Emotional Intelligence & Military Leadership

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Pakistan armed forces are currently the 6th largest active military formation in the world based on army, air force, navy, paramilitary forces, and strategic plans division forces. As reported in 2017, there were approximately 654,000 active personnel in the Pakistan armed forces, excluding 25000 – 35000 plus personnel in the Strategic Plans Division Forces as well as 482,000 active personnel in the paramilitary forces. Pakistan is the Sixth-largest contributor to UN peacekeeping efforts, with approximately 5,083 personnel deployed overseas.

It is estimated that approximately 60 – 70% of Pakistan’s military personnel are deployed along the Pakistan – India border. After the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the subsequent standoff with India, several combat divisions were redeployed to Eastern and Southern Pakistan. In the aftermath of the United States invasion of Afghanistan, more than 150,000 personnel were shifted towards the Tribal Areas adjacent to Afghanistan. Since 2004, Pakistan’s military forces have been engaged in military efforts against TTP, Al-Qaeda and other extremist organizations. In comparison with other countries armed forces, Pakistan’s military was first to achieve a decisive military victory against such extremist elements. Pakistani armed forces also holds a very low suicide rate when compared with rest of the world. All this points towards how dedicated the average Pakistani service man and on field leadership is and reflects the over all importance of self leadership and freedom given. However in many cases important aspects such as emotional intelligence are neglected and their needs to be proper attention paid to it. This article will explain the importance of emotional intelligence for quality leadership.

Leadership was once thought as an art of motivating a group of people to act toward achieving a common goal. When we talk about leadership, it means we are talking about effective leadership that is based upon ideas that reflect the essentials of being able and prepared to inspire others. With the passage of time the definition of leadership is varying. When we talk about military leadership, it means we are talking about autocratic and transactional leadership styles – order, command, and manage with power.

From 1990s, armed forces of various countries are now stressing on leader and leadership attributes rather than typical heroic physical attributes like Hercules or Genghis Khan in the past. Currently, the foremost question is “What are the greatest leadership attributes, and, how can they be taught or nurtured to develop the best leaders possible? – as inquired by Maj. Gen. of USA Christopher P. Hughes. He concluded the answer after his thirty-five years of military service, “the very foundation of good leadership is an individual’s intimate understanding of self and those they lead”. At the present, the focus of military is not only on recruitment or selection of the personnel but also on the training and developing leadership traits among military personnel by building strong foundation of effective leadership, that is, emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the form of social intelligence that describes a person’s ability to recognize, understand, manage, and handling of emotions in self and others. EQ is a set of characteristics or traits possessed by effective and influential leaders. Emotionally intelligent leaders have a heightened awareness of their strengths and weaknesses and can adjust their leadership approach as compared to leaders with general intelligence (or cognitive intelligence). General intelligence provides index of analytical and numerical ability only. It doesn’t necessary that intelligent people become successful in their personal and professional lives.

As EQ is a new domain, so when we talk about attributes of EQ in military leadership, it has its own challenges in terms of comprehension and responding to emotions (aggression, sad, excitement, disgusting, surprise, happiness, etc), human behavior, conflicts, flexibility, creativity, cohesiveness, commitment, discipline, and the bond between leaders and their subordinates. The emotions of military leaders can have impact on their subordinates or troops behavior regarding military objectives and vision that can influence their motivation, energy, passion, desires, expectations and performances.

Various military psychologists explained four domains of EQ proposed by Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee’s (2002) in the scenario of military leadership:

1) Self-awareness.

2) Self-management.

3) Social awareness.

4) Relationship management.

Self-awareness – As military environment is a constant but with diverse nature, varied teams and geographical locations, an emotionally intelligent leader frequently assesses his strengths and weaknesses, anticipating personal leadership gaps and critically reflect his actions.

Self-management – Second domain is self-management that focuses on lead by example or set example for his team, juniors, or troops with focus on military and individual goals. This domain describes an individual’s ability to manage conflict and stress while maintaining a positive and objective outlook. In the military, an alarming number of organizational level staff officers maintain an overwhelmingly negative and pessimistic outlook. These leaders often fail to effectively handle stress and become individuals whose subordinates avoid with bad news. Emotionally intelligent leaders maintain a positive outlook, especially in highly stressful situations. Emotionally intelligent leaders are those whose junior officers approach for advice regarding challenges.

Social awareness – Third domain is social awareness that describes a military leader’s ability to understand the military setup and the team or troops. A socially aware leader evaluates the group dynamic in any organization by understanding climate and other organizational characteristics. Furthermore, leaders possessing effective emotional intelligence intuitively adjust their leadership approach based on the social dynamic. Whereas emotional unintelligent leader will fail to understand his actions that have negative impact on his team/troops as he is unable to fill a gap between self and social awareness.

The Korean Military Advisory Group is the best example as through social awareness, American advisor Brig. Gen. Cornelius E. Ryan was able to transform the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) into a capable fighting force.

Relationship management – Forth domain emphasizes the importance of formal and informal leadership styles and strategies. Regardless of military rank, every individual in the military has the ability to lead, influence team positively and contribute to mission success. Effective military leaders create a culture of learning in every team, where discourse is encouraged and conflicts / mistakes are seen as learning and innovative opportunities. In other words, military leaders act as mentor for their subordinates / juniors / troops.

The primary role of any military personnel in the military is deployment or exposed to combat / warfighting. Since not all military personnel are involved in direct combat, a large portion of personnel work towards the military operations or missions by providing support to personnel preparing for, serving in, and returning from deployment. However, after a deployment, personnel returning to homes, sometimes, bring adjustment problems, emotional instability, or physical fatigue. Sometimes posting to other locations, changes in family roles, and poor connection with social networks can also arise psychological distress and poor quality of life. Further, sometimes deployed military personnels may experience circadian dysrhythmia (disturbances in sleep cycles) and environmental disorientation because of a change in geographical location, whereas others may experience serious medical and mental health issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and frustration.

Depending on nature of geographical locations or war combat situations, military leaders have to interact with and navigate local communities. Navigating cultural differences coupled with an uncertain environment and moments of stress can lead to emotional responses. That’s why military leaders may have the understanding of their own emotions, how emotions affect their decision making, as well as others (communities, subordinates, juniors, or troops) in order to handle emotions effectively and positively. Emotional intelligence can foster leaders to motivate their followers and others to achieve their desired goals and outcomes. One’s emotional intelligence can be strengthened but the issues and conflicts among military leadership and team members are a major concern, particularly in context with the national security environment and international psychological warfare technologies.

Military leadership approach is shifting from autocratic to transformational, similarly, military leaders attributes are altering from intellectual leaders to emotionally intelligent leaders. Pakistan armed forces needs to develop framework and training programs by recognizing how emotional intelligence deals with present challenges and demands of inside and outside of the military. It will further strengthen the leadership attributes among military personnel and develop the emotional intelligence abilities and resiliency capacity to deal with the assorted situations in military.

#GrimReaper

#TeamPakistanStrategicForum

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