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Leading Airmen: Taking Leadership Development Seriously

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Technical Report

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Air University School of Advanced Air and Space Studies Maxwell AFB United States

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Leadership development is critical during the most formative years of an officers career. Unfortunately, leadership is not often understood among junior to mid-grade officers in the military. Many officers, for instance, do not understand the distinctions between leader, manager, and commander, even if they devote time to think about the subject. The fault of this lack of understanding lies not with the officers but rather the services, whose responsibility it is to prepare their future leaders. If leadership development continues to be taken for granted, the Air Force, and the military as a whole, face tremendous challenges in 15-20 years as these same officers become the senior leaders of their service. The strategy each service uses to develop their leaders reveals something about the institution as a whole. It indicates where leadership falls in relation to its many other priorities, and how it views its future of the organization. Some services take leadership development seriously, while others take for granted the natural leaders in its midst. However, with the decreasing availability of recruits fit for military service, this is a dangerous strategy. Hope that the right person at the right place and time will take the organization to the next level is not prudent. The old adage that hope is not a strategy is as relevant to developing leaders as it is for preparing for war. Instead, a systematic approach that includes all elements of leadership development is critical to creating, sharpening, and polishing the leadership abilities of the militarys future leaders. This paper investigates the different approaches for leadership development by examining one particular feature service culture. The study uses several lenses of organizational theorists, educational experts, and history to analyze each services doctrine, and developmental resources to understand the organizations commitment to developing military leaders.

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