How Military Officers can be Relevant Leaders in a Non-military Context: A Sensemaking Study on Leadership-Construction in the Danish Defence

Alexander Ricardo den Dulk & Frederik Heesch Hansen

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

In 2016, the Danish Defence restructured the officer education, so going forward the applicants now must hold a bachelor’s degree or similar to access one of the officer educations. This changes the spectrum of applicants and reflects a new view on which capabilities an officer should possess. The narrative created with the change is that the officer education is not solely relevant as a leadership education to the Danish Defence but has relevance to a business context as well, making officers relevant leaders in a business perspective. The objective of this study is to investigate how military officers can be relevant as leaders in a non-military context as perceived by leadership professionals. Investigating this, we first need to understand how officers construct and make sense of the leadership they enact. To compare this to a non-military context, we also need to investigate how leadership professionals construct leadership in a non-military context, and how they perceive officers as leaders in relation to their leadership construction. Finally, we provide a perspective on how we can understand similarities and differences between the leadership understandings by discussing our findings. We investigate this based on a qualitative research approach where we apply social constructivism, allowing us to see how the officers and leadership professionals construct meanings of leadership, and how officers are perceived to be relevant leaders in a non-military context. We conducted 11 interviews with employees in the Danish Defence and 4 interviews with leadership professionals from different recruitment companies. In the examination of the interviewees’ sensemaking of leadership, we explored which perceptions and meanings were constructed by looking at how they bracketed and extracted cues. Our findings suggest that leadership professionals have equivocal perceptions of military officers' relevance as leaders in a non-military context. They perceive the officers' abilities to be operationally minded and executant in their leadership approach to be of possible relevance in organizations with a specific focus on operations. It is perceived that the officers can create followership and adapt to organizations focused on operational effectiveness, and thus capable of leading in such. This suggests that the associated capabilities to the administrative context of the Danish Defence are what makes the officers relevant, as these capabilities are closely related with the leadership professionals' perception of operational organizations, where capabilities like these are perceived to be highly relevant.

EducationsMSc in Strategy, Organization and Leadership, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2019
Number of pages344