The Challenges of the Army National Guard Leader

I.  Introduction

While the Air Force and Army components within National Guard incorporate the parent services that senior leader strategies establish, National Guard tries hard to incorporate strategies that develop future strategic leaders who are critical thinkers. Army National Guard Leaders require leaders who are advocates that advise civilian leadership and parent services within unique capabilities offered in military services. Solders join the army from different cultural backgrounds and create a diversity that is challenging to the leadership. This article examines challenges faced by the leadership, how to strike a balance between certain scenarios, different leadership styles that are applied in the military services, military and civilian education that soldiers go through to become competent leaders, and how to balance civilian life and military career. 

II. The Differences in Military Leadership Style

  1. Definition Of Leadership In The Dictionary

Collins English dictionary defines leadership as a function or position of a leader, the time that an individual occupies position of a leader or ability to lead. Business dictionary defines leadership in three ways. First, leadership is referred to as the people who lead corporations, and are regarded collectively. Secondly, leadership is described as the act where subordinates are inspired to perform and engage in goal achievement. Lastly, the dictionary defines leadership as activity to lead a team of individuals or a firm or the ability to do so.  According to the definitions, leadership involves establishment of clear visions; sharing the vision so that the others follow willingly; providing knowledge, information and methods of achieving those visions; and balancing and coordinating interests that conflict among stakeholders and members. Business dictionary implies that leadership cannot be taught like management, it is enhanced or taught through mentoring or coaching (, 2016). 

   B. Different Styles of Military Leadership

  1. Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership is the commonly used leadership style in military operations.  Transactional leaders value structure and order. Apart from military operations, transactional leaders manage big corporations and international projects which require operations and rules so that objectives can be complete on time and in an organized manner. Gregory Stone, Russell and Patterson (2014) argue that transactional leaders are not appropriate where creativity and innovation is required. This is because followers always have to do what they are ordered to. According to Lavanya and Kalliath (2015), transactional leadership follows three assumptions: Subordinates obey their superiors’ orders, workers are motivated by punishments and rewards, and subordinates are not self-motivated, they are controlled and monitored closely to work.  

In military, transactional leaders conform to the organizational structures that exist and focus on results. Success is measured in accordance to the penalties and rewards that exist in those organizational systems. Since transactional leadership is common in military, leaders have formal authority as well as different positions of responsibility within the military. Such leaders are responsible for maintaining routine through management of how individuals perform as well as facilitation of group performance. Transactional leaders set criteria for soldiers according to requirements that were defined previously. Most military operations require certain procedures and structures in order to succeed.

  1. Transformational Leadership

In military, transformational leadership greatly differs from transactional leadership style. Transformational style is concerned with development and progress. Transformational leadership enhances effects of transactional leadership on the soldiers. According to Gregory Stone, Russell and Patterson (2014), leaders who are transformational transform personal values of the other soldiers so that they can support the goals and visions of the military. These leaders do so by creating an environment where relationships are formed, and trust climates are established so that military visions are shared between individual soldiers, leaders and teams. According to Kent, Crotts and Azziz (2011), transformational leadership exhibit four behaviors: Inspirational motivation, individualized consideration, idealized or charismatic influence and intellectual stimulation.

Transformational leaders motivate and inspire soldiers by providing challenge and meaning to soldiers’ work. Team spirit is aroused, and optimism and enthusiasm are displayed. These leaders ensure that a cultural bond is created through interactive communication. By individualized consideration, the leaders disburse their personal attention to the individual needs of the soldiers. The leader mentors and coach the solders so that they reach the higher levels of their potential. Individualized influence makes transformational leaders to be soldiers’ role models that are respected, admired and emulated. Lastly, transformational leaders intellectually stimulate soldiers by encouraging them to be creative and innovative when handling their tasks (Gregory Stone, Russell and Patterson, 2014). 

  1. Servant Leadership

In military, servant leadership is also exhibited in different ways. Robert K. Greenleaf initiated servant leadership in modern organizations. He believed that leadership must basically meet other’s needs. In military, servant leaders focus on soldiers rather than on their leadership. They try to understand their leadership roles as servants. They are not motivated by self-interest. The main objective of servant leadership is to meet the needs of their soldiers by serving them. Kent, Crotts and Azziz (2011) points out that this style of leadership establishes a climate where soldiers are confident because their needs have been met. Servant leaders help soldiers strive and flourish because they develop them.

