The Power of Experience? Innovative and Authoritative Leadership Values Among Army Cadets

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Morten BRAENDER, Aarhus University, Denmark
Vilhelm HOLSTING, Royal Danish Defence College, Denmark
The military profession in general and the army in particular is associated with conservative values. Offhand, this is hardly surprising. After all, it is the purpose of the Armed Forces to protect, (or to conserve), society at large. Moreover, the monopoly of violence can only remain legitimate as long as the violent professions observe strict rules, i.e. if they are conservative in regard to executing this monopoly. Accordingly, we would also – offhand – expect service experience to correlate positively with a more traditionalistic approach to leadership.

This study challenges that expectation. Based on survey data with two types of cadets – recruited either from the rank and file or among civilian BAs – it is shown that future officers with a civilian background are much more authoritarian when it comes leadership values than their fellow cadets from the military. The paper offers two different – albeit not necessarily competing – explanations for this finding: It can be seen either as a result of the power of experience. Those who have tried leadership in practice know that leniency sometimes works best. Or it may be seen as a result of a general thrust towards more innovative and inclusive approaches to leadership in society at large, a thrust that is now also affecting the military professions. Unlike the newcomers, those who have been socialised into this profession have already learned to perceive such values as superior to other approaches.