Today, leaders and managers play a significant role in leading organizational change. According to Baesu and Bejinaru (2013), today’s managers consider leadership as a vital instrument that has a great potential in shaping the course of an organization, mainly through the process of directing employees. Since there are various problems within an organization, leaders and managers should always adopt strategic initiatives for change to allow the organization along with the employees to deal with various crises that afflict the organization effectively. Therefore, it is the role of leaders to implement change and manage crises within the organization, which as Prewitt and Weil (2014) articulates, yields competitive advantage if the crisis is effectively dealt with. Besides, as noted by Atkinson and Mackenzie (2015), without leadership, an organization will have nor direction or vision.
One of the organizations that are currently facing a crisis is the U.S. military, particularly in the parts of Africa and the Middle East where drone pilots are quitting their jobs in large numbers. Therefore, this reduces the effectiveness of the organization primarily because the employees are needed, especially in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) in the areas. Therefore, with the pilots resigning from jobs, it creates a crisis as the U.S. military is not capable of fulfilling its mission. Even though the drones are unmanned, they need people to operate them, which is roughly 30 individuals needed to operate to effectively meet the needs of U.S. intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). In addition to the 30 individuals that need to fly the drone, 80 more are required in analyzing the reams of the video the drone sends back, and these are either troops, contractors, or civilians. The problem is not new, rather, the U.S. Air Force has had trouble in the past for keeping up with the demands of ISR, but the organization is currently facing serious shortfalls in training the pilots to fly the drones. Approximately 180 pilots graduate annually from a training program that takes a year to complete, particularly in the Randolph and Holloman Air Force bases in Texas and New Mexico respectively. However, around 240 trained pilots quit the Air Force in a year. In essence, this is an alarming rate given that the combat air patrols need three or four drones in the field for ISR, translating to 180 staff members needed to fly them. Since the Air Force needs around 65 drone patrols to support the Global Response Force on call for an emergency, here should be around 1,700 trained pilots and the increasing dropout has driven this figure to below 1,000. The quitting is caused by being overworked while some of the pilots attribute leaving to avoidance of the long-distance version of the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to watching horrors of war of their video screens while piloting the drones. For instance, the drone pilots clock 900 to 1,800 hours annually compared to 300 hours logged by regular Air Force pilots.
Change Management Process
Therefore, change management to the crisis is vital. The U.S. military needs to implement change strategy that will halt the quitting of the drone pilots and also eliminate the issues that cause their departure, such as being overworked. Therefore, the U.S. Air Force needs to have more training bases for the drone pilots, which will at least triple the annual graduates. As the two military bases graduate 240 of them, the Air Force should open four of them, so that it they can graduate at least 720 of them on an annual basis (Chatterjee, 2015). Also, they also need to open a hospital for them so that they can gauge whether they are predisposed to PTSD, which will involve hiring psychiatric medical practitioners. In addition, the Air Force should ensure that the change is implemented faster, as well as motivate the pilots through financial and non-financial rewards.
As identified by Trainor and Velotti (n.d) in the aftermath of a crisis, strategic and operational leaders on the basis of their cognitive abilities make different assessments of the situation. In effect, they are generating an appreciative gap. In light of the U.S. air force, there needs to change, and thus, the Air Force leaders need to ensure that they have enough staff, including preventing the remaining pilots leaving the Air Force, which will see the annual clocking