Serving in the military for over 20 years I have seen a few different power theories attempted by different commanders. Since the military has a built in promotion system which delineates officer and enlisted, with a dash of warrant officers (highly specialized technical experts), it would seem that the work is done for any command. However, looking at the organizational power theory from Max Weber, he argued that managers positional authority gave them legitimacy. But, legitimate power can be seen and used even if the individual does not have the authority of position (Peek, 2020).
In the Army we are evaluated yearly, or when we have a change in leadership. Part of that evaluation is based on how well we communicate and lead our Soldiers. The other piece is extending influence outside of the chain of command. This is how positive change happens in the military. Unlike the theory of Karl Marx who believed that certain parts of society should hold the power, while the others were subordinates to them, the military has the separation of officer and enlisted by virtue of focus (Grauer, 2017). This military power theory gives focus to the officers on more management of function, while the enlisted non-commissioned officer focuses more on the troops and operations. Currently, the theory being used is the Mintzberg model, where managers essentially have three role clusters. These roles are informational, interpersonal and decisional. Each cluster has specific pieces that the manager is expected to provide such as in the interpersonal role, they must be a figurehead, a leader and a liaison (Tawk, 2021). I believe this theory is being used based on the need of the military to show the complexity required of effective leaders. In past examples of military leadership training focus was based on acts of heroism or extreme charisma. While these do serve a place and a purpose, the average military leader needs to have a model to serve as a blueprint to lead their units effectively, while meeting mission requirements, maintaining readiness and keeping morale.
An excellent example of the Mintzberg theory I recently saw was a new officer came to my section. Since I have longevity with the Soldiers, he came to me to get the ‘lay of the land’ on his company he would be leading. As I gave him the information, we received a fairly urgent mission request, which shifted our focus. He expertly applied this model to how he approached the troops, secured resources, liaised with adjacent units and kept everyone informed. Once things had settled down we conducted an after action review. That was when he told me about the Mintzberg model and showed me the steps he took in applying not only to how he approaches the unit, but to situations when they arise. By investing time into each of the three main clusters, he was able to handle the issue, while gaining the trust of the Soldiers as being a competent leader.
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