Transposition of leadership and management

As a member of the armed forces, I have seen many examples of the transposition of leadership and management. Sadly with the “zero default” mentality that has slowly become predominant within the ranks, a trend towards management over leadership is slowly being adopted.

One example of management when leadership was necessary derives from a deployment I participated in last year. The Officer in Charge (OIC) of our detachment was a Marine Corps Major who had authority over seven helicopters and about ninety personnel. Of those ninety personnel, seventeen were officers who were assigned to various positions to ensure that the day to day operations of the detachment would continue while we were on board the ship.

While were deployed, our OIC never developed a mission or goal for his officers to carry out during the deployment. If he had, we would have understood objective of the deployment, specifically why we were doing it. Instead, he was keener on asking “how” and “when” questions about different aspects of daily operations. He not only accepted the status quo, but would get angry when we challenged our current operating procedures. The most telling failure of the OIC as a leader, though, was his failure to inspire his subordinates. While he effectively controlled the detachment during the deployment, at no point did we ever feel motivated to go above and beyond for him.

Although painful at the time, the OIC of that deployment taught me many lessons about the difference between leadership and management.

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