Author

Organizational Culture and Leadership in the Army

This article has been initially published in the Revista Seguridad y Poder Terrestre
Vol. 1 N.° 1 (2022): July – September
DOI: https://doi.org/10.56221/spt.v1i1.9


Abstract

Currently, institutions must have a flexible organizational culture that serves as a guide and allows all its members to adapt to a globalized and constantly changing world. Organizational culture and leadership are elements that -over time- have evidenced a certain evolution in their concepts, generating a greater impact on military institutions. Leaders must manage new tools that allow them not only to improve human relations, but also to develop the talent of their staff to achieve the proposed objectives. Therefore, the Army must carry out training programs to foster in its personnel skills that allow them to exercise good leadership. In this sense, in a world in permanent transformation, organizational culture and leadership are important elements for the development of the Army and for the effective performance of Officers. This article describes the relationship and the new dimensions that should strengthen the development of both elements in the Army.

Keywords: Organizational culture, leadership, Army.

Introduction

In recent decades, organizational culture and leadership understood as elements that influence the achievement of an institution’s goals, have facilitated changes in behavioral patterns and work styles practiced in an organization. However, before implementing these changes, it is important to identify, recognize and assume that both elements influence the human factor and, therefore, require certain conditions to achieve the desired effects in the organization.

Taking into consideration the evolution of threats, Peruvian Army has started a transformation process in order to develop capabilities for the effective fulfillment of the strategic roles assigned by the Peruvian State. In this regard, this article describes the relationship and new dimensions that strengthen the development of organizational culture and leadership in the Army. The organizational culture in the Army must be shaped by institution leaders, since their actions and decisions are evidence of their solid military training and their commitment to the initiated transformation process.

Understanding Organizational Culture and Leadership in the Army

Organizational culture and leadership have created a strong link whereby integrated effort and teamwork generate synergy and make difficulties be seen as opportunities to develop institution member competencies. Consequently, it can be affirmed that both – organizational culture and leadership – are key factors that trigger actions, motivation and identification degree between personnel and the institution.

The Peruvian Armed Forces are made up of institutions that, despite complementary missions, do not have the same leadership style nor do they share the same organizational culture. However, the three Armed Forces agree that culture and leadership promote development and have a direct influence on the practice of their constitutional functions. Therefore, in accordance with the transcendence of the mission that the Armed Institutions fulfill, it states that these institutions must be integrated by men and women with fundamental and inherent values as military personnel. This is achieved through behavior standards and ethical principles that are unavoidable in order to assume a legitimate leadership. Although, it is true that in the Armed Forces, the authority is exercised by rank, this does not mean that all members have the capability to lead effectively. On the contrary, many times the “abuse of authority” leads to mistakes that damage the image, prestige and credibility, not only of its members but also of the military institution.

Emerging threats force states to assign new roles to their armed forces, and to do so, these institutions must have the necessary flexibility to adapt to such changes. Therefore, organizational culture and leadership play a vital role in the changes, the adaptation and growth of the military organization, as well as, the contribution of knowledge development, the participation and proactivity of its personnel, having a direct impact on the institution’s strategy. In this context, it is important that the Armed Institutions apply a leadership model based on dedication, planning and programming, interpersonal relations, written and oral communication, intelligence, knowledge, emotional stability, determination, influence of others and social judgment.[1] Consequently, it is relevant to analyze how adaptation, growth and innovation influence people who command the Army, in order to correct errors in the work performed by its members -particularly officers- and to meet society needs.

Military Culture

Military culture stands out in society as a product of roles, values, traditions and principles that have been formed since the birth of the State, which evolve and adapt for the effective fulfillment of Army’s purpose. The military culture is peculiar and constitutes one of the main strengths that allows the identification and integration of personnel. Army members proudly wear the uniform and insignia that show the level of training and rank. It should also be noted that those who wear the military uniform have sworn to defend their homeland with their lives.

In this sense, military culture has a visible component (explicit, perceptible and easy to teach aspects that identify the Army members), a moral component (which gives the implicit understanding and where ethics and values become a creed) and a vocational component (aspects that cannot be evidenced with the naked eye, nor taught directly).[2] Therefore, military culture includes aspects such as: discipline, teamwork, self-sacrifice, spirit, ethics and values. In this regard, Edgar Schein, a recognized expert in this field, defines organizational culture as the set of basic assumptions that a given group invented, discovered or developed when learning to deal with the problems of external adaptation and internal integration, and that work well enough to be considered valid and taught to new members as the correct way of perceiving, thinking and feeling in relation to those problems.[3]

Military culture is never static, since it is built on values, norms and beliefs and must, over time, be revised and updated. The lack of knowledge of the military culture by Army members can cause conflicts. These conflicts are manifested in actions that are not aligned with the institution. Therefore, it is important that this culture be shared in training schools, and strengthened in specialization schools, as well as persistently practiced in military Units and Dependencies. This learning will motivate and guide the behavior of the personnel to face problems and situations inherent to the military career in a positive way.

