Military Leadership: In Pursuit of Excellence

By Robert L. Taylor; William E. Rosenbach | Go to book overview

PART 4
The Changing Context

Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is to you.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Over the past few years, the military mission has become more ambiguous and complex with increasing combat assignments and peacekeeping responsibilities. Reduced budgets have led to changes in the retirement contract with active duty personnel as well as to downsizing, recruitment pressures, and a variety of directives that change the operating environment on short notice. Flexibility and responsiveness have become more important, yet the military is a vast organization, and frustrations occur with everchanging expectations. The once cohesive and unified culture is stressed and strained as our country copes with the realities of constantly changing multinational forces and multiple missions.

Recognizing the problem becomes more difficult as fewer members of Congress come with any military experience. On the one hand, this reduces the possibilities of emotional commitments to the military; on the other hand, there is a waning empathy for those in the service in terms of how they can meet all of the growing expectations and achieve an acceptable quality of life. There are serious concerns whether political leaders truly understand military life and the accompanying issues.

Active duty forces are no longer able to handle the ongoing commitments directed to the military beyond peacekeeping. Reserve and National Guard units are called up more frequently for limited combat operations. No one argues that the part-time forces are not competent. However, leadership is tested in different ways when the career culture clashes with the culture of limited service and engagement.

Military leadership is global in scope. A variety of multicultural and cross-cultural issues must be addressed. This diversity is an organizational imperative that adds new dimensions to leadership. Effective leadership is dependent upon the contributions of people regardless of their heritage, characteristics, and values. The organization's success depends upon each person doing his or her share with commitment and expertise.

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