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Royal Engineer Regiment (RER) Leadership in the Military

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Published: Mon, 12 Feb 2018




The Royal Engineer Regiment (RER), being one of the combat support arms in the Malaysian Army has the role and tasks of assisting the Army in the field of engineering. This paper will highlight the command and control of RER Interpersonal Leadership in the construction projects management. The main role and task of RER is to carry out major construction tasks including improvement and maintenance beyond the capabilities of the Regiment or any engineering organization. There is normally an army engineer officer at all levels of command to advise the commander on engineering requirements

Project management for engineering and construction presents the principles and techniques of managing engineering and construction projects from the owner’s study through design and construction to completion. It emphasizes project management during the early stages of project development because the ability to influence the quality, cost, and schedule of a project can best be achieved during the early stage of command and control. This paper will focus on the mental side of RER leadership for handling construction projects rather than the technology side of the projects. This paper integrates interpersonal dynamic of army engineer leadership dominating personal power enhancing numerous examples, experiences and comments to illustrate the material presented in the text. We will learn from the leaders of the past whose behaviors and actions shape our ever-changing world. Most important, is transformational of leadership approaches are the “secret” behind the success of our greatest leaders or the powerful Islamic teaching arouse the personal competence and loyalty? The intended audience of this paper is not limited to the today army leaders but for leaders of tomorrow who will hopefully benefit from the lessons of this research paper as they face the challenges of globalization in an increasingly interconnected world. With the discussions and illustrations, this paper is led through the multifunctional professionalism and confidence of RER linking the components of a project into a comprehensive work plan to guide the entire project to successful completion.


In my opinion, there’s something quite different between army engineer

leaders and civilian engineer leaders. An army engineer leaders must be able to handle multiples tasks. These groups work together in a superior-subordinate concept for command positions and formal leadership for engineering project management. All leaders take similar oaths upon entry to the Army. From day one, new Second Lieutenants are thrust into positions of significant responsibility. As a young nineteen to twenty-two years old leader, they are directly responsible for thirty to fifty-four soldiers. AsRER officers progress through the ranks, they continue to develop their leadership in RER design and construction projects. As a result, they will be given positions of increased responsibility and can eventually lead 120 to 318 soldiers. Where else would a young engineer with only a few years experience have the skill set to lead that many people? The corporate world, engineering consultant or construction would rarely ever let a new engineer university graduate supervise 30 people. In fact, some army engineer officers take their both technical expertise and army leadership skills and leave the RER. Their technical and army leadership skills are in such high demand, they can easily market themselves in the corporate world.

As an army engineer officer, our duties will be diverse but extremely important. Army Engineer leadership is based on a concept of duty, service and perhaps importantly self-sacrifice. To join the army, we must pass a physical examination and sign the enlistment contract. With the enlistment contract, we’ll agree to certain options such as the time frame of our active duty and our enlistment date. All army engineers participate in a course that introduces them to life as a soldier. The basic combat training centre at Kolej Tentera Darat and Pusat Asas Latihan Tentera Darat are a part of our course, will teach the same skills that are taught to other soldiers, so we will be prepared to fire weapons, engage the enemy in hand-to-hand combat, stay in good physical shape and otherwise succeed in a combat situation.

As an Army field engineer (Jurutera Medan), we will work in a team to ensure that units don’t have mobility problems when completing missions. We view our obligations to followers as a moral responsibility and we teach this value priority to junior leaders. We will be responsible for performing constructing bridges, demolition, clear routes, generating electrical power, constructing obstacles to serve as defense positions and training our team members including administrations, but our exact duties will vary from day to days. Our training will teach the skills we need to do our job as safely as possible. A useful skill to have and to become an army engineer is LEADERSHIP. We should be able to make quick and focused decisions to successfully complete our mission. Also, we need to be confident, intelligent, self-disciplined and enterprising.

Army Field Engineering Institute or Institut Kejuruteraan Medan Tentera Darat (IKEM) role is to train all officers and soldiers in the RER as well as officers and other ranks from the Army in engineer related courses. With that concept in mind, IKEM developed a modular concept built around engineer staff/technical courses. IKEM was designed to train staff officer skills specialise in the field of engineering and these will allow the mind to better absorb and understand concepts and thus increase overall retention and depth of knowledge to the Army engineer. One of the keys to our success has been the many ideas, comments and concerns from the field. The diversity of the RER requires multiple assignments oriented training opportunities for its officers. Exposure to multiple and diverse jobs will provide breadth to an officer’s knowledge. Just as the Army Engineer transforms to the Objective Force to meet the challenges of the 21st century security environment, so too must the Army transform its education system to train and educate the leaders who will command and control that force. The Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM) is the first university in Malaysia that provided for the country’s need in modern armed forces educations transformation. The university is fully a military university. There are 11 courses that are offered and these are balance of the fields in management, sciences and engineering. But aside from the academics, the students though are graded through their military leadership and physical fitness. These changes seek to provide the right education in the right medium to the right leader at the right time and place.

