Reflection on Leadership Skills for the Forces
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Published: Mon, 23 Apr 2018
Task 1: From LC “Context” lessons 6-9, describe ONE significant insight that you have gained and explain why.
The concept of “Organisational Culture” taught in Lesson 7 left the deepest impression on me, as I sought to ponder and apply this concept in the context of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), specifically the Army. The key question that arose was whether there is a uniform culture in the Army. If so, what is important about the presence of such a culture?
As I sought to clarify these questions, a related concept of leadership came into mind. Undeniably, the leadership of an organisation would form and develop, or even change the foundation of its values and cultural norms. These values, assumptions and norms can then shape an organisation’s culture. According to Colins and Porras, leaders need to adopt a firm belief that some things should never change (Collins & Porras, 2011). Some things such as the SAF core values and beliefs ought to remain unchanged as alterations could potentially lead to destabilisation.
Using my experience while serving as an Officer in Command (OC) and the observations of my Divisional Commander, BG Lam Shui Tong; I would explain how leadership is able to shape the organisation’s value systems, and in the process align the followers to its mission statement, purpose and values.
As an OC, I was in charge of a ‘support’ company of 150 men from different walks of lives, and my duty was to train them to become operationally ready soldiers. To align everyone with SAF’s mission statement, I consciously inculcated the message of ‘Always (being) Ready and Expect the Unexpected’ into my men. I also made it a point to ensure that I am a positive role model who ‘walks the talk’ and to facilitate their internalising of this core value. Over time, it was observed that my men were more self-motivated and strived to become more competent.
At the higher level, I observed the same dynamics at work. My Divisional Commander, BG Lam, believed strongly in a culture of fitness. He held the belief that physical fitness activities can bond people and build their character. To instil this culture of fitness within the organisation, events such as “Olympics Challenge”, Friendship runs, Frisbee and cycling were organised. As a leader who ‘walks the talk’, he would personally conduct physical training for the division on Mondays and for all NS units during their In Camp Training. On Wednesdays and Fridays, he would play Frisbee and cycle with his men. Over time, everyone began to appreciate the greater sense of camaraderie, as well as improved fitness levels.
These two examples demonstrated that a leader’s actions can influence and impact organisational culture. When the individuals within the organisation are influenced with the organisation’s culture, they become more committed and aligned with the organisation’s shared values and vision.
Task 2: State the appointment that you are likely to be posted to after CSC. Analyse and describe key aspects of the leadership context of the appointment that you will face, using the circle from SAF Leadership Framework and concepts you learnt from lesson 6-9.
After CSC, I will have the opportunity to command a NS Infantry Battalion (IB). As a NS CO, I am responsible for NSmen who will come under my charge. These NSmen are soldiers who have completed the 2 years of national service and my core responsibility is to ensure that they continue to be competent, and are operationally ready.
The foundation and strength of our Army lies in our people, thus my first emphasis would be to understand the composition, values and history of the unit. During the NSmen’s active days, the CO would have made a positive impact to the soldiers and some form of organisational culture would have been formed. As their NS CO, there is a need for me to sincerely understand and analyse the unit’s culture before proposing any change. Even in the implementation of new rules or norms, the process has to be gradual to allow for ease of adjustment. In addition, the SAF 24/7 Leadership Framework will serve as a reference point for me to influence my soldiers towards achieving the unit’s mission and purpose, the desired outcomes and new operating environment (Yin, 2011).
Fundamentally, it must be understood the motivation of NSmen will be different from their active days (Chee, 2012). However, I believe our core SAF values will be the binding factor in a unit of diverse personalities. In managing such diversity, I foresee having to apply direct leadership. Specifically, during their ICT, the adoption of direct leadership methodology such as “Meet The People” sessions is important in providing an open communication channel, which will allow the NSmen to raise their concerns and for me to respond appropriately. In order to facilitate such communication effectively, it is paramount to bring on board my key appointment holders such as the Principal Staff Officers and OCs.
In situations, such as mobilisation exercises, there will be a need to exercise organisational level leadership. Besides having to empower my commanders, there has to be a focus on addressing complex policies such as NS training requirements. Through the application of different leadership levels, and communicating the unit’s mission, purpose and values to every stakeholder, it will provide the platform to achieving SAF’s mission.
