Military-Led Reconstruction and Fiedler's Contingency Theory
In light of the unfolding instability, violence and difficulty that characterized the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States military must reexamine its approach to the strategic invasion, occupation, reconstruction and power-handover that have evolved into a war-making template for the nation. Accordingly, the research conducted hereafter considers the need for a change in leadership orientation, using Fiedler's Contingency Theory as the lens for the literature review thereafter. The Findings drawn from the review of literature are presented in this account and, generally, provided confirmation of the pertinence of Fiedler's contingency theory to modern military strategy as well as the pertinence of Fiedler's Least-Preferred Coworker checklist to defining ideal military leadership. The reported findings connecting Fiedler's ideas with strategic and empirical documentation on applied military policy contribute to a number of policy recommendations. In particular, these policy recommendations revolve around two major dimensions of military leadership; generating sufficient cultural sensitivity to achieve a collaborative environment and providing contingency leadership capable of function in the unstable context of a power transition as well as in its aftermath.
If we are to take any meaningful lessons from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, these must revolve around the various difficulties and even failures where achieving cultural respect and understanding are concerned. With the imperative to bring about civil advancement, democratic representation and fair market behaviors in these slivers of the developing sphere, the United States would impose a considerable task upon its military leadership without necessarily supplying it the resources, knowledge and leadership orientation to achieve said task. The result has been a pair of persistent quagmires that have cost a great deal of life and have rattled the developing sphere's confidence in the United States to lead developing nations forward in a positive, progressive and non-exploitive manner. As the research and discussion hereafter will demonstrate, a new leadership orientation is required if the United States anticipates achieving any level of lasting success in pursuing the invasion/occupation/reconstruction global military strategy.
With a focus on certain dimensions of Fiedler's Contingency Theory, the discussion will articulate the need for culturally-conscious Contingency Leadership. Moreover, by employing the fundamental precepts of Fiedler's contingency theory as it pertains to the military setting, as well as by regarding the criticisms lodged by scholars with contrary viewpoints, it is possible to determine the most advantageous leadership style for military leaders to employ both on base and in battle. This, in turn, should produce recommendations for a more positive and constructive orientation in helping transition nations from occupation to rebuilding and, eventually, to self-determination.
The focus of most research content leading up to this overarching discussion have focused on the role played by leadership in shaping military outcomes. This is a concept which drives the sources consulted, the findings presented and the resulting policy recommendations offered in the resolution. It is also the basis for the issues upon which these sections will focus. As we have learned as a collective nation through the experiences of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, transitioning from occupation to reconstruction is the most difficult and lasting phase of most conflicts. This reality is only further complicated by the role played by cultural misunderstanding in confounding collaborative reconstruction. Poor conduct by both U.S. military personnel and members of the local communities may stand in the way of true and permanent progress.
Both the transition dimension and the culture dimension of reconstruction present a wide range of largely unpredictable factors. This is especially true when, as is often the case, this process immediately follows or even overlaps with a conflict. This points to several issues of importance to the subject. Specific among them, are the issues of:
These issues provide the conceptual basis for the arguments endorsing Contingency Leadership as the primary mode of leadership orientation in a reconstruction endeavor.
The theoretical background for this discussion is significantly informed by the works of Fred Edward Fiedler's (1963) A Contingency Model of Leadership Effectiveness. This examines the role of the surrounding environment in informing leadership style, decisions and strategies. Further, it provides a framework for the present discussion, offering instruments such as the Least-Preferred Coworker (LPC) scale through which to evaluate the desired orientation of a Contingency Leader. As additional sources consulted on the subject demonstrate, when inserted into military-leadership discussions, Fiedler's theories perform quite well.
For instance, the text by Yardley & Neal (2005) notes that "work conducted by Fiedler suggested that context created circumstances in which a preferred leadership style was best suited. Researchers such as House and Mitchell added to the debate by developing the 'path-goal theory' which suggests that leaders help develop their followers behaviours in order to achieve specific goals." (p. 21)
This invokes a particular acknowledgement of the need for cultural sensitivity as a permeating product of leadership orientation. The findings denote that through leadership that instills goal-oriented behaviors like truly informed cultural sensitivity and meaningful collaboration with local leaders, military endeavors have a far greater chance of bringing about lasting peace.
With reference to the LPC as contextualized by military objectives, research confirms that Fiedler's ideas are of value in producing desired goal-outcomes. By attributing an importance to identifying with the characteristics of task-orientation in military settings, Ellyson et al. provide the present research with a driving assumption. Ellyson et al. (2012) report that "findings concluded that goal orientation and the personality trait of conscientiousness significantly influenced the job performance of military leaders. Both of the influencing factors are characteristics found in task-oriented leaders. The low LPC scores, recorded in the data, substantially add to this conclusion." (p. 7)
These theoretical constructs drive the focus of the research that is included hereafter. They also help to inform the path of policy recommendations yielded by the research.
Given the limitations of both time and financial resources, the present study is entirely grounded in literature. The emphasis on connecting certain leadership constructs with applicable military philosophies and reconstruction scenarios required an examination of an array of previously substantiated research documents. The aim in the present study is to synthesis the findings from such documents into a compelling case connecting Fiedler's leadership ideals to real-world military reconstruction scenarios. The literature review hereafter touches on a wide range of issues that have been especially illuminated through the protracted struggles engaged under the War on Terror banner over the last decade.
The Findings presented hereafter are the product of a literature review dedicated to making the connection between Fielder's theoretical constructs and the practical leadership pressures facing the military. Accordingly, the most critical findings presented hereafter will center on the important role played by effective leadership in planning for a positive process of rebuilding by way of culturally sensitive contingency leadership.
For instance, a guiding source in this synthesis has been that provided by Haskins (2010), a Colonel for the United States Army whose experience has given him over to a vocal and detailed support of greater cultural sensitivity training. More specifically, Haskins indicates the need to standardize this training in order to achieve more meaningful and permeating results in its personnel. Haskins reports that "as an Army, we have undoubtedly become more attuned to culture and seem to be more adept at working with it. Yet no one is satisfied. In a typical unit, two observations seem clear: its members vary widely in cultural ability, and experience is the best predictor of success. In other words, our Army's greatest gains in cultural fluency have come the hard way, and we have no satisfactory system for passing that knowledge along." (Haskins, p. 80)
This suggests that even when the United States military has enjoyed success in bridging cultural gaps and manufacturing peace through a smooth transition of power, the broader military structure has experienced little success in devising a template from these experiences. The result is that such successes are rarely replicated in a new environmental setting. The discussion here proceeds from Haskins' concerns to describe the type of leadership necessary to overcome this absence of standardization. In doing so, it lends strong credence to the ideas expressed by Fiedler's Contingency Theory research. Under this umbrella view, additional leadership constructs such as participative leadership emerge as being pertinent as well.
For instance, Heilman et al. (1984) point to participative leadership as having high-reported levels of efficacy in producing group compliance and achieving intended outcomes. This is especially important because our research finds that coordination of the interests of multiple parties is critical to executing a rebuilding plan. Perhaps most critically, military leaders in various capacities both on the ground and in administrative positions must find ways to work constructively with leaders and civilians in the developing nation if they are to enjoy the required level of cooperation. In the policy recommendation section of the present research, this finding will be applied in a discussion on the need for cultural sensitivity training standardization.…