A Strategic Imperative: Empowerment
Donald C. Bolduc
n the chaos and uncertainty of modern war, our troops must be empowered to make decisions, take the initiative, and lead boldly. This is Mission Command: a command culture, leadership style, and operating concept that has been embraced by armed forces the world over. While the U.S. Military and many of our allies have formally adopted Mission Command, much work remains to truly understand and implement this style of leadership.”
While discussion of empowerment has been prevalent in popular literature for many years, this concept remains problematic in execution. Given that empowerment is espoused but not enacted consistently in the military and civilian business environment, it is clear that leaders and managers do not fully understand the possible benefits for organizational success (Elnaga, 2014). The Army will need to change their promotion systems, talent management process, and leadership education focus to fully realize the benefit of empowerment of subordinates.
Empowerment is mainly concerned with establishing and building trust between management and employees to motivate them to participate in achieving the objectives, goals, and success of the organization (Elnaga, 2014). Empowerment is one of the modern concepts which is believed to improve the human element in the modern organizations to achieve high levels of cooperation, team spirit, self-confidence, innovation, independent thinking and entrepreneurship (Elnaga, 2014). Building organizational commitment among employees is one of the important factors for ensuring organizational success (Hanaysha, 2016). The effect of teamwork on organizational commitment has also been found to be positive and confirmed that empowerment of subordinates increased organizational success (Hanaysha, 2016).
Empowerment results in subordinates buying into the strategy, having mutual trust, and a strong organizational commitment. They are emotionally attached to the organization and have a strong desire to contribute significantly towards organizational success (Sahoo, 2011). This leads to increased competitiveness, accountability, risk taking, high innovativeness, low wastage, and the desire to improve overall job performance (Sahoo, 2011). Moreover, increased individual commitment to work groups or teams improves team performance, interpersonal interaction, and enhances individual performance and degree of satisfaction. Empowerment, thus, inspires change and increases the level of workplace commitment, which increases the degree of individual subordinate commitment (Sahoo, 2011). This has a positive effect on climate and culture which according to a recent article, Army Talent Management Reform: The Culture Problem, by Leonard Wong and Stephen Gerras noted on the culture problem in the Army, “yet regrettably for the Army, the biggest obstacle to reform is the service’s culture. Army culture consists of unspoken norms and beliefs that discreetly drive behavior and quietly influence decision-making. Of course, culture by itself is not inherently good or bad. What matters is how the culture aligns with the task at hand. Unfortunately, unless the Army’s culture is openly examined, discussed, and addressed, it has the potential to subtly undermine any talent reform efforts” (Wong, Gerras, 2019).
Subordinate empowerment becomes more important in organizations with decentralized missions, distributed forces, and consistent turnovers of leaders and managers. It is a leader’s responsibility to motivate and engage their subordinates in their work. Leaders can accomplish this through empowering their employees (Banutu-Gomez, Ba, 2015). In many cases it is the subordinates that are the continuity in an organization. For this reason, factoring them out of the process makes zero sense. In view of a rapidly changing environment, organizations must devote greater effort to the work force involvement to ensure long-term organizational success. Many of the service members, I talk with, are concerned about the lack of trust, lack of empowerment, confusing guidance, favoritism, substandard counseling, and lack of accountability of senior leaders. These concerns are problematic to an organization by themselves and something that empowerment will solve.
