Research of the Levels of Leadership

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Description of the Leadership

Leadership development is a complex concept that implies creating an environment which fosters the process of obtaining new skills to help an organization grow. It takes time to develop strong leaders that have competences and high moral standards to lead others. Leaders influence subordinates by providing them with purpose, direction, and motivation. That is why they need to possess core components of emotional intelligence, such as self-regulation, empathy, and social skills. However, measuring the impact of these components on the team’s performance does not remain smooth. FM 6-22 leader development doctrine emphasizes the need to stimulate a culture, where leaders have a passion for advancing others through daily activities (Department of the Army, 2015). The size of an organization or unit and the number of people involved determine the required leadership input. Three categories of leadership – direct, strategic, and organizational – correspond with different levels of leadership. Hence, each category demands specific attributes, practical knowledge, and actions of a leader to make informed decisions.

Direct Leadership

Direct leadership happens face-to-face when individuals communicate with a chief officer continuously. This level has more certainty than strategic and organizational one because a direct leader observes the situation as it occurs, and takes immediate action. They have to adopt values, principles, and competences to perform tasks adequately. Interpersonal skills are vital for the role of the direct leader and effective communication with subordinates. Active listening is a form of a two-way information exchange that involves non-verbal signals (Department of the Army, 2015). Being an active listener means paying attention to the speaker while keeping eye contact. The goal of active listening is to control negative feelings and be ready to respond in a concise way. Direct leaders must also master supervisory skills to eliminate the risk of subordinates’ mistakes or oversight. Interpersonal skills are the basis for influencing actions that include motivating and decision-making (Taylor, Rosenbach & Rosenbach, 2018). The authoritarian style of management is not a prerequisite for the successful completion of missions or tasks. On the contrary, it is necessary to delegate and empower individuals to secure loyalty.

Organizational Leadership

At the level of organizational leadership, a leader is responsible for strategic planning and achievement of goals in a mid-term perspective. An organizational leader influences between several hundred and several thousand people (Taylor, Rosenbach & Rosenbach, 2018). Moreover, they supervise more levels of subordinates, thus exercising indirect control. As a result, head managers work in a more complex and uncertain environment than direct leaders. Remote control and the necessity to deal with abstract issues require the application of conceptual skills. The doctrine demands organizational leaders to possess intent, the ability to filter information, and systems understanding (Department of the Army, 2015). In the absence of face-to-face communication, organizational managers identify a clear purpose, associated risks, and expected results. Instead of listing tasks, they must motivate subordinates to reach set goals. Furthermore, it is essential to outsource relevant information to have a broader understanding of any situation. Finally, systems thinking allows the integration and synchronization of various units to improve the performance of the organization.

Strategic Leadership

Strategic leadership is the highest level of management that holistic thinking and planning in institutional settings. Strategic leaders are in charge of sustaining the culture of an organization and envisioning its future. Even though they are not at the frontline, they work to meet the needs of a wider audience and take responsibility to lead change. These changes occur when multiple factors, such as governmental policy, budget constraints, and research results, are taken into account (Connely & Zaccaro, 2017). This type of leadership requires another scope of skills and competencies to cope with ambiguity and uncertainty. This tremendous volatility is a result of a very long-term strategic focus, exceeding five and even ten years. Strategic leaders are involved in political decision-making at the national and global levels. Therefore, their communication and negotiation skills have to be more sophisticated as they reach out to politicians, media, and society. Finally, strategic managers tend to dedicate time to self-study, reflection on current national and global events to adjust the organization’s goals and mission.

Leaders at all levels are responsible for creating a learning environment that helps people benefit from their own experience. It is essential to recognize the needs of subordinates and provide them with resources to satisfy them. Leadership begins when attributes and competencies are coupled with action, which is an application of the acquired skills. Direct leaders motivate and empower individuals on a daily basis by setting an example. Organizational managers are concerned with establishing communication networks to encourage open dialogue between units and reinforce organizational values. Strategic leaders combine interpersonal, conceptual, and technical skills to broaden their perspectives. They gather and evaluate information about external factors that impact the organization’s internal environment. This information allows determining challenges, opportunities, and threats that should be addressed in the long-term future. The development of direct, organizational, and strategic leaders entails the consolidation of practical experience, educational training, and personal reflection.


Connely, S., & Zaccaro, S., J. (2017). Leadership and creativity in a military context. In M.D. Mumford & S. Hemlin (Eds.), Handbook of research on leadership and creativity (pp. 401-418). Edward Elgar Publishing.

Department of the Army. (2015). FM 6-22 leader development. Web.

Taylor, R., Rosenbach, W., & Rosenbach, E. (Eds.). (2018). Military leadership. In pursuit of excellence. Routledge.

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