Servant leadership is service by example. The leader meets the needs of the team through generosity and high integrity. The approach used by these leaders creates a positive culture within the military and improves the morale of individual soldiers within the team. Servant leadership ensures teams move ahead, especially, where values are considered important. Although transformational leadership is seemingly similar to servant leadership, transformational focuses on the organization, while servant leadership focuses more on the followers. Servant leaders do not have a certain affinity to the military organization, they value the soldiers who make up the organization.

  1. All In One Leadership

All in one leadership combines all the leadership styles. This type of leadership style combines all styles including transactional, transformational and servant leaderships. An all in one leadership cannot be categorized into any of the other leadership styles because all of them appear in it. This type of leadership defines people-oriented styles similar in transformational and servant leadership. The leadership incorporates vision, credibility, respect, integrity, influence, trust, delegation, risk sharing and modelling. Just like servant leadership, this leadership ensures that needs of individuals are taken care of, in order for them to work effectively. The leaders also influence their subordinates for them to work. This happens in military, leaders lead by example so that the soldiers are influenced. In addition, individual needs are well taken care of by the military.

In a one in all leadership, the existing structures are followed for successful operations. While transactional and transformational leadership often appear to be effective in military, there is no single style to manage or lead which suits all situations. All in one leadership is the best because the leader is able to complete tasks with every skill level and soldiers with different experiences in the team, the type of work to be done does not have to be specific, he/she can lead in any type of environment in any preferred style. 

    C. Balancing Between “Old School Mentality” And Millennial Soldiers

Generation gaps is an old thing in the military. The “old school mentality” and millennial soldiers exist in the current military. The era of Vietnam was defined by various attitudes between older career officers, 20 year old draftee and the senior men that commanded them. Army leaders will continue to face challenges if they do not understand the generation gaps that exist in the military. Leaders would be able to understand and balance between the two once they understand several characteristics. Leaders should be aware that millennial solders joined military after 9/11 and they view the world via a lens which includes terrorism; they are technologically connected and less social; they are not interested in staying for long at a single job; and that they do better when they know the “why” behind things (Fritzson, Howell Jr and Zakheim, 2013). Understanding the changes that have taken place rather than the norm enables leaders strike a balance.

III. Education Emphasis

   A. Military Education

  1. NCOES

Non Commissioned Officer Education System (NCOES) is very important in military education. Soldiers that decline NCOES attendance may lose current promotable status or lose their current promotion. The discipline and order depends on the behavior of the officers. The goal of NCOES is to prepare officers who are not commissioned to train and lead soldiers that fight and work under their command, as well as to help their leaders’ effect unit missions. The four NCOES courses offered include Advanced Leader Course (ALC), Warrior Leader Course (WLC), Senior Leader Course (SLC), and US Army Sergeant Major Academy (USASMA). Because of NCOES importance, one must complete certain SSD levels before attending NCOES (, 2016). 

  1. SSD/Distance Learning Courses

Structured Self-Development (SSD) and distance learning courses are important as they enable leaders overcome challenges. Some of the lessons covered in SSD include combat operations reports, detainee operations, post-traumatic stress, personnel recovery, Counterinsurgency principles, impacts of multiple deployments and wars on subordinates, leadership, Troop-leading procedures, Conflict management, effects of culture on military operations, Fratricide, Lean Six Sigma fundamentals, and Conduct squad drill among other lessons. These are management lessons that are essential for military leadership. For soldiers to attend NCOES, the must have acquired certain SSD levels. SSD 1 must be complete before attending WLC, SSD 3 must be complete before taking SLC and SSD 4 must be complete before enrolling into USASMA (Crozier, 2013). These military trainings ensure that leaders are able to deal with challenges that face them when they are in their day-to-day duties. 

  B. Civilian Education

  1. College/Trade School

Like military education, civilian education is similarly important to Army National Guard leaders. After high school, students have a wide range of choices for their higher education before they join military. In these institutions, they pursue degrees and certifications of their choice. Colleges and trade schools provide individuals with skills and basic knowledge that enable them handle their tasks. National Guard Leaders benefit more when they pursue management courses because they enable them face challenges with confidence. Team management and handling conflicts are valuable lessons that leaders gain from colleges and trade schools. 