The RER must have an ability to read a changing situation and react fastest. The adage “first in, last out ”aptly applies to its significance and manifestation of its importance in supportingthe Army in discharging its roles. During my short 17 years of army engineer experience, I’ve had the opportunity to serve with several dynamic leaders. These leaders all possessed similar traits such as vision, leadership, decisiveness, technical and tactical expertise, intelligence and compassion. I’ve taken bits and peaces from each leader and formed my very own leadership style.A commander must be a motivated achiever with a “can do” attitude.

RER commanders’ qualities are formed in a progressive and sequential series of carefully planned training, educational, and experiential. RER project management requires a multi-discipline focus to coordinate the overall needs of a project with reliance on others to provide the technical expertise. RER commander must be able to delegate authority and responsibility to others and still retain focus on the linking process between disciplines. RER Commander cannot become overly involved in detailed tasks or take over the discipline they are educated in, but should focus on the project objectives.


The RER project includes both construction and major repair/maintenance project. RER construction project is defined as all military construction work or any contribution authorized necessary to produce a complete and useable facility or a complete and useable improvement to an existing facility. Generally, construction includes:

  1. The erection, installation or assembly of a new facility.
  2. The addition, expansion, extension, alteration, relocation, or replacement of an existing facility.
  3. Site preparation, excavation, filling, landscaping, land improvements,

utility connections and installed equipment.

Repair or maintenance project means to restore a real property facility, system or component to such a condition that it may effectively be used for its designated functional purpose. When repairing a facility, the components of the facility may be repaired by replacement and such replacement may be up to current standards or codes.

RER project practice may be construction only or a combination of design and construction. A project consists of three components: scope, budget and schedule. When a project first assigned to a commander, it is important that three of these components be clearly defined. Scope represents the work to be accomplished, for example, the quantity and quality of work. Budget refers to costs and schedule refers to the logical sequencing and timing of the work to be performed. The quality of a project must meet the owner’s satisfaction and is an integral part of project management as illustrated in figure 1.

Figure 1 is shown as an equilateral triangle to represent an important principle of RER project management. Any increase in the scope of work requires a corresponding increase in budget and schedule. Conversely, any decrease in scope of work results in a corresponding decrease in budget and schedule. For example, any adjustment in budget and/or schedule requires a corresponding adjustment in scope. It is the duty of an engineer commander to ensure that the project scope, budget, and schedule are linked together.

Budgeting is important because it establishes the amount of money the owner will spend to obtain the project and the amount of money that the design and construction organizations will be compensated for performing the work. The construction phase is important because most of the project budget is expended during construction. Also, the operation and maintenance of the completed project is highly dependent on the quality of work that is performed during construction. Quality is an element that is integrated into and between all parts of a project: scope, budget and schedule.


Today, project management has reached a maturity level in which it is applied in the RER building and construction projects.

  1. Commander faces dilemmas that require choices between competing sets of values and priorities. The best commander recognizes and faces them with a commitment to do the right thing the right way. What does the right things mean? Does it mean the morally right things? The ethically right things? The right things for the squadron to be successful? and who’s to say what the right things are?
  2. Effective team work is a key element in any successful project. Teamwork must be start early in the process, and it must be continuous throughout the live of a projects. Why do communications fail? Focus on personal power, there are therefore no easy answers to the questions from where and when did the powerful religious dimensions first begin to make an impact on interpersonal dynamic of RER spiritual power in the accomplishment of the project.
  3. RER linking specific challenges to be faced and overcome through professionalism and confidence to bring a project successful completion. In the concept of duty and service, RER must be fit and perform under mental and physical pressure. How does RER could organize one project in the multifunctional roles with multiple tasks continue to fit in the plan that had been scheduled? In the concept of human nature, how does the RER can survive by pushing them in the panic button in line with low spiritual power? Will the completion of the project help that organization accomplish its goals?


The research will analyze the interpersonal dynamic of RER leaders and its relationship between his leadership and RER management in the construction project, as showing in the figure 2


The research will cover the following objectives:

  1. Explore interpersonal dynamic in organization for good management, powerful leadership, and effective project management team.
  2. Discuss leadership roles from an Islamic perspectivewhich taking the examples of the past leader feature.
  3. Establishes personal power for dominating the work as the key to success.
  4. Effectiveness study of project management countermeasure as an important point of reference for improvement projects planned for the future.