Establishing and Building Trust
“Almost everywhere we turn, trust is on the decline”. This comment by Covey is as true today as it was in 2008. Trust in our culture at large, in our institutions, and in our companies is significantly lower than a generation ago (Covey, 2008). Consider the loss of trust and confidence in political leaders and business leaders today. Intelligent conservatism is leadership that has succeeded in promoting the idea of leaders and managers listening to their people and relying on old-fashioned intuition and expertise (Covey, 2008). Trust is an “evolving thing that ebbs and flows,” says David DeStano, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and the author of The Truth About Trust (Carolyn O'Hara, 2014). In their monograph, Lying to Ourselves, Leonard Wong and Stephen Gerras note, “untruthfulness is surprisingly common in the U.S. military even though members of the profession are loath to admit it.” This untruthfulness is taking a toll on the Army culture. The negative impact to the Army is on trust, commitment, and buy in to strategy, and achieving operational effectiveness. Subordinates are more likely to follow through on goals set by a leader and manager they trust and to be more forthcoming about the challenges they see on their level. “Managers will never learn the truth about a company unless they have the employees’ trust,” explains Jim Dougherty, a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management and veteran software CEO (Carolyn O'Hara, 2014). That is why it is so critical for leaders and managers to constantly reinforce their trustworthiness. Listening is a way to gain trust. Listening takes time, but it ensures that the organization not only gets on board with the strategy, but also by engaging everyone in the process (commitment) (Covey, 2008). This produces solid results in the long-term and leads to less reckless strategic shifts (organizational effectiveness) (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy,
The first job of any leader is to inspire trust. Trust consists of two components: character and competence. Character includes your moral courage, motive, and intent when dealing with people (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, ( Competence includes your capabilities, skills, and results Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, ( Th e effective leader and manager instills confidence in the employees because of their established competence and character, making it easier for the manager to form responsive networks and to find out what is going on throughout the organization without micromanaging Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy,
Strategy and Organizational Effectiveness
Strategic Management consists of the analysis, decisions, and actions an organization undertakes in order to create and sustain competitive advantages (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, The definition captures two main elements that go to the heart of strategic management (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, The first element is the three ongoing processes of analysis, decisions, and actions (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, The second, is the essence of strategic management, which is why some organizations outperform others (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, translate those gains into mission success and sustainable progress and profitability (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, Too often in today’s organizations, leaders and managers mistake operational effectiveness with strategy. Both are important and help drive superior performance (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy,
(Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, he flurry of self-congratulatory prose emerging from multi-domain warfare literature today obscures the fact that a slogan such as “multi-domain” is not doctrine, and doctrine rooted in the fundamental tenets of warfare is a prerequisite for meaningful reform.” In addition, Major General Scales, notes, “The Dynamics of Doctrine,” the Germans sought to restore maneuver to the battlefield by working from the bottom up rather than the top down. They believed that the surest sources of wisdom were sergeants and lieutenants who could see the problem from the viewpoint of a trench step.” This is true for strategy development as well, but we often leave them out of the development process only to execute a strategy that does not fit the operational environment. I was recently talking with Soldiers about the United States Army Special Operations Force guidance to the Combined Training Center for ARSOF, recently issued by the United States Special Operations Command was confusing, unclear, and did not take into account the bottom up input to ensure practical application of the guidance. The slide below is compilation of things I have seen work for leaders in making organizations effective.
Research has shown that subordinate involvement in the missions and visions of an organization remain at the center of designing a successful strategy (Banutu-Gomez, Ba, 2015). Business leaders have led through the centuries by understanding employee psychology, employee emotions, and employee expectations, and by taking care of employee needs in a manner that resulted in a win-win situation for both employer and employee (Slack, Orife, Anderson, 2010). This guaranteed organizational commitment of the employee and in turn helped the organization realize its goals (Sahoo, 2011). The term organizational commitment has become so much a part of management today, that it is used every day without clearly visualizing what it takes to accomplish it (Sahoo, 2011). Failure to understand the nature of organizational commitment leads to a lack of understanding of subordinate attachment to the organization and in turn leads to deficient management strategies that fail to reach goals (Sahoo, 2011).
Commitment in the military is key to successful strategy implementation. I am not talking about commitment to values, I am talking about organizational commitment by subordinates on what leaders want to do. Leadership and management play a central role to ensure that the organization is committed to excellence (Sahoo, 2011). Subordinate commitment to objectives and goals increases the competitive-advantage and the long-term success of the business (Sahoo, 2011). A subordinate with greater organizational commitment has a greater chance of contributing to organizational success and will also experience higher levels of job satisfaction (Sahoo, 2011). Moreover, high levels of job satisfaction, in turn, reduces employee turnover and increases the organization’s ability to recruit and retain talent (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy,
Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, Peace Irefin, Mohammed Ali Mechanic, 2014). Peace Irefin, Mohammed Ali Mechanic, 2014). Peace Irefin, Mohammed Ali Mechanic, 2014). Peace Irefin, Mohammed Ali Mechanic, 2014) The slide below contains suggestions to facilitate empowerment and gain organizational commitment.