  1. What Programs To Use To Assist With Civilian Education

Civilian Education System (CES) provides programs that assist solders in civilian education. The programs are in four different levels, and they develop leaders from the newly hired individuals. CES programs are essential as they provide National Guard leaders with knowledge and skills that enable them balance military career with civilian life. The Army Distributed Learning Program (TADLP) is also an important program for the army training. This program enhances leader development strategies. The main aim of this program is to prepare leaders, organizations, civilians and soldiers to conduct many operational missions. These programs provide army leaders with long-term development. 

IV. Balance between Military Career/Civilian Life

   A. Find the Balance That Works Best For You

Military has provided a wide range of experiences which have provided me with more skills and knowledge of dealing with issues that arise. The balance that works best for me in the civilian life is anything to do with management. In the civilian life, crisis keep arising especially in organizations. I have learned that the best way to deal with crises is working on them on time. Wasting too much time worsens the situation. Management in civilian life balances well with military career. 

  1. Knowing Your Rights Under USERRA

Individuals who have taken leave from military services have rights under Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act (USERRA). One has rights not to be discriminated against because of their affiliations to the military. According to USERRA, one can request leave from human resource, managers or supervisors in a written or verbal form. In addition, soldiers are entitled to keep their health insurance benefits while on extended military leave. USERRA also requires seniority and promotion benefits to be granted even if the individual is away on military leave. After release from duty, USERRA protects an individual, provided they report to work within reasonable periods (Klein, 2012). 

C. Deployment Impact on Military/Civilian Careers

Deployments impact on military and civilian careers in a large way especially if they were intense and prolonged. The deployments provide soldiers with skills that enable them cope with military careers, that is, they become more alert and well prepared for more missions. After separation from deployments, solders are found to be anxious and depressed. These mental disorders and poor physical health greatly impact their ability to maintain or secure employment after their military services. To some, these conditions make it difficult for them to interact normally with other civilians (Horton et al., 2013).

V.  Conclusion

In conclusion, when military leadership is transformational, the leaders lead by example, articulate visions in an appealing and clear manner, provide explanation on how the vision should be attained and empower soldiers to achieve the vision. In contrast to transactional leadership that depends on soldiers who work well in a directed and structured environment, transformational leaders inspire and motivate the solders by influencing them rather than ordering them. All in one leadership integrates all the leadership styles and it is the best because it suits any situation for soldiers at any level. The army National Guard leader overcomes challenges by applying the appropriate leadership style accordingly. In addition, the leaders undergo military and civilian education to enhance their management skills. Since “old school mentality” and millennial soldiers exist together in the teams, understanding both groups enables the leadership handle any misunderstanding caused by the generation gaps. Military and civilian education provides soldiers with knowledge and skills to overcome all manner of challenges.

References, (2016). U.S. Army NCO Education System Information. Retrieved 27 December 2016, from, (2016). Do you know this term? Retrieved 27 December 2016, from

Crozier, D. (2013). Structured Self-Development and Advanced Leaders Course – Common Core. Usasma. Retrieved 27 December 2016, from 

Fritzson, A., Howell Jr, L., & Zakheim, D. (2013). Military of Millennials. Strategy+business. Retrieved 27 December 2016, from 

Gregory Stone, A., Russell, R., & Patterson, K. (2014). Transformational versus servant leadership: a difference in leader focus. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 25(4), 349-361.

Horton, J., Jacobson, I., Wong, C., Wells, T., Boyko, E., & Smith, B. et al. (2013). The Impact of Prior Deployment Experience on Civilian Employment after Military Service. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 70(6), 408-417. 

Kent, T., Crotts, J., & Azziz, A. (2011). Four factors of transformational leadership behavior. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 22(5), 221-229.

Klein, J. (2012). The USERRA: Workers’ employment rights following military service. The Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 43(5), 75-83. (02)80058-1 Lavanya, T., & Kalliath, N. M. (2015). Work Motivation and Leadership Styles in relation to Organizational Citizenship Behavior. Annamalai International Journal of Business Studies & Research, 11-18

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