Task 3: Identify and explain the key leadership requirements for this appointment.
First, with the SAF 24/7 Leadership Framework (Figure 1), I understood the theoretical basis of having to possess the ‘right’ values, so as to guide my actions. My values should, and need to be aligned with the organisation’s values; in order for me to convey SAF’s vision effectively through my speech and actions. With this self-awareness, I understand that my actions can either positively or negatively influence my followers’ behaviours.
Second, I have learnt from LLC lecture 5 that appropriate leadership style is dependent on situations. This is because the adoption of different leadership styles will allow for more effective addressing of the issues faced by my subordinates. As a Battalion Commander, I need to change my leadership styles according to the competency, motivational and commitment levels of the staff under my charge. A/P Chan also highlighted that a leader should possess a “full repertoire of styles 6” to suit different situations. As I build upon this new understanding of a spectrum of leadership styles, it is essential for me to exercise flexibility and adjust my leadership style accordingly.
Third, prior to attending CSC, I was introduced to the Leadership, Management and Command Model (LMC) when I read the SAF Pointer Monograph “Called to Lead”. Then, I saw LMC as three separate skill sets that a leader ought to possess, and that a leader cannot be effective in all 3 domains.
After attending the LLC lectures (1 to 5), I gained a more thorough understanding of the 3 domains that are intertwined. I gained the insight that I cannot afford to exercise my role as Leader, Manager, and Commander (in the position of a Battalion Commander) independently of each other. Instead, I have to work on exercising all three domains simultaneously. This relationship is illustrated in Figure 2.
The LMC model provides a clear conceptual tool to analyse and formulate my command and leadership strategy accordingly. In the scenario where my subordinates are already doing a good job in administration and resource management, I can then devote more time and effort in motivating and inspiring my team.
Task 4: My leadership strengths and weaknesses. How do I intend to deal with my weakness.
As an SAF personnel who has been deployed into various appointments and also through the feedback channels available in this course, I understand that my strengths lie in the ability to employ values-based leadership, and interpersonal effectiveness.
In leading my staff, I consciously endeavour to treat every man fairly and respectfully. Also, I ensure that my actions are guided by sound moral principles, and be willing to take responsibility for my actions. For my commitment to employ values-based leadership, I am well-regarded by my superiors and subordinates
Possessing interpersonal effectiveness is another strength of mine that would help to establish and maintain good relationships in the workplace. In order for the SAF to excel in its mission of national defence effectively, it is essential that a strong rapport is established between colleagues with different job functionalities. The strong bonds and cordial relations would help the big SAF family to support to one another through challenging times.
To enhance my effectiveness as a leader, it would be beneficial that I strengthen my skills in the area of communicating to influence, and in exercising style flexibility.
When there is a need to share my ideas, the natural instinct would be to convey my thoughts in a direct manner, and assume that they will be accepted wholly by others because my ideas are anchored on logical thinking and research. When this does not happen, I would presume that others are less informed than I am. Upon deeper reflection, I internalised the learning point that it is necessary for me to explain the rationale of my ideas, so as to encourage acceptance by others. Essentially, part of effective leadership is “… the process of influencing others to achieve a common outcome”. Through the opportunities provided in this course, I would make a conscious attempt to explain the rationale of my ideas to my course-mates.
The other area that I could work on is to exercise style flexibility, according to the situation and circumstances. When there is a need to tackle problems, I have the tendency to approach the issue in a rigid manner. As a result, I appear to be stubborn or foolhardy. The lesson on FRLM increased my knowledge of the different leadership styles that a leader could undertake. I would consciously explore utilising transformational leadership instead of relying heavily on transactional leadership. I have requested for my CSC buddy and my course-mates to provide feedback on my progress.
SAF Leadership Development Doctrine Directive 2/2004, SAF Leadership Framework dated 26 Jul 2004
SAF Leadership Development Doctrine Directive 3/2004, SAF Leadership Competency Model dated 26 Jul 2004
Chan, K.Y.; Soh, S. & Ramaya, R. (2011). Military Leadership in the 21st Century: Science and Practice.
 Chan Kim-Yin, Star Soh, Regena Ramaya (2011), Military Leadership in the 21st Century: Science and Practice. Cenage Learning, p4.
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