Today’s Army has many leaders who are not proficient at leadership. Leadership is more than just leading. Ineffective leadership can affect the workplace in both a positive and negative way. Leadership is not only being influential, but it is also being able to manage conflict. Poor leadership can cause conflict within the workplace resulting in an ineffective and hostile work environment. Leadership is knowing your Soldiers and putting their needs and welfare above your own. An effective leader inspires his Soldiers daily while motivating them on and off duty to accomplish their goals as well as the mission. Although, there are many great leaders in the Army every leader does not have the leadership and interpersonal skills required to be an effective leader.
Leadership is being able to provide a sense of direction, purpose, and motivation while influencing others to accomplish the mission and improve the organization (Smidt, 1998). My first duty assignment in the Army was with the 101st Screaming Eagles and back then leadership was influencing Soldiers to do what was required to meet the mission’s intent as well as accomplish the mission. Leaders inspire their followers to achieve a shared goal (Gliddon and Rothwell, 2018). I had the pleasure of working with leaders who provided purpose, direction, and motivation while influencing each Soldier to do what was always morally right.
Those leaders were clear and concise when they gave my peers and me orders which motivated us to achieve the desired outcome. As a leader, you must always provide clear direction in order to accomplish the mission. Motivation is a necessity that drives the will to accomplish the mission which is why leaders should get to know their Soldiers because what motivates one Soldier may not motivate the next Soldier. Motivation requires direction, reinforcement, and positive feedback which some leaders lack. Everyone’s motivation level is different and negative leadership can affect it. As a leader interpersonal skill is a great attribute to have because it allows the development of strong bonds with subordinates and peers.
Relationships and bonds are created in the workplace which some are positive, and some are negative. Interpersonal skills allow leaders to build a rapport with their Soldiers, peers, and seniors. When leaders, subordinates, and peers display such skills it produces an environment with a more positive outlook personally and professionally. Positive interpersonal skills in the workplace allow leaders to effectively communicate and understand their subordinates, peers, and seniors. Interpersonal skills assist squads, teams, sections, and organizations to build towards an effective leadership culture by remaining trustworthy, flexible, and adaptive while having the will to grow. Subordinates and peers want to feel a sense of meaningfulness and every leadership can provide that through positive interpersonal skills (Grant and Parker, 2009).
When leaders interact with some Soldiers and not others it tends to divide the squad, team, section, and organization. I can recall while stationed at a previous duty station when the platoon leadership was changing out and the incoming leader did not display those same interpersonal skills as the previous leadership. The incoming leader’s interpersonal skills affected the platoon in a negative way through favoritism as well as their thoughts and feelings towards some Soldiers (Blustein, 2011). Leaders today do not know how to differentiate between work and pleasure and before you know it, they feel they must be the Soldier’s buddy. A leader who displays a lack of interpersonal skills can result in toxic leadership, confusion and conflict within the squad, team, section, and organization.
As Reed (2004) stated, “Soldiers serving under toxic leaders can become disenchanted with the Army or worse, might take the successful toxic leader as an example to emulate” (p. 68). Toxic leadership can lead to unmotivated Soldiers which will lead to missions not being met. Toxic leadership will also lead to confusion, a hostile environment, and Soldiers not wanting to report for work. When Soldiers are missing from work the section, as well as the organization, is not as productive. Conflict will never fully be eliminated, but leadership can minimize conflict through effective communication. From my experience there is a lot of great leaders in the Army today, but when you ask them how they would handle conflict some will provide you with a blank stare. Every Soldier has their own way of thinking and will not always agree on opinions, so there is every chance of potential conflicts happening (Turaga, 2013). When effective leaders interact with their subordinates on a regular basis it sets the tone for a more open and relaxed environment.
Leadership involves active listening skills in order to apply effective conflict resolution. For an organization to be successful everyone must work together to resolve any and all issues before they escalate to conflict. Leaders are the leading cause for most conflict because they do not have the self-discipline and courage to correct Soldiers to minimize conflict. Before, a leader can effectively apply conflict resolution one must not be selfish, know their subordinates, and have clarification of what is causing the conflict. A successful leader will confront conflict head-on to reduce it in the workplace ensuring the workplace does not become a toxic environment.
Leadership today is about social status, job title, position, and pay. The new generation of leaders are not equipped with the knowledge to lead. Some of today’s leader mental state is it is all about me and you cannot lead others if you are only worried about self. Leaders today are too worried about being liked instead of effectively leading Soldiers. An effective leader must build a rapport with their subordinates and peers; which can start with interpersonal skills. When applied correctly interpersonal skills will allow leaders to get acquainted with their subordinates. Leadership is also about being able to manage conflict effectively to eliminate grudges and stressors within the workplace. Although, there are many great leaders in the Army every leader does not have the leadership and interpersonal skills required to be an effective leader.
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