This paper evaluates the leadership views of Plato, Aristotle, Lao-Tzu, and Machiavelli from the point of view of the modern military leader. The process of evaluation includes an examination of the commonalities and disparities between these views of leadership. The paper explores a definition of modern military leadership. The paper includes an assessment of the suitability of each of the aforementioned leadership views to be models for modern military leadership. Modern Military Leadership The stereotype of the drill sergeant in basic training is not the leadership described in this section.
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Military leadership is more comprehensive in scope as seen in the movies. The surprise is the value of morality in military leadership. Holding the moral high ground is the most important weapon in breaking the will of the enemy (Stallard, 2013). Sun Tzu (1994) in his work, The Art of War, began his discussion with the value of the moral law (as cited in Stallard, 2013). George Washington (1796) stated in his farewell address as President that religion and morality are indispensable in supporting patriotism (as cited in Stallard, 2013).
The guiding principle of military leadership is the respect for human dignity (Mann, 2000). Military leadership involves many other traits. Military leadership involves the rigorous application of a system of orders and obedience resulting in a hierarchy (Mann, 2000). Within this system of orders and hierarchy, the military leader recognizes the value of the method of delivery of orders (Mann, 2000). This certainly stems from the respect for human dignity. The quality of performance is better when providing orders in a good atmosphere (Mann, 2000).
A military leader must develop trust between him and the troops; the leader must possess an adequate degree of self-confidence (Mann, 2000). The military leader must be a philanthropist with an active interest in others; General Schwarzkopf during the Gulf war used the term love in showing respect for others (Mann, 2000). Imagination, gift for teamwork, convincing professional qualities, better than average intelligence, and good management abilities are all requirements for military leadership (Mann, 2000). Plato’s View
Plato (1901) in
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his The Republic described the evils of democracy which lead to anarchy (as cited in Wren, 2013). The solution to the potential anarchy is the establishments of leaders who have the nature of leadership. All others are followers. The elect have qualities of a good memory and a quick study of learning to be noble, find the truth, justice, courage, temperance, and to know kindred (Plato, 1901, as cited in Wren, 2013). This view of leadership separates the leadership class and the follower class.
The perfection of a leader comes with years of education (Plato, 1901, as cited in Wren, 2013). Aristotle’s View Aristotle (1900) believed a leader must first be a follower and the leader must excel over the followers (as cited in Wren, 2013). Aristotle (1900) continued with a leader is a good man and should consider the souls of men when creating laws (as cited in Wren, 2013). Lao-Tzu’s View Lao-Tzu believed the wise leader is (a) selfless, (b) works without complaint, (c) is unbiased (does not play favorites) and (d) has a policy nonintervention (Heider, 1985, as cited in Wren, 2013).
Additionally, Lao-Tzu suggested that the group can lead itself having the presence of the leader felt (Heider, 1985, as cited in Wren, 2013). In Lao-Tzu’s view, the leader should not force his insights; the leader is a facilitator (Heider, 1985, as cited in Wren, 2013). Machiavelli’s View Machiavelli (1954) believed that the world in made up of the vulgar (as cited in Wren, 2013). In this word, the leaders (Princes) should have the appearance of good virtue.
The Prince must establish and maintain his personal power by whatever means necessary including manipulation and deceit (Machiavelli, 1954, as cited in Wren, 2013). Men are vulgar and simple and easily governed. These men, when deceived, praise the Prince as being honorable (Machiavelli, 1954, as cited in Wren, 2013). Commonalities and Disparities There are two commonalities I will discuss (a) maintenance of authority, power, and order, and (b) the leader as a good man. A major theme in the ancient world view is that leaders have as their charge the maintenance of authority, power, and order.
Plato (1901) suggested that the philosopher kings are to be rulers of the hive, the king himself, and other citizens (as cited in Wren, 2013). This implies the king is to maintain authority and order. Aristotle (1900) suggested that leaders should excel over their followers (as cited in Wren, 2013). This implies that leaders are good men. A key disparity in ancient views of leadership is the importance of good moral qualities that the leader should possess. Plato (1901) suggested that leaders be the friend of truth, gracious, noble, and espousing justice (as cited in Wren, 2013).
On the other hand, Machiavelli (1954) suggested that the results are the most important element of the efforts of a leader and the leader should obtain the positive results by whatever means possible including manipulation and deceit (as cited in Wren, 2013). Analysis The various elements of military leadership as described in the Modern Military Leadership section can be summarized as (a) morality, (b) high level of training and skill, (c) maintenance of authority and order and (d) maintenance of a leadership hierarchy within the organization.
From the review of the views of Plato, Aristotle, and Machiavelli, support for (a) high level of training and skill, (b) maintenance of authority and order and (c) maintenance of a leadership hierarchy was present. The views of Plato, Aristotle, and Lao-Tzu supported some forms of morality. Machiavelli did not support morality. He only supported the appearance of morality (Machiavelli, 1954, as cited in Wren, 2013). One can see that none of the ancient views of leadership exactly fits the model for the modern military leadership.
Conclusion In conclusion, the leadership in our modern military takes into account many different views of leadership. From this study, one can see that elements of each of the ancient views of leadership exist in the design of modern military leadership. No one ancient view of leadership exactly matches the design of modern military leadership. The effectiveness of the modern military leadership model can be seen in examining the results of the Gulf War lead by General SchwarzkopfSee More on History, Leadership