As an ROTC cadet, I was required to attend “summer camp.” Now this was not your typical overnight weekly youth summer camp by the lake. ROTC Summer Camp Training is six weeks of intense and rigorous training on US military installations.
While each group had one responsible Officer and Noncommissioned Officer, cadets are required to assume different leadership roles as they move through various training events. Why not have active duty military personnel in every leadership position? By empowering cadets to share leadership, the military commanders are shaping the leader-follower relationship and creating a culture of leaders through shared experiences.
Effective leaders are change agents. According to Kouzes and Posner, “leadership is inextricably connected with the process of innovation, of bringing new ideas, methods, or solution into use” (2007, p. 165). Therefore, leaders must find ways to not only transform their organization but also the individuals in the organization. Due to the changing workplace, leader-follower relationships have become more flexible. Trust is the foundation of the relationship.
Organizational culture is shaped by the relationship between leaders and employees. In today’s complex global environment the traditional command and control model which made large organizations successful is no longer effective, therefore, in order for organizations to move forward they must experience a Galilean shift in how they operate, organize, and respond to change (Chawla & Renesch, 2006; Senge, 1990).
Organizations must expand their world view beyond content, technical skills for the job, and include context, the environment driving decisions, to avoid paradigm paralysis. Leaders must move to an involvement-oriented leadership approach, which empowers employees to take ownership in the organizations fulfillment of the vision. As employees are empowered to solve problems, their skills will improve as well as their confidence, which leads to increased commitment and performance.
While leaders are sharing power by empowering employees, leaders do not relinquish authority. The leader’s role transitions from boss to coach. The role of the coach is to assist employees as they expand their skills to become high performing members of the organization.
Through effective feedback designed to improve performance, leaders can not only increase employee performance but also shape the organizational culture. While the culture shift from a command-and control approach to an involvement-oriented approach can be a challenge, today’s organizations must adapt or they will be left behind.