Leadership in the Canadian Military Context

posted Jan 19, 2017, 9:09 AM by 21 Army Cadets Cambridge
Leadership is an essential facet of the military thus is given prominence in what individuals do on a daily basis, as well as in the professional development, assessment and advancement of military members. Canadian Forces (CF) leadership doctrine, published in four volumes in 2005- 2007, provides clarity and direction with regards to the leadership that is expected to be practiced across the CF. Importantly, while drawing on the theories and practices of leadership in the business world and in bureaucratic organizations, this doctrine recognizes unique aspects in the military context and presents context-specific, value-laden, military-relevant understandings, since how military leadership is understood relates profoundly to how military leadership is practiced. Further, while also informed by leadership theories and practices in other militaries, these manuals incorporate the perspective that there are differences even with Canada’s closest allies such as the United States and United Kingdom resulting in une aspects to leadership in the Canadian military context.

There also are significant differences in how leadership is practiced within the CF. Obvious differences exist across the Navy, Army, Air Force and Special Forces contexts; between operational missions and operational support situations, and among staff functions in higher headquarters and other non-operational circumstances like human resources, finance, scientific research. Equally challenging and significant differences exist in “what leaders do” - their roles and responsibilities across specialist capacities, rank levels, group member dynamics - and “how the leaders choose to do it” – leader influence, styles, goals, cognitive capacities, command and / or management approaches. While aspects of these differences are clear to those who move from one context to the other, the current doctrine presents a unitary and fairly generic understanding of Canadian military leadership with only passing references to the differences that can and do exist from one setting to the next.

This monograph is intended to extend the present understandings of CF leadership by providing more comprehensive consideration of the current practices of leadership in the CF. It will provide perspectives on alternative approaches to understanding leadership in the military, including: an exploration of current effective military leadership; the purpose of military leadership; the nature of that military leadership, the development of institutional leaders, and the measurement of leadership. Conclusions are put forward but with emphasis that the ideas herein presented should be read as exploratory and descriptive, and not as authoritative or proven. Additional and relevant research including validation by CF leaders at all levels is needed, as well as well founded critiques, alternative perspectives, informed debates and experience-related opinions that will guide intellectual inquiry and create new knowledge.