RER moves forward into the 21st century to meet the challenges of a changing strategic and operational landscape. RER commanders’ qualities are formed in a progressive and sequential series of carefully planned training, educational, and experiential. Commander in such circumstances must be led in ways that inspire, rather than require, trust and confidence to hold high levels of responsibility. When followers have trust and confidence in a dynamic commander, they are transformed into willing, rather than merely compliant, agents. Much of the leadership practiced in today’s Army achieves compliance from followers. Unfortunately, the compliance is not enough. The process of influencing follower’s behaviors accomplished the commander’s goal by pushing them in the panic button.

Some RER projects end, either as a casualty because of excessive cost and/or schedule overrun, or failure to accomplish their performance expectations. Engineering situations had enforced some engineer leaders bringing strong technical skills to the job site, but few possess the management skills it takes to successful coordinate the many phases of a construction projects. Also some current army engineer officers required technical engineering skills improvement initiative for supporting their expertise to plan and organise each stage of the projects. These lack of managerial and technical expertise is often the underlying reason for project delay, excessive spending, and ultimately dissatisfied. The significance of this paper is to help us be more effective in leadership situations by helping us better understand the complex challenges of commander command and control in RER.


Indeed, there are a few books and articles that gave a brief account on the activities related to the research which provide to be useful for the literature review in the preparation of this study. Some of the literatures reviewed are listed below:

a. Achieving Effective Performance for Unit Commanders written by Brig Gen Abdullah bin Babu, Lt Col Allatif Mohd Noh and Lt Col A.Endry Nixon published by Ministry of Defence Malaysia, 2002. This book explained the development of human resource, organization, information of technology, logistic, policies and instruction become the sinews of a more professionally focused and pragmatic Army driven by knowledge. It also provides insights and suggestive tools for commanders to use astutely as a competitive advantage in their pursuance for effective performance.

b. Management i n Engineering: Principle and Practice Second Edition written by Gail Freeman-Bell and James Balkwill by Prentice Hall, 1996.

This book presents the principle and techniques of managing engineering and construction projects from the conceptual phase, through design and construction and to completion. Much of the information in this book is based on formal and informal discussions with these project managers who are actively involved in the practice of project management. It information’s related to the research where it has common elements of effective project management that have been successfully applied in practice.

c. Total Construction Project Management written by George J. Ritz by McGraw-Hill Inc, 1994. This book is designed to give a construction manager the essential tools to survive and prosper in a highly competitive environment. Its significance in developing construction management and technology skills where both of it parallel paths to total construction management. It also emphasizes the person who is in responsible charge of the field activities must practice total construction project management to meet their project and personal goals. In the RER, the mental side of constructions management is frequently been used. Thus, this book is extremely beneficial to this research.

d. Military Review The Professional Journal of The United State-Leadership, August 1994. This journal is review about World War II almanac. The author discussed about the theory of leadership where provided unique perspectives on leadership in both traditional and nontraditional applications that have much to offer to those who would lead. The authors also present their views on the rule of law and human right where there are a few issues that need to be addressed.

e. Manual Procedure of Regiment Engineer Regiment (MP 4.1.1 TD). This manual provided sufficient information for staff and commanders at all levels in the course of their planning with regard to employment and deployment of engineers. There are three parts in this manual which are Organization, Command and Employment of Engineers as a Part One, Conduct of Battle as a Part Two and Engineer Operations as a Part Three. Each part had clarified briefly any matters of engineer needs to fulfilled its roles and functions.


This paper sources limited to the common RER construction projects through my personal thoughts and opinions on the management aspect. This paper is designed primarily, offer just one person’s views on how to be a better army engineer and commander. There are a limited numbers of publications by the Services on the subject.As an army engineer officer is under the rules to be safeguard of all information that maintained by the Government of Malaysia as defense strategic and security . It is not to be divulged to a non-security organization unless authorized by the Ministry of Defence. It is also not to be used for other than military purpose and it is strictly not to be released to another country without the consent of the Ministry of Defence. Hence, the appointment for discussions will depend on the time availability of correspondents.


The research methodology is based on the lessons of the past leaders features. As an army engineer experience in working with numbers of construction projects in the RER much of the information in this research is based on formal and informal discussions with these project army engineer officers and commanders, who are actively, involved in the practice of RER construction projects. A common example is used throughout this research to illustrate the project management.

