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Leadership and Learning Organizations in the US Military Essay


The army is one of the conventional illustrations of strong leadership in any country. The US military service can be characterized by such concepts as innovation, leadership, and authority. Since the times of the Civil War, Americans did not see the atrocities of military conflicts on their land. However, US soldiers take part in various operations as well as conflicts and wars, which makes proper leadership pivotal. The existing system is rather effective as the US army is one of the most potent and trained in the world, but it is still associated with certain areas to improve. For instance, Baum (2005) reveals instances when American soldiers were completely unprepared for numerous situations. Individuals’ characteristics and leadership skills enabled them to address the challenges they were facing. The story concerning Lieutenant Colonel Chris Hughes is specifically notable as it points to the gaps in training, knowledge sharing, leadership, as well as organizational culture.


The purpose of this memorandum is to draw your attention to the existing issues and those that can emerge in the military sector. This paper also includes some recommendations concerning the ways to solve the problems and contribute to the development of the US Army. The offered solution is closely linked to the concepts of organizational culture and learning organizations.


As mentioned above, leadership is one of the intrinsic qualities of military service. Formal authority is the major instrument employed to exercise power and make the members of the teamwork on their projects or collaborate effectively. Soldiers are ready to follow their commanders’ orders, which brings clarity and efficiency. However, it has been acknowledged that informal authority can be instrumental in facilitating the change and making organizations more successful (Senge, 2006). Formal leaders cannot be equally effective in different situations due to various reasons including but not confined to the lack of expertise, peculiarities of the team, and the environment. The military service has its peculiarities, and making life-or-death decisions is one of them. It is essential to important to ensure quick decisions and proper reactions of people during operations. At the same time, informal leadership can still be an option for the US Army especially when it comes to training and knowledge sharing. Informal leaders can encourage and inspire their followers as well as share their experiences.

It is also noteworthy that the US Army would benefit from the shift to the principles of learning organizations. Flexibility and innovation cannot be confined to technology as leadership has to be characterized by these features as well. In simple terms, the army seems to lag as it fails to adapt to the challenges of the modern world. Officers and soldiers are hardly prepared to act creatively in situations that need flexibility. The example provided by Baum (2005) shows that some individuals can respond effectively, but these responses are intuitive. No training is provided to soldiers to make them more adaptive. Although the majority of the personnel may strive for learning and innovation, the system is still weak as learning organizations are not the total of learning individuals (Senge, 2006). Organizational culture should be built around the pillars of learning organizations.

Knowledge sharing is one of the primary aspects linked to the concept of the learning organization. Transparency, effective communication channels, and the focus on innovation and learning are crucial. Senge (2006) states that all people have certain mental models that shape their behavior and choices made. It is necessary to ensure that these mental models will be shared with or inflicted on other employees. In simple terms, creative thinking and the ability to adapt should be the core principles of the modern army. Leaders should be trained to adopt systems thinking. At present, it is insufficient to find a ready-made solution provided in some instructions. In terms of the case mentioned above, it is obvious that officers should take into account the cultural peculiarities of the area they operate in, past events that affect local people’s attitudes, and possible outcomes of certain actions. Although formal authority must remain as strong as it is, some elements of informal leadership should also be introduced. The final decision should always be made by the officer on the battlefield, but soldiers can provide options that can be effective in particular situations.

It is insufficient to follow the existing instructions in all situations as many details can go beyond the assigned decisions and choices. Officers and soldiers often face adaptive challenges or, in other words, the situations that can have many solutions or have no obvious way out. For example, the operation that involved the negotiations with a local leader would have been completely failed if the soldiers had followed instructions (Baum, 2005). Instructions, frameworks, and policies are crucial for military service, but they should constantly be updated and improved through knowledge sharing. Knowledge sharing has to be improved significantly as far as personnel training is concerned. Although the communication channels are properly developed, they are inefficient when it comes to people’s training. Officers and soldiers should be able to share their knowledge and experience.


To prepare the background for the transformation of the US army into the army of the future, it can be important to undertake certain steps.

  1. It is vital to develop an effective organizational culture that would make the army an illustration of a learning organization. Creativity, innovation, and flexibility should become some of the central values. Each member of the team should be a life-long learner willing to contribute to the development of the entire organization.
  2. A knowledge base and a corporate social network should be created. The staff should be encouraged to contribute to the knowledge base. The most effective solutions and choices made should be transformed into policies and guidelines. The stories like the ones described by Baum (2005) should be discussed, and the personnel should be encouraged to address the adaptive challenges their peers had to face.
  3. The use of advanced technology is one of the characteristic features of the US army. Simulations have been widely used to train soldiers to complete numerous tasks. Nevertheless, these instruments can also be effective in leadership skills training.
  4. The informal authority should become an intrinsic component of training. Informal leaders can facilitate the learning process in certain environments. For instance, simulations can be a proper platform where informal leaders guide others.


To sum up, the US Army needs to undergo some transformations to remain effective. One of the key solutions is the adoption of the principles of learning organizations. The personnel should be trained to use systems thinking, share mental models, and address adaptive challenges. This training can be facilitated by the use of technology and informal authority. Creativity, flexibility, and life-long learning should be the values cherished by modern soldiers.


Baum, D. (2005). The New Yorker. Web.

Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art & practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Doubleday.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Leadership and Learning Organizations in the US Military." November 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/leadership-and-learning-organizations-in-the-us-military/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Leadership and Learning Organizations in the US Military'. 27 November.

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