Within the U.S. military, leadership is generally considered something of a given. It is a fundamental ingredient of warfare, without which the outcome of a combat operation cannot be assured. The leader is the brain, the motive power of command, upon whom subordinates rely for guidance and wisdom, and depend upon for good judgment. The leader must be determined, unflappable and charismatic; confident in delegation of authority; able to combine the various strands of command into a common thread; seasoned, intelligent, and thoughtful.
When judging the qualities of leadership, there is a tendency to think of the gifted, or natural leader, involving some expectation that leadership is an inherent personality quality that some have, and
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The essence of military leadership is not, of course, embodied in how much devotion a commander may inspire among the troops. While the ability to command is tied to a leader's general competence—the commander's ability to make correct decisions based on a given situation—the ability to lead remains more ethereal. Because of the intrinsic individuality of leadership, the military encourages the adoption of a particular “style” suited to the personality of the leader or to the situation at hand. One may be a director, a participant, or a delegator, but the centrality of the leader remains unquestioned. Whichever style is used, the expectation is that a positive result will emerge.
Because there seems to be no precise definition of what leadership is, the use of historical example (lessons learned, in current military jargon) has generally been the method through which qualities of leadership have been ascertained. Just as important are examples of bad leadership, which is apt to get troops killed. The balance between the two provides the would‐be leader with patterns to avoid and copy.
Definitions of military leadership generally describe what a good leader does, not necessarily what leadership is. According to current U.S. Army doctrine, “leadership is the process of influencing others to accomplish the mission by providing purpose, direction, and motivation.” Traditionally, applying those skills competently has been achieved through