Secondary data and information were uses as qualitative methodology with source from Al- Qur’an and Hadis, books and articles in journals found in the libraries. Besides, the study also utilized the facility offered by the Internet, which is a rich minefield of information recent on views, issues and updates.


The paper is divided into five chapters. Chapter One begins by interpreting interpersonal dynamic. Next, discuss of project leadership that is importance because commander states that leadership is not a property of the individual but a complex relationship among many variables. Finally, defines general principles related to project management and presenting RER major constructions, improvement and maintenance project review role of Engineer Command and Control. The basic principles must be fully understood because many of the problems associated with project management are caused by failure to apply them.

Chapter Two seeks to propagate the idea that interpersonal dynamic from an islamic perspective. Defining personal power of commander as the capacity or potential to exert influence and influence tactics as the degree of change in a person’s attitudes, values or behaviors. Take the example of the story of Salahudin Al-Ayubi’s victory in the re-capture of Jerusalem; the powerful religious dimensions of the army engineer should arouse the personal competence and loyalty (jihad fi-sabilillah).

Chapter Three begin to discuss the important of personal management skill to be a good planner, delegator and communicator with the progress of the battle of Badr commanded by the Prophet Muhammad SAW. RER leadership must set priorities and develop a system to manage time. Next, this paper is highlight the successful project management can best be described as effective communications between the people who perform the work that is necessary to complete the projects. Finally, stress on the important of construction phase because the quality of the completed project is highly dependent on the workmanship and management of construction.

Chapter Four focus on major conditions that must be present for building effective project teams where it’s becoming increasingly more important. Taken a lesson from the battle of Uhud, Engineer commander have to organize and manage their teams across organizational lines. This paper considerable attention has been given to the Total Quality Management (TQM) concept that emphasizes teamwork at all levels of an organization to improve the quality of the project and achieve maximum customer satisfaction.

Chapter Five concludes that RER leaders has a duty to perform, preserve and enhance the unity, strength, tranquility and development of society through interpersonal dynamic and highlights the project management countermeasure as an important point of reference for improvement projects planned for the future. One of the most important points in this chapter is situational engineering which manages the interaction between the leader, the followers and the situations with a high level of lateral interdependence.




Power is like a coin. It has two sides. One side is the official authority or legal power that is given to an individual who is occupying an organizational position of RER such as Engineer Commander. On the other side of the power is the influence that an individual has with regard to the organization of RER. The first sides of power stated in this chapter are legitimate power, personal power, expert power and referent power. The second side cannot be delegated. It depends on the knowledge, skills and attitudes of the individual and the competency that there are able to develop and sustain in the management of the project and in their dealings with the higher commander in RER. Most failures in the management of the projects are as follows:

  1. Failure to define the specificity of authority and responsibility of the Engineer Commander in the RER project.
  2. Negative attitudes on the part of project, functional and Chief of Engineer (CE) and team members who support a sharing of authority and responsibility over the resources to be used to support that projects.
  3. Lack of familiarity with the theoretical construction and the context in which that organizational design is applied.
  4. Failure of Engineer Commander to promote synergy and unity within and between RER levels and with outside organizational so that resources, results and rewards can be shared. This type of promotion requires true team work, discussion, cooperation of all RER committee, education and the opening and maintenance of many lines of communication.


Leaders who can reward and punish followers may have a greater capacity to influence followers than those leaders who cannot use rewards or punishments. Legitimate power depends on a person’s organizational role. Legitimate power means a leader has authority because he has been assigned a particular role in an organization. For example, in military the colonel can order compliance with uniform standards. However, follower or situational characteristics may diminish a leader’s potential to influence followers as when the leader has less his personal power.

Expert Power is the power of knowledge. Knowledge has always been of paramount importance as a source of development. In the military profession, it is extremely important to be aware of the continuous changes in military affair. The RER needs to equip itself with relevant knowledge and skills to face these complex challenges. Powerful individuals enhance learning from experiences.

One way to counteract the problems stemming from a lack of expertise is to build strong interpersonal ties with subordinates. Referent power refers to the behavior and religion practices together have due to the strength of the relationship between the leader and the subordinates. When subordinates admirer a leader and see him as a role model, he has referent power.