TLeaders and managers that build trust, support strategy and organizational effectiveness, and organizational commitment through empowerment will improve organizational success (Hanaysha, 2016).
Any major talent management initiatives will likely be confronted by skepticism — a facet of Army culture that is especially influential when personnel issues are concerned. Despite the pure intentions of both civilian and uniformed senior leader reformers, there will be a lingering fear among the formations that, to paraphrase management theorists Chris Argyris and Donald Schön, the talent management theory espoused will not match the actual theory-in-use. The force has been jaded by past assurances that command of a training unit is on par with commanding a tactical unit or that a tour as a Military Transition Team advisor is career-enhancing. Until promotion board results match the outcomes promised by talent management advocates, skepticism will rule the ranks.”
American Journal for Research Communication, (2014), Amir Abou Elnaga, Amen Imran. The impact of employee empowerment on job satisfaction: theoretical study., 2(1): 13-26} www.usa-journals.com, ISSN: 2325-4076.
Banutu-Gomez Michael Ba Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship William G. Rohrer College of Business Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ
Covey, Stephen, How the Best Leaders Build Trust, online Article, https://leadershipnow.com/CoveyOnTrust.html
Covey, Stephen, The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything (Paperback) Published February 5th, 2008 by Free Press
DeStano, David, The Truth About Trust: How It Determines Success in Life, Love, Learning, and More, Avery Publishing, January 30, 2014
Frederick J. Slack, John N. Orife, and Fred P. Anderson, "Effects of Commitment to Corporate Vision on Employee Satisfaction with Their Organization: An Empirical Study in the United States," International Journal of Management 27, no. 3 (2010)
Examining the Effects of Employee Empowerment, Teamwork, and Employee Training on Organizational Commitment, (2016), Jalal Hanaysha, Senior Lecturer at Faculty of Business and Management, DRB-Hicom University of Automotive Malaysia, 26607, Pekan, Pahang, Malaysia
European Scientific Journal December 2015 edition vol.11, No.35 ISSN: 1857 – 7881 (Print) e - ISSN 1857- 7431, 342 Understanding Leadership and Empowerment in the Work Place, Quratul-Ain Manzoor
European Journal of Business and Management, www.iiste.org ISSN 2222-1905 (Paper) ISSN 2222-2839 (Online) Vol 3, No.11, 2011
Effect of Employee Commitment on Organizational Performance in Coca Cola Nigeria Limited Maiduguri, Borno State, Peace Irefin, Mohammed Ali Mechanic, (Department of Sociology & Anthropology) University of Maiduguri, IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science (IOSR-JHSS) Volume 19, Issue 3, Ver. I (Mar. 2014), PP 33-41 e-ISSN: 2279-0837, p-ISSN: 2279-0845. www.iosrjournals.org
Harvard Business Review, Proven Ways to Earn Your Employees’ Trust, Carolyn O'Hara, June 27, 2014, online: https://hbr.org/2014/06/proven-ways-to-earn-your-employees-trust
Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy,
Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy,
Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, Strategic Management
Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, pp. 223–228
Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, S, Strategic Management
Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, Strategic Management
Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, The Science and Art of Managing
Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, The Science and Art of Managing
Journal of Professional Nursing, Larkin, M., Cierpial, C., Stack, J., Morrison, V., Griffith, C., (March 31, 2008) "Empowerment Theory in Action: The Wisdom of Collaborative Governance" OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Vol. 13 No. 2.
Leonard Wong Stephen J. Gerras, LYING TO OURSELVES: DISHONESTY IN THE ARMY PROFESSION, 2015
Leonard Wong and Stephen Gerras, February 22, 2019, Army Talent Management Reform: The Culture Problem, https://warontherocks.com/2019/02/army-talent-management-reform-the-culture-problem/
Mission Command: The Who, What, Where, When and Why An Anthology by Donald E. Vandergriff, Stephen Webber (Editor), Published, 2017 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Scales, Robert H., TACTICAL ART IN FUTURE WARS, MARCH 14, 2019, online, Commentary, https://warontherocks.com/author/robert-scales/