In this sense, it can be affirmed that military training – besides being physical, military and intellectual – has as its main characteristic the engraining of values and virtues. From the moment of their incorporation, military personnel are introduced to the history, values and organizational structure, which are consequently reflected in the behavior and conduct of the institution members. In order to fulfill the assigned mission and the different functions within their unit, values must be clear, recognized and accepted, since they guide their behavior and reinforce the image that the Army shows to the society.

The Peruvian Army structures its military culture on a basis of values and principles, which must be recognized, shared and practiced by its members in order to strengthen their identity,[4] being -particularly- four institutional values that define the Army’s identity. On the one hand, “integrity” is the soldier’s quality that guides him/her to act with honor and rectitude. On the other hand, “service vocation” is military’s own value that responds to a mental attitude that incites the soldier to serve in the defense of a common good. Likewise, “discipline” is the fundamental pillar of any armed institution that guarantees its permanence and validity throughout history. Finally, the “commitment to institutional excellence” is reflected in the desire for self-improvement that drives every soldier to be morally, physically, intellectually and technically prepared to successfully assume the mission entrusted, and to direct his/her efforts towards the new changes and challenges in the institution. However, as Huntington stated, authoritarianism and bellicosity are two of the main defects that affect the normal functioning of the institution and influence the performance of personnel.[5] Therefore, knowing the culture of the organization and getting new members to identify with, are two of the great challenges in the process to incorporate into the military institution.[6]

The personnel that make up a military organization are a source of value, since it is through their performance that the planned objectives are achieved. In this sense, all members must internalize that the recognition of institutional values sustains the military profession and that the military culture must be in accordance with the society it defends and serves. The military profession has several particularities with respect to other professions, but it is not an isolated profession, since its members are part of society and -as such- owe a duty to it and to the nation. It should be emphasized that the military function cannot exceed the limits of law, position and military class. Likewise, it must be understood that the military is always subordinate to the political authorities, without forgetting that power is subordinate to the principle of democracy. These aspects allow cementing and strengthening the military culture in society. As once expressed by Marshal Andrés Avelino Cáceres “Serving as a Soldier of Peru does not mean ceasing to be a Peruvian citizen, with its inherent rights and obligations. Soldiers are citizens and must recognize when they wear the uniform, they represent their Units, the Army and the country”.[7] According to this premise, the military know that wearing the uniform represents greater responsibilities and obligations, that they have to act in accordance with certain values and standards, and that their actions must enhance the institution.

Military Leadership

Military institutions are constantly focused on the development of effective leaders. Military institutions defined leadership as the ability to influence people, providing purpose, direction and motivation, while acting to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.[8] Therefore, the development of leaders is extremely important since they are the ones who train and lead men and women who will eventually lead the institution. Army leaders motivate their personnel to take effective action in spite of the difficulties that may arise, as well as to focus their thinking and shape their decisions for the benefit of the organization.[9]

Leaders are responsible for defining the vision and strengthening values to adapt to change. Therefore, every leader must continually improve himself/herself, expanding and developing his/her skills to apply his/her abilities skillfully in increasingly complex situations.[10] The military leader is one who – with knowledge and ability – manages to cope successfully with any situation. The confidence of his/her actions and humility in recognizing his/her failures allow him/her to learn and teach at the same time. The leader knows that constant training and coaching strengthen his/her leadership and recognition within the organization. Likewise, he/she understands that there is more than one method to analyze situations and solve problems. Undoubtedly, being a leader is not a position of hierarchy but of effort and moral responsibility. The leader knows that in order to exercise command it is essential to know himself/herself, care about his/her subordinates, keep his/her staff informed, work and train as a team, and -above all- lead by example.

In essence, it is crucial to have leaders to guide actions, coordinate and make decisions to lead a successful operation. A military leader is a charismatic person and a good speaker, who possesses managerial and intellectual skills, strengthens the abilities of other members of the group towards the achievement of the organization’s objectives. The military leader is identified with the society he/she serves, since throughout his/her career he/she has been able to defend national sovereignty, guarantee security and -therewith- national development. History is witness to the countless events in which he/she has participated in fulfillment of his/her constitutional roles. However, leadership in the Army must adapt to changes, and should not lead with past mental structures.