The story of Salahudin Al-Ayubi’s victory in the re-capture of Jerusalem is an important part of history that Muslims must study. However, in studies on the history victories in the crusades, figurism or heroism in the army is emphasized. This is not necessarily the better approach. Such an approach distracts us from the real illnesses present among Muslims, which become the reason for our defeat waiting for the distances a person from the role that he should be playing even while waiting for the appearance of a leader figure to bring about solutions to problems. To quote Salahudin Al-Ayubi as an example:

“Salahuddin Al Ayyubi was born to an aristocratic family in Tikrit (Kurdistan-Iraq) in 1138 CE. His education was simple: the Qur’an, Hadith, some mathematics, law, literature, genealogy: of men and horses. Initially, he did not seem to have any special interest in military sciences. In 1169 at the age of 31, he was appointed both Commander-in-chief of the Syrian troops and vizier of Egypt. He was the Muslim ruler of Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine and one of the most famous of Muslim heroes. Salahuddin was 26 when was sent as a commander to aid the Fatimid rulers of Egypt against the Crusaders who were joined by a unit of the Egyptian army. In wars against the Christian crusaders, he achieved final success with the disciplined capture of Jerusalem (Oct. 2, 1187), ending its 88-year occupation by the Franks. The great Christian counterattack of the Third Crusade was the stalemated by Salahuddin’s remarkable leadership and military brilliance. He had a great love for Islam and he tried hard to root out the Crusaders. For this purpose, he maintained a strong army. To Salahuddin, Jihad started from the inside. He had to watch himself and his aids and soldiers to make sure that they behaved in compliance with Devine commandments in all spheres of life, spiritual, moral and material. Hence, when his advisor suggested to him, why do you not save the money you give in charity to the poor and religious teachers, and spend it in our war efforts? Salahuddin replied: I could not do that because the prayers of poor people and religious teachers were such a source of strength in wars”.

UsingSalahuddin Al Ayyubi as a role model of leadership, it is indeed time for the RER leadership to carry out a serious introspection and internal correction of oneself. Leaders must be aware of how good they can perform and how their behavior affects the performance. A leader may need to change his behavior before trying to change the behavior of his subordinates. Salahuddin’s singleness of purpose induced his subordinates to rearm both physically and spiritually. Salahuddin’s every act was inspired by edifying works especially on the jihad itself. Salahuddin’s personal power in religion practice and moralities had won the hearts of his subordinates, so that he could accomplished his goal. Today, the RER leadership uses the approaches of getting work done through fear, or centralizing decision making, or decentralizing decision making, and some even allow the group to establish its own goals and make its own decisions. By using these approaches, do not mean the goal is cannot accomplish but they may separates harmonizes environments between the leaders and subordinates.

Our current generation has so much to learn from Salahuddin. But first let us remind ourselves that history generally tells us about the bravery and leadership of commanders of war and rulers. Islamic History taught in school also tells us of the bravery and the rule of Islamic leaders, from the honourable Prophet Muhammad SAW to the fall of Islam in Ottoman Turkey. This finally created awareness among the people that in fighting for the Islamic cause, they should begin with the local power struggle.

In the RER construction project this matter may affect the quality of work performance that will be presented project results as shown in Appendix A. The RER leadership must also prepare to take a new direction to explore and study some of the traits relate physical factor, some abilities, many to personalities and social characteristics to support the roles of activity, intelligence, knowledge, dominance and self-confidence. May be we can begin to learn and practice the first step by taking the example of Salahuddin which through assertive moral rejuvenation to fit a genuine part of own way of life.


Influence tactics are the actual behaviors used by a leader to change the attitudes, opinions, or behaviors of a target person. Commanders who have only legitimate power may be able to use only legitimizing, pushing or pressure tactics to influence his subordinates. Don’t threaten or don’t push them in the panic button. I know it’s done by some of our leaders, but I don’t go for it. If people are running scared or tension, they’re not going to make the good job or the right decisions. They’ll make the job or decisions to please the commander rather than recommend what has to be done. Commander should attempts to get in a good mood before making a request. People typically use soft tactics when they’re at a disadvantage, when they aspect resistance or when they will personally benefit if the attempt is successful. People typically use rational tactics (logical arguments or factual evidence) when parties are relatively equal in power and when resistance is not anticipated.

Some leaders are able to influence others through their relative expertise in particular areas. We may not have state of the art technology or weapons in the region but having the best interpersonal leader who can think critically, analytically and professionally would make a difference in the management of the project. Soldiers who have been in combat or project before are valued for the lessons learned and wisdom they can share with others. Because expert power is a function of the amount of knowledge one possesses relative to the rest of the members of the group, it is possible for followers to have considerably more expert power than leaders in certain situations. For example, new RER officer often possess less knowledge of the jobs and task performed in a particular work unit than the followers do. In this case, the followers can potentially wield considerable influence when decisions are made regarding work procedures, new equipment or

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