Organizational vs Leadership
Outsiders may also benefit a lot by listening reports from insiders as Schein says in Chapter 9 of his book (pp. 169,170). While outsiders may not fully understand why cultures are as they are in organizations, insider reports may at least give outsiders an idea of the principles and basic guidelines on which cultures are founded. As new enlistees, one cannot expect that the army or navy will adjust to them. The primary rule one has to keep in mind on entering the armed forces is “Put up or shut up.
” Just how soon the new enlistees learned this depended largely on how well the group leader handled his command and how defined the culture is among that group. I think the “sharedness” of culture and priorities are key in putting in place a workable common culture in a group. There will always be different opinions on how things should be done and what topics may be or may be not discussed. Even my experience at the hospital taught me that. What is important however is that there is a common goal for all members of the organization.
Everybody has to be on the same page as to what is important for the group as a whole. The leader’s job is to be there to remind the organization of this goal. When it comes to my personal leadership abilities and experience, I think in some respects I was more prepared than some of my shipmates. Given the culturally diverse surroundings in the inner parts of New York where I grew up in, I was used to being around people from different ethnicities. For my other shipmates, taking orders from someone from other than their own ethnicity or nationality was a difficult process.
At boot camp, such feelings are quashed, as each member had to bond their skills to help each other. Survival, which was pretty much one of the top priorities of each group can only be possible if we learned to adapt and work together. I remember having our drill instructor drumming into our heads how the sooner we were able to do this and put away any personal differences of discrimination, the better chances our group had of surviving. By the middle of boot camp some individuals, including myself were given additional responsibilities to stand out as leaders.
At one point or another, navy and military people will be put in the position of having to decide. While that happens to everyone whether civilian or military, the risk is a bit higher in our case as all our decisions will affect our group as a whole. Decisions made with personal motives, more often than, not will result in losses for the group. On a more personal note, I found that I had a bit of an edge especially since I had my own personal “boot camp” at home.
Being the only male in a household of six women I think the way I was able to hold my own and been “trained” to understand, adjust, and adapt are quite comparable to the training I received with my group on the field. If living with six temperamental women with all their moods and different personalities is not a good enough “training” exercise for flexibility, patience, mediating and listening abilities, I honestly don’t know what is. My first duty was in San Diego California.
I had never been to California before so adapting to the new surroundings took quite some getting used to. But the biggest hurdle I had to overcome was acceptance. I was a little bit older and mature than the people who I had to work for, and getting them to accept me for what I had to offer was a big challenge. I learned so much from my first command, learning to take charge while holding yourself accountable for the care of your people was a valuable learning tool. That was 25 years ago.
Since then I have had the opportunity to travel the world several times and each command that I have been stationed at has brought with it its own cultural characteristics and challenges. Though the learning curve was not as dramatic as when I first joined the Navy, the nature of my position requires me to travel a lot and thereby continually adjust to new commands (both ship and land based) which even though are all under the Navy do have their own innate differences. As Schein pointed out, both leadership and culture have to be adaptive and flexible when the situation calls for it.
(p. 2) My personal knowledge and experience validates Schein’s proposal that cultures must also be adaptable to change as situations where that particular culture may have worked do not always remain the same. I have since learned that leaders must be able to facilitate and guide their organizations to recognize and adjust to such changes.
Reference Schein, Edgar H. (1992). Organizational Culture and Leadership. 3rd ed. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass Publishers