Military Roots of Leadership …

At the end of WW2 Britain and Europe languished while America emerged with a huge military-industrial complex to become a global military and economic superpower.

The US-driven Marshall Plan for economic aid to war-ravaged European countries provided not only significant markets for US goods but a basis for the emergence of US global technological, economic and cultural hegemony.

Prior to war’s end, the structural basis for this development began in 1944, at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire, where America led a restructuring of international monetary arrangements by spearheading the creation of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank – institutions designed to ensure an open, capitalist international economy.

Military tensions arising in 1947 from the Cold War and the creation in 1949 of US-led NATO provided an enlarged role for US military technology in defence of its emergent European client economies, further strengthening America’s military-driven global economic influence.

America shows many of the key traits of a militarized order, including organizations based on hierarchy and top-down flows of authority, an economy that invests a preponderance of its society’s wealth in weapons and war-making capacities and national security defined largely or exclusively in military terms.

The US also has a multi-billion dollar entertainment industry that features and romanticizes war-related violence, while American leaders consistently construe the world as a hostile place where enemies abound, differences are coded as dangerous and people are prepared to solve problems with violence (Ferguson, 2009).

America’s merging of militarism and global economic expansion, unprecedented in modern times, inevitably led to a steady influence of military aspirations, values, management styles and language spreading into the culture of its everyday business, education and politics (Winsor, 1996).

Underpinning the expansion in size and complexity of management across many sectors of US business was the dominance of a top-down, centralized and hierarchical control model of military management (Manning, 2004). With it came a broad lexicon of military language, from ‘safeguard’ to ‘scenarios’, through ‘campaign’, ‘discipline’, ‘organization’, ‘strong point’, ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics’, which became normalised into executive conversation, marketing campaigns, business journals and particularly leadership training programs.