Colonel (Ret) Christopher Paparone penned an excellent op-ed in Small Wars Journal regarding leadership styles appropriate for "ill-structured" or "wicked" problems, such as our modern counterinsurgency campaigns, as opposed to "command", associated with "well-structured" problems.
The topic has been discussed in some detail, most notably in TRADOC's Pamphlet 525-5-500, " Commander's Appreciation and Campaign Design". However, this excerpt from Col. Parapone's article serves as an excellent primer.
Command is something associated with speed of decision-making and the critical need to do something or not do something even if the commander is not sure his/her command is the right one. The sources of power for command are coercion and compliance. Command is autocratic (hierarchical and coercive) in that it requires obedience (in its ideal form, execution-without-question).
Management (or what the US military terms ―administration) is associated with deliberate (note the meaning of the term when hyphenated: de-liberate) setting of rules, process engineering, and rationally-derived resource allocation decisions to handle tame (recurrent) problems that have been solved before. Key management values are bureaucratic and technocratic (technological). The source of power for management is regulated by legal-rational rules and procedures.
Leadership is associated with wicked situations that make command and managerial technical rationality problematic. Whether the situation is diagnosed as critical, tame, or wicked should drive whether to exercise command, management or leadership (and as Grint concludes, the complexity of the situation may demand elements of all three—and it is an art form to properly blend them). The key source of power for leadership is democratic (heterarchical) in nature in that it comes from those who, through intuitive processes and emotional responses, choose to follow.
I'm enthusiastic, yet somewhat skeptical of calls for more decentralized leadership within the Army, such as those examined in the book " The Starfish and the Spider". For starters, modern technology has given us the ability to micromanage on an unprecedented scale. For example, the Army's new Digital Training Management System could theoretically allow senior leaders to examine the training records of platoons or even individual soldiers. There's also the issue of the Army's organizational culture. Leaders can often think "in their intellectual comfort zone", usually based on their experience at more junior grades. This can unintentionally result in micromanagement as well.
Finally, As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, and the Army moves to a more stable garrison environment—filled with well-structured problems—it will be even more difficult to foster a culture of innovation and decentralization. We will have lost the ill-structured environment which allows "leadership", as defined by Col. Parapone, to flourish.
How do we make true leadership—as opposed to command and management—a reality?