Adaptive Leadership Essay

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Due to its purpose, the military has always been known to produce quality leaders. From George Washington to John F. Kennedy, the list goes on and on. The military’s rich history has afforded scholars the opportunity to dissect how leadership is developed in the military. People can look to the military for guidance on effective leadership because officers “… are trained for high-stakes positions at a young age and are sometimes thrown into those roles with no warming.” (The Different Ways Military Experience Prepares Managers for Leadership, p. 82) According to Professor Michael Useem author of “Four Lessons in Adaptive Leadership,” leadership development is best derived from the military as the “environment creates a culture of readiness and commitment.” (p. 86) Professor Useem believes there is something to be learned from this world to apply in the corporate sector since corporations are facing more uncertainty and continuous new types of competitors. From this belief the author has reached a conclusion that adaptive leadership should be used utilizing four precepts; they are, “meeting the troops,” making decisions, focusing on a mission, and conveying strategic intent. Although the author provides excellent points regarding military leadership being a good standard for the corporate world to use, adaptive leadership should not be known as the encompassing “official” leadership style of the military. The point that the author makes; attempting to convince the reader that adaptive leadership is good, is flawed because there is more than one approach to leadership in the military, and that would include a process driven leadership approach. The author shows favoritism towards adaptive leadership by using examples such as Gettysburg and Normandy, even using Marine Corps Officer Candidate School to show his MBA students how important military like thinking helps in the “real world.” The author goes on to advertise adaptive leadership as a “military” style rather than giving proper credit to the Army and Marine Corps as they utilize this approach due to the circumstances each branch faces on the battlefront. Professor Useem explains his four precepts but each can also be received with perceived flaws. Meeting troops, as important as it is for the moral of any company or military unit does not only require face time to win over the heart of employees but there must also be some moments of humility where the leader can roll up their sleeves and do the same work enlisted do, so that people could see the leader is attempting to make a connection and understand them. The professor goes on to say that people, whether in the military or in business must be able to make decisions in a timely manner. In reading the article one can counter that making decisions on the spot or faster than normal are not always the best approach because different situations bring different timings. Mr. Useem does make a strong point when discussing his 3rd point in adaptive leadership regarding focusing on the mission. The final point made in the article which is conveying strategic intent can also be challenged since being loose can be good but there are instances that would require procedural leadership, where personnel are expected to follow guidelines without deviation of regulation. How can the four military branches have different leadership styles if they are all essentially cut from the same cloth? A perfect example of this point is taken from an article in the Harvard Business Review titled, “The different ways military experience prepares managers for leadership.” In this article and individual comments that in the Army or Marine Corps a loose bolt in a Humvee could result in it not working, but losing a bolt in the Air Force or Navy can lead to the loss of a $100 million part in a destroyer or fighter plane. This is the first argument that can be made when discussing military leadership as it is best to consider both methods as...
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