development of soldiers and officers is key to the Army’s ability to operate in both domestic and hostile environments. In both individual and academic circles the understanding of leadership, however, differs greatly. Yuki suggests that leadership is often confused with concepts such as power, authority, management, administration, control and supervision. However, the essence of the leadership role and process is to inspire, develop and empower followers.
It is followers who create leaders; leaders fill a void and it is a sense of community between the two which binds the relationship through a common goal. The relationship between leaders and followers is developed through leaders being able to provide a clear strategic vision which is underpinned by them being able to generate and sustain a sense of trust within all parties in the community.
The Army is a complex community and the challenge is to identify: what leadership means to today’s soldiers and officers, and identify what qualities they have and if they use those qualities and their positions within the organisation for the greater good.
It is important for an organisation which places such and emphasis on the importance of leadership to be able to understand how its message and training on leadership is being received by its ‘leaders’ of today in order to be able to assess the level of success of its efforts in order to target any potential future changes in its own strategic approach to leadership training and development.
Overview of the British Army
Although a single organisation, with a hierarchical command structure, the army comprises many different elements which provide complex functions and are designed to support each other. These are divided into Combat (Cbt), fighting elements, Combat Support (CS), front line support elements and Combat Service Support (CSS), primarily logistic and administrative support. Each element shares that same rank structure and central ethos, which is defined within the core Values and Standards of the British Army.
The understanding and adoption of these common values by every officer and soldier underpins the effectiveness of the British Army and are central to the Value Based Leadership approach adopted by the Army, Army Code 64298 (2011).
Leadership training has been developed within the British army throughout the last decade in the shadow of two concurrent counter insurgency operations; Iraq (Operation TELIC) and Afghanistan (Operation HERRICK), Future plans for the Army include: a withdrawal from Combat Operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and a restructuring of the Army by 2020.
The Chief of the General Staff General Sir Peter Wall, when being interviewed on Army 2020 stated:
“But what of our officers and soldiers who are so critical to this venture? They are to be found in the warrior generation that has fought courageously in Iraq and Afghanistan. We need them to soldier on into the new era, and we need people of comparable courage, talent and commitment to join them.”
With such significant changes ahead and with the Army placing such a significant emphasis on the importance of ‘leadership’ then a snapshot of the views of today’s soldiers and officers on leadership will contribute towards the development of the Army’s leaders of tomorrow.
There is a requirement to review what leadership means to the British Soldier in the 21st Century, both as a follower and a leader.
The objectives must be:
- To review the British Army in relation to its use of the term leadership.
- Critically review contemporary leadership literature in order to identify a concise leadership definition for the British Army.
- Conduct primary research, using quantitative and qualitative methodologies to identify the view of soldiers (from their training and experiences) on what their understanding of the term leadership in the British Army.
- To make comparisons between the secondary and primary research in order to draw conclusions on the view of British soldiers on their understanding of the term leadership
- To make recommendations on how the British Army’s leadership training and development can be improved.
- What Might the Research and Its Strategy Be?
Academics define research in different ways; Kerlinger defines it as “the systematic, controlled, empirical and critical investigation of hypothetical propositions about presumed relations among natural phenomena” whereas Payton defines it as “the process of looking for a specific answer to a specific question” and for Saunders el al it is the process of gathering information for a purpose; this is often to answer a specific question or questions for the purpose of the advancement of knowledge. Research must be as a sequence of activities which use resources, such as information and knowledge, which are processed to provide answers, from which conclusions can be drawn.
Research philosophies consist of positivism, realism, pragmatism and interpretivism where the relationship between the researcher and the subject must be considered when reviewing any results. The pragmatist philosophy would be to research a topic that would enable the researcher to influence positive consequences within their organisation. The research question is key and will guide the literature review and in turn the researcher to ensure that they are focused on obtaining an answer to a specific question while some would argue that the question is secondary to which paradigm is most effective and applicable.
The army must be mindful of choosing a research strategy that is appropriate to the objectives of the project with key decisions about the strategy and methods to be used taken before the research begins. An inductive approach would be based on evidence collated for the purpose of the specific research, from which a more general hypothesis can be gained whereas the deductive approach would be based on a logical conclusion from a wider ranging research methodology.
All rights reserved © 2013 Andrew Hutchinson