Doctoral defence: Artur Meerits “First-level military leaders’ leadership competencies and their relationship with unit effectiveness in terms of collectivistic leadership with the example of the Estonian Defence Forces”

On 8 February at 15:00 Artur Meerits will defend his doctoral thesis “First-level military leaders’ leadership competencies and their relationship with unit effectiveness in terms of collectivistic leadership with the example of the Estonian Defence Forces”.

Supervisor:
Associate Professor Kurmet Kivipõld, University of Tartu

Opponents:
Hubert Annen (PhD), Military Academy at ETH Zurich (Switzerland)
Martin Scherm (PD PhD), Center of Leadership Development and Civic Education / Helmut Schmidt University (Germany)

Summary
The purpose of this thesis is to determine the level of first-level military leaders’ leadership competencies, and their relationship with unit effectiveness. Several studies have highlighted the fact that leaders have great influence on increasing unit effectiveness. At the same time, lack of experience in leading a unit and insufficient leadership competencies, especially in firstlevel leaders, may result in the opposite effect. There are several ways to determine unit effectiveness. In this thesis collectivistic leadership was used which describes influential processes occurring in a unit where, in accordance with situational demands, leaders emerge from units who are competent to solve problems that arise. Collectivistic leadership is especially important in units which are dispersed and for which decision-making cannot rely on a formal leader. Analysis of different armed forces’ leadership approaches revealed that there are three dimensions to military leadership. Task-oriented leadership describes a leader’s focus on subordinates’ compliance with standards and regulations through recognition and punishment. At the centre of change-oriented leadership is subordinates’ competence increase through motivation. Relations-oriented leadership characterises a leader’s behaviour to foster the development of social bonds and the creation of a trustful environment in a unit. Results of the study conducted in the Estonian Defence Forces indicate that many of the assessed leadership competencies in first-level leaders were at a mediocre level. At a high level are punishment, being a role model, and emphasising mutual goals. At a low level are leadership competencies which contribute to the creation of social bounds in unit. Analysis of the relationship of first-level leaders’ leadership competencies with unit effectiveness revealed that, while most leadership competencies are related to short-term effectiveness, there is no relationship with long-term effectiveness.

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