Culture and leadership in new scenarios

The Army is the first friendly and supportive force of Peruvian society. Since its creation, the Army has been facing numerous demands that have generated several changes. In this scenario, changes must be assumed and managed, by developing a new leadership style that introduces necessary changes in the military culture, allows taking advantage of the personnel’s potential, facilitates adapting to the environment and, at the same time, contributes to give an adequate response to challenges.

Given the accelerated dynamics of change and a society that demands prepared military personnel with a deep vocation for service, it will be the Army’s strategic leaders who must possess the necessary competencies to make institutional improvements, assume command and facilitate progress, taking the initiative without neglecting discipline. In that sense, the new leaders must possess comprehensive competencies to explore and manage the Army’s development. To this effect, they must be leaders who denote energy in their actions, creative knowledge, critical thinking, vision, empathy, emotional intelligence, as well as humility, subsidiarity and solidarity. Additionally, a strategic leader must take risks to innovate and guide the growth of the institution, generating trust for its principles and values.

Consequently, Army strategic leaders must have the ability to cope with the changing environment and possess: (1) a shared and assumed “vision”, (2) the “creativity” to generate original and novel solutions, thinking what others have not thought of or have not dared to, (3) the “Integrity” to generate trust in their followers, aligning what they think, what they feel, what they say and what they do, (4) the “commitment” for leading the institution’s change and (5) the “desire to work as a team” to complement each other.[11]

Conclusion

In the Army, values form the identity of leadership models. However, it should be considered that the prolonged permanence of the same model could negatively influence the institution. A flexible and well-directed military culture promotes development; the opposite may, however, cause discredit or distrust towards the Army. On the one hand, leadership -mainly strategic leadership- is essential for organizational culture change since bonds between the commander and the military culture directly affect the functioning of the institution. On the other hand, organizational culture is one of the main factors affecting the innovative and entrepreneurial capacity of military personnel. The need to design new strategies to introduce the changes required by the organizational culture implies the commitment and action of the Army’s strategic leaders.

Additionally, it is required to enhance the skills of military personnel, as well as to adopt mechanisms that allow the formation of creative leaders (with commitment and vision for the future) since this type of leadership fits the needs of the Army. In that sense, today’s military leaders must be mentors of future leaders; in other words, they must be people who constantly guide and motivate their subordinates to solve the multiple problems that arise. In addition, military leaders must lead by example, set goals, provide the necessary guidance and resources, let subordinates do their own work and, in addition to other aspects, guarantee the stability and development of the institution.

Endnotes:

  1. Diego A. Noreña Chávez, “Liderazgo Militar Un Enfoque Transformacional”, Revisión Literaria, 1ra edición (Mixtico Rose, Lima: 2019).
  2. Luis F. Barco Giraldo, “Cultura militar”, researchgate (November 2020), https://www.researchgate.net/publication/346038665_CULTURA_MILITAR (Accessed July 1, 2021).
  3. Renata Marciniak, “¿Qué es la Cultura Organizacional?”, WordPress (Blog Gestión empresarial: 2014) https://renatamarciniak.wordpress.com/tag/cultura-organizacional-2/ (Accessed August 1, 2021).
  4. Ejército del Perú, “Valores institucionales”, Plataforma digital única del Estado peruano, https://www.ejercito.mil.pe/valores/ (Accessed June 30, 2021).
  5. Miguel Podestá, “La Cultura Organizacional Militar”, Escuela Superior de Guerra Conjunta de las Fuerzas Armadas de Argentina (Revista Visión Conjunta, año 4, n.° 6: 2012), https://www.esgcffaa.edu.ar/pdf/ESGCFFAA-2016_pdf-32.pdf (Accessed May 10, 2021).
  6. Ibid., 29.
  7. Ejército del Perú, “Liderazgo Militar” Ejercito del Perú (Lima: 2004), 2 – 3.
  8. Diego A. Noreña Chávez, “Liderazgo Militar Un Enfoque Transformacional”.
  9. Ejército del Perú, “Liderazgo Militar”, 2 – 5.
  10. Ibid., 2 – 11.
  11. César Torres Vega, “200 años de Evolución o Involución”, Centro de Altos Estudios Nacionales (Video conferencia LXXI MDDN – CAEN: Lima, July 23, 2021), https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83987820588?pwd=eVFLa05mYzJmMXZqSzRqNGIESHRwQT09 (Accessed 23, 2021).

SHARE

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

The ideas contained in this analysis are the sole responsibility of the author, without necessarily reflecting the thoughts of the CEEEP or the Peruvian Army.

Image: CEEEP