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    Leadership Attributes and Competencies in the U. S. Army

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    The U.S. Army’s definition of leadership is “the activity of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization. Leadership as an element of combat power, coupled with information, unifies the warfighting functions (movement and maneuver, intelligence, fires, sustainment, protection and command and control). Leadership focuses and synchronizes organizations.

    Leaders inspire people to become energized and motivated to achieve desired outcomes. An Army leader is anyone who by virtue of assumed role or assigned responsibility inspires and influences people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.” (ADP 6-22, 2019)

    Accordingly, there are many publications and programs that attempt to optimize training that develops effective leaders. The U.S. Army has been developing leaders for 245 years; however, the doctrine developed over those years has evolved to meet the changes that occur in regards to conflicts and the technologies applied has they are created. We are now entering a new era of conflict and technology, that of cyberspace and the associated technologies.

    A critical requirement for developing a cyber capable workforce is to understand how to challenge, assess, and rapidly develop human cyber skill-sets in realistic cyber operational environments. Fortunately, cyber team competitions make use of simulated operational environments with scoring criteria of task performance that objectively define overall team effectiveness, thus providing the means and context for observation and analysis of cyber teaming.

    Such competitions allow researchers to address the key determinants that make a cyber defense team more or less effective in responding to and mitigating cyber-attacks (Buchlar, et al., 2018) there are few people, whether civilian or military, equipped with knowledge sufficient to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure and sensitive information, improve resiliency, and leverage information technology for strategic advantage (Spidalieri, 2013). As a result, government efforts to provide cyber training for civilian and military personnel, and to create a specialized cyber workforce have become increasingly important to national security (DoD, 2011).

    In the future, every military leader must be a cyber-strategic leader (Spidalieri, 2013). The Joint Force Commander (Army) requires a cyberspace component commander who, through education and experience, has developed the requisite expertise to apply military cyber power theory at a level equivalent to his or her peers in the other domains. However, joint doctrine does not describe such a leadership role (Kern, 2015).

    Review of Literature

    Traditionally, there are two main styles of leadership: transactional and transformational. Transactional leadership is based on conventional exchange relationship in which followers’ compliance (effort, productivity, and loyalty) is exchanged for expected rewards. In contrast, transformational (extraordinary) leaders raise followers’ consciousness levels about the importance and value of designated outcomes and ways of achieving them (Dele et al, 2015).

    The skills needed to be an effective organizational leader continue to evolve requiring strong collaborative thinking, thought leadership, and problem-solving skills that are more innovative and more adaptive; yet, leadership development curriculums and strategies continue to lag behind the advancing business environment (Eich, 2012; Hladio & Edwards, 2017).

    In order to properly present a review of the literature associated with Cyber Leadership and development of subsequent training, several articles are required in order to present a cohesive discussion. Unfortunately, even the most technologically trained Cyber professionals can only glean a small amount of information from each article. This is due to the vast spectrum of cyberspace.

    The term “Cyber” now has several applications and the training of leadership has it relates to Cyber is continuously developing and evolving. Universities, colleges, and military service academies, are best fit to serve as incubators of cyber-strategic leaders, “bringing together theory and doctrine, with methodology, tools, and implementation.” (Kallberg, Thuraisingham, 2013) Cyber-strategic leadership, in fact, is not the same as, nor does it replace, the specific technical skills, knowledge, and abilities required to develop, administer, and defend the cyber environment.

    Rather it is a different and complimentary set of skills, knowledge, and attributes essential to future generations of leaders whose physical institutions nevertheless exist and operate in and through, and with the digital realm. In fact, as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines learn to turn their attention from incoming missiles to cyber weapons, a technology-centric education will be insufficient to counter and mitigate current and future cyber threats. Only a truly comprehensive education will help foster the requisite military leadership needed to fight and win in a deeply cyber-contested and conflict prone world (Spidalieri, 2013).

    The Army develops its leaders using a tiered training approach with doctrine and leadership courses or academies. Academies and courses provide future leaders with recognized methods of leadership training, an advantage their civilian contemporaries do not necessarily have (FM 6-22, Leader Development, 2015).

    In an effort to optimize training of leadership, several leadership styles are presented to the various schools within the U.S. military. Leadership style in an organization is one of the factors that play significant role in enhancing or retarding the interest and commitment of the individuals in the organization (Obiruwu et al., 2011). Studies have suggested that effective leadership behaviors can facilitate the improvement of performance when organizations face these new challenges (McGrath and MacMillan, 2000).

    Within the Cyber domain, examining effective teaming among cyber analysis involves understanding specific compositions of skills and roles among team-members as well as team-processes such as collaborative interactions and leadership (Buchler, et al, 2018). Leadership style as an especially important influence on organizational innovation (Kanter, 1983; McDonough, 2000; Van de Ven, 1986)

    There is a lack of shared cyberspace knowledge and an agreed operational approach to link cyberspace missions and actions and place them in the larger context of joint operations.3 Military cyber power theory is the foundation for such knowledge. Military theory is a primary component of operational art. Unfortunately, no standard military theory for cyberspace operations exists, although elements for such a theory do.

    If a codified theory for military cyber power existed, it would greatly aid the Joint Force Commander (JFC) in integrating cyberspace operations with joint operations, resulting in expanded combat power (Kern, 2015). Leadership and theory in Cyber are much more complicated than most people understand. International cyber politics utilizes lateral pressure theory to predict how different states with different social, political, and economic traits will behave in the digital realm, suggesting that cyber action is much more complex than the simple ability to launch an attack (Choucri, 2012).

    According to Army doctrine there are five leadership styles. There are more recognized styles and approaches to leadership training; however, for clarity, this review focuses on the military application. Therefore, the five leadership styles are:

    Transactional leadership, known as the “telling” style of leadership, focuses on structure, results, rewards, and penalties. Leaders provide subordinates with goals, establish project checks, provide performance reports and motivate them with rewards based on a recognized system.

    Transactional leadership works for the Army because it focuses on leadership, organization, and performance. Additionally, it is suitable for situations where the immediate reaction to orders is required and instructional scenarios where information flows from leaders to followers.

    It does not work with free thinkers who regularly exercise personal initiative because it limits their creativity (FM 6-22, 2015). Transactional leadership is conceptualized as the exchange relationship between leaders and their followers (Burns, 1978). In transactional leadership, relationship between the leader and follower, is based on contingent reward (Howell & Avolio, 1993).

    Transformational leadership is leadership by example, an Army tradition. This leadership style works well in a changing environment, where ideas flow freely, and subordinates are encouraged to provide solutions. It does not work in an ad hoc or initial development decision-making period where there is little to no structure to support the team.

    Thus, transformational leaders are usually technical experts in their fields, want to improve their environment and understand their Soldiers’ roles. They inspire their subordinates through rapport, inspiration, and empathy and work well in an environment where they can create change by working with their subordinates (FM 6-22, 2015).

    Transformational leaders are defined as leaders, who positively envision the future scenarios for the organizations, engage primarily in improving employees’ self-confidence by helping them to realize their potential, communicate an achievable mission and vision of the organizations to employees, and participate with employees to identify their needs and working out collaboratively to satisfy their needs (Peterson, Walumbwa, Byron, & Myrowitz, 2009).

    Servant leadership requires a significant level of trust between leaders and subordinates, thus building relationships and rapport. However, it is not a style that can be used all the time and requires time to develop enough trust to work well. They develop their Soldiers by meeting the needs of their squads or teams.

    Autocratic leaders are the decision makers and request little to no input from their subordinates. However, successful autocratic leaders respect their subordinates, communicate effectively, and listen to opinions. They have a clear idea of the mission and communicate their vision of mission success.

    Because of their leadership style, they are expected to have a high success rate and make correct decisions. Army leaders are expected to be the decision makers and issue clear directions, mission statements, and goals to their subordinates, thus the Army’s structure lends itself to autocratic leadership. This leadership style type works well in environments involving life or death decisions or when the decision-making process becomes stale.

    Followership leadership does not sound like a style; however, it is symbiotic to leadership. Followership shares the same values, requires the same effort, and depends on the same dedication.

    Competent leaders can influence outcomes by following the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. Followers assist their leaders by adhering to best practices, completing the mission, and advocating for process improvements.

    Effective followers are not afraid to approach their leaders with problems and will often provide solutions to issues Followership is effectual when followers understand they must go beyond “simply following instructions.” Good followers will anticipate a leader’s needs, provide advice on procedures, and exhibit courage when delivering unwelcome or unpleasant news.

    Specific to Cyber Leadership in the military is the human interaction aspect. In the military there is a rigid construct of authority; orders are given and carried out. The major difference between the military and the public sector is that failure in military leadership may result in more than just job termination.

    There are legal responsibilities in military cyber operations that require an understanding of U.S. Code, Title Authorities under the Graham-Nicholls Act and geo-political considerations. The necessity of this knowledge requires a balance of training. If applied incorrectly, this balance can a watering-down effect.

    Cyber leaders must be experts in their craft in order to obtain buy-in from their subordinates, while still having the presence of mind (mental agility) to understand and direct Cyber activities. Currently, some senior leaders view offensive cyberspace operations as a last resort, restricting the ability to develop cyberspace experience (Kern, 2015).

    Leadership as a topic of research goes back to 1950’s when trait theorists studied to find out characteristics of a successful leader. Behavioral and style theorists focused on behavior and style rather than characteristics of a person to define successful leader. Various leadership theories have been developed and leadership styles have been defined by scientists (Gencer, Samur, 2016)

    The Army has developed multiple training programs that are designed to complement each other: Leadership Training, Ethics Training and Key Concepts of Development Training. There are other training programs as well, that focus further on Counseling and Professional Development. The Army Training & Doctrine Command (TRADOC) developed a flow chart that attempts to capture the requirements desired of an Army professional.

    Leadership in Cyber requires the ability to work with uncertainty to a degree that managing does not, leadership development interventions should focus on improving individuals’ sensitivity to context, flexibility, discernment, and emotional robustness. These capabilities are not learned solely through cognitive models or frameworks, but through the integration of those models with experience and intelligent reflection on that experience (Day, 2001)

    Leadership development programs can aid in improving the leadership skills that drive performance. Effective leadership development programs can serve as tools to strengthen the abilities and skills of leaders (Hladio & Edwards, 2017; Eich, 2012). Leadership development should not be left to chance because effective leadership is a critical factor in the implementation of organizational transformation (Hladio & Edwards, 2017; Eich, 2012).


    Every article referenced for this paper agree on the basic needs for effective leadership in the professional sector, regarding cyber and cybersecurity. Additionally, most articles agree that the requirements for effective leadership are lagging behind due to evolving nature of cyber. The principles that apply to the military recognize that transactional and transformational leadership theories are not a complete answer to requirements for effective leaders.

    Given this undeniable and critical reliance on cyberspace for achieving military success, all future military leaders must be comfortable operating in this space, from both a human and technical perspective, and understand the challenges, threats, and opportunities it presents.

    Strong cybersecurity skills, the ability to obtain, process, analyze, manipulate, and correlate data, and the knowledge necessary to leverage cyberspace for strategic advantage will be the deciding factor for military success and resiliency. For these reasons, every future military leader must be a cyber-strategic leader.

    These individuals need not have specific training in engineering or programming, but must be equipped with a deep understanding of the cyber context in which they operate, combined with an appreciation of military ethics, law, strategic studies, political theory, organizational theory, international relations, and additional sciences. Only then will this new cadre of cyber-strategic military leaders be able to harness the right tools, people, strategies, and balance of offensive and defensive capabilities (Spidalieri & McArdle, 2016).

    The good news is that the Army is aware that the Cyber branch is new and still establishing policies, procedures and standards of operation. As these standards are developed and refined, the gaps in training and leadership effectiveness are identified and the required curriculum and procedures are established to fill these gaps.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Leadership Attributes and Competencies in the U. S. Army. (2021, Sep 29). Retrieved from

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