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Three Levels of Leadership in the Military

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The three levels of leadership are direct, organizational, and strategic; leader competencies apply to all levels. Each leadership level has requirements that differ in the mix, scope, depth, and breadth related to the core leader com-petencies. As leaders progress through the levels, their assignments become more complex and interdependent, and require more responsibility, accountability, and authority. Leaders at each level must be able to address unanticipated situations, as many may have to make decisions in stressful situations that can easily have strategic or political implications. Each leadership level is discussed in greater detail in FM 6-22.


Direct level leadership is frontline leadership that includes leaders from squad through battalion levels of tactical units, and from branch through division levels in Table of Distribution and Allowances (TDA) organizations. Direct leaders build cohesive teams, empower subordinates, and develop and execute plans which implement policies and accomplish missions. The face-to-face interpersonal leadership required at this level influences human behavior, values, and ethics. Direct-level leaders must develop and refine their analytical and intuitive decision-making techniques; communication and interpersonal skills; and be able to operate independently - within the limits of the commander's intent, assigned missions, task organization, and available resources. Direct leaders focus on short-range planning and mission accomplishment, from 3 months to 1 year or more.


Organizational level leadership exists in more complex organizations and includes leaders at brigade through corps levels, directorate through installation levels (TDA organizations), and assistant through undersecretary of the Army level. In addition to direct level leader requirements, organizational leaders tailor resources to organizations and programs, manage multiple priorities, establish long-term vision, and empower others to perform the mission. They deal with more complexity, more people, greater uncertainty, and a greater number of unintended consequences. Their influence is exhibited more through policy-making and systems integration than face-to-face contact. Organizational leaders must be competent in synchronizing systems and organizations and in planning, programming, budgeting, and execution (PPBE). Their policies influence the command climate, and they must be adept in communication, negotiation, critical reasoning, and interpersonal skills. They must be skilled at complex decision-making and problem solving and have a good understanding of the entire range of full-spectrum operations. These leaders focus on midrange planning



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