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Leadership in Multinational Organizations - the Example of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). By Gregor Richter

In short by Gertrud Maria Vaske

Leadership style, especially at key military bases, is a topic that is often of interest to researchers in a variety of military issues. At one headquarters that was studied – SHAPE, the military headquarters of NATO – one clearly preferred leadership style can be identified. According to Gregor Richter, a current study shows that staff members at this headquarters clearly prefer the participative leadership style. The study provides other interesting findings too. People who work for an ideal boss do not necessarily have greater job satisfaction than their colleagues for whom this is not the case. These new findings eliminate some previous prejudices and assumptions. Richter’s concise summary of the findings is that “leadership style does not matter”.

The NATO military headquarters is a rather atypical form of organization and it stands at the top of what is currently the world’s largest and most powerful military alliance. Mainly staff officers from the 28 member nations work at the headquarters in a multi-national and multi-cultural context. In accordance with the state of research on other forms of organization, however, it is also true for SHAPE that superiors do not participatively involve the employees and soldiers under their command in decision-making processes to the extent that should be the case. Nevertheless, the study clearly indicates that the importance of leadership in general is apparently not as great as one would have assumed for military organizations. In a democracy, shouldn’t the match between the preferred and actual leadership style be far higher than 39 percent, in the case of the participative leadership style? And what specifically does this mean for the Innere Führung standard?

Richter points out that demands for a participative leadership culture, such as are formulated in the German armed forces’ Joint Service Regulation on Innere Führung, are indispensable from the point of view of leadership ethics and should be put into practice in everyday operational routines, not least in the military.

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