Core aspects of military leadership can be adapted to careers in various sectors.

What Is Military Leadership? Learn More About This Career Path


Inspiring and effectively leading subordinates through a military mission with life or death implications is no small feat. It requires military leadership, a special set of communication skills, and personal characteristics. The relevance of military leadership extends well beyond the battlefield.  Individuals can cultivate the traits and abilities valued in military leaders through advanced programs, like an online Master of Science in Leadership.  Knowledge gained through course can prepare graduates to succeed in the military as well as the public sector and government roles.

What Is Military Leadership?

Military leadership involves making critical decisions, often in high-pressure situations with consequential risks. Effective military leaders ask the right questions and think strategically in making well-informed conclusions upon which that they can act. Military leaders also build and motivate teams. This responsibility involves looking out for their welfare, developing individual talents, recognizing successes to create a unified team confident to accomplish assigned missions. 

To provide the purpose and direction to units tasked with intense challenges, leaders must possess an undeterred drive to accomplish noteworthy goals. In the military and other sectors, ambition can propel a mission or a project forward. When balanced with integrity, ambition pushes individuals and teams to their greatest potential.  

Military leaders also must possess tenacity tempered by flexibility. Finding a solution to a bewildering problem or achieving a seemingly impossible task often demands an indomitable will to keep going and searching for the answers of missing or hidden pieces.  Flexible thinking and the ability to reconfigure an approach, rather than doggedly sticking to one not working, must accompany such tenacity.          

Finally, strong leadership projects confidence. Military leaders carry weighty responsibilities. If lacking sufficient self-confidence, doubt can paralyze them and their subordinates from taking action. They must possess the emotional fortitude to weather setbacks and still lead the next charge forward. The confidence and ability of those led are greatly affected by whether leaders trust themselves to tackle the mission ahead, making this trait indispensable in leadership.

Apart from personality traits, key strategies can prove equally effective when guiding a military unit or managing a team in business or government. People respond with more motivation when they know why they’re doing something. For this reason, as a former military leader and current CEO Amit Kleinberger explains in an article in Entrepreneur, leaders must present a clear vision.  A defined path will instill a sense of purpose, agency, and greater investment in a team. Leaders must also communicate with empathy. When subordinates feel their leaders genuinely care about them, their dedication increases. And by developing an environment of openness, one in which individuals know their ideas and opinions matter, leaders will not only build loyalty but also benefit from constructive feedback and diverse perspectives.

Learn About Military Leadership Through Norwich

Norwich University’s history in military leadership began in 1819. As the nation’s first private military college, Norwich understands what military leadership is and created an online Master of Science in Leadership program based on its unique perspective.

By cultivating an understanding of fundamental topics in leadership such as ethics, management styles, and tactical communication, students gain clear perspectives on military leadership strategies and contemporary issues in business. Throughout the course of study, students identify their leadership styles and strategically develop them. Experiential learning components in the program also provide opportunities to apply concepts and theories related to topics such as organizational leadership. Students complete three core curriculum courses before selecting a concentration to study. The Public Sector/Government/Military Leadership concentration prepares students to engage and influence stakeholders in the dynamic environments found in military, public sector, and government careers.

The following core courses help students develop a more thorough understanding of leadership:

  • Leadership Fundamentals—Ethical Leadership and Value-Driven Organizations. This core course explores the differences between conceptual and theoretical models of leadership, creating a knowledge base that enables students to put leadership skills into practice. Students learn about leadership fundamentals by examining past and present leaders.  Attention is given to practicing ethical leadership.
  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Leadership Style. Students learn about the importance of developing strong EQ traits in their leadership style. Instruction focuses on providing tools that aid in analyzing thinking patterns and cultivating intuitive reasoning.
  • Leading Change in Organizations. This course examines ways to lead organizations through changes using various conceptual and theoretical leadership models. Students learn the process of change management and the importance of collaboration.

These courses from the Public Sector/Government/Military Leadership concentration help equip students to serve as leaders in specific career fields:

  • Theories and Innovative Practices of Public Sector/Government/Military Leadership. This course explores the way leadership can remain strong during socioeconomic and cultural changes. It addresses challenges that originate from market demands, shifts in the global economy, and the advent of new technologies. Students examine leadership theories along with lessons learned from the private sector to develop skills in managing complex systems and shaping organizational culture.
  • Influence in the Public Sector/Government/Military: Collaborating Across Organizational Lines. The curriculum explores the challenges and innovations that exist in leading people in the context of collaborative relationships between multiple organizations. Students learn how to lead an organization through changing environments, helping them adapt through control strategies and planning. The course also focuses on performance management and team building rooted in collaboration.  
  • Capstone Studies. This hands-on course enables students to apply concepts and learning from previous courses in one of two ways. Students may choose to develop a written capstone project addressing a relevant organizational challenge. This project will provide a solution, either practical or theoretical, that addresses a chosen issue of concern. Students also write a 1,500-word paper suitable for publication in a professional journal.

Essential Skills in Leadership

Certain skills and competencies are fundamental to quality leadership. The most effective leaders work to fine-tune those skills and apply them in several environments including the military, public sector, and government careers. In a recent Forbes article, current and retired military leaders discuss what it takes to lead effectively:

  • Strong leadership involves the ability to make decisive moves while working transparently and collaboratively with teams as well as taking accountability for one’s influence. This behavior earns the respect of subordinates.
  • Strategic communication requires providing a clear vision to a team while listening closely. The dizzying pace of change demands skilled listening to get timely information to stay ahead of the curve. Strategic communication also involves building interpersonal relationships and effectively communicating key points and ideas.
  • Ethical management entails creating an environment that focuses on achieving the desired result and how that result is achieved. Leaders must demonstrate moral courage and enable the core values of their organizations to guide their decisions and practices.
  • Adaptability enables leaders to respond to rapidly changing environments, regroup, and reconfigure in light of new information. Leaders must adjust mental models, shift plans, and be prepared to reposition a mission or a project when necessary.

Explore Advanced Study in Military Leadership

The definition of military leadership encompasses core skills and competencies that transfer to multiple professions. Discover how earning an online Master of Science in Leadership from Norwich University prepares professionals to advance in military, public sector, and government careers.

Recommended Readings

What Is Organizational Leadership? Courses and Career Outlooks
Transactional vs. Transformational Leadership: A Comparison
6 Ways Leaders Can Improve Team Productivity


6 Traits of Exceptional Military Leaders That Apply in the Business World, Entrepreneur
12 Principles of Modern Military Leadership: Part 1, Army University Press
8 Leadership Lessons from the Military, Forbes
Master of Science in Leadership, Norwich University
16 Essential Leadership Skills For the Workplace of Tomorrow, Forbes
Six Personality Traits of a Leader,

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