Operational Leadership and the Success or Failure of an Operation

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Operational Leadership and the Success or Failure of an Operation

Leadership at the operational level requires the ability to link tactical actions to meet strategic objectives. Successful use of operational leadership tenants combined with specific character traits of an operational commander provides a snapshot of an effective leader who can successfully accomplish the determined strategic objectives. Professor Milan Vego provides a framework for the tenets of operational leadership and Field Marshal Slim presents his viewpoint on essential qualities required of an operational commander. , The British leaders, Admiral Carden and General Sir Hamilton will be compared and contrasted with the German leader of the Turkish forces, General von Sanders using selected elements of Vego’s and Slim’s philosophies of operational leadership and command.

Before defining the elements that will be used to compare the leaders of Gallipoli, it is prudent to explain the difference between “command” and “leadership.” Vego’s theory is presented as relating to operational leadership while Slim’s concept describes characteristics considered necessary to be an effective operational commander. These characteristics are connected directly to the position of command at an operational level while the leadership tenants that Vego describes are related to the successful achievement of the operational and strategic objectives. However, it can be argued that a framework to describe operational leadership and command are completely intertwined. Simply put, effective command at the operational level requires the right blend of personality traits that Slim describes in order to apply the tenants of operational leadership described by Vego.

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... elements required for success in a specific operation may also be different. The greatest leaders may have most or even all of the elements that Vego and Slim espouse and can adapt their operational leadership to the character of the war. In the example of Gallopoi, the focus on the objective, sound judgment and boldness were poorly applied by Cardan and Hamilton. Yet, the successful Von Sanders was able to employ the same elements only incrementally better them Hamilton and had many shortfalls in other aspects of operational leadership. However, the takeaway should be that the success of operational leadership may be determined by the leader who is just a bit more competent than his opposition and correctly matching a commander’s operational leadership strengths to the character of the conflict may be a decisive factor in the success or failure of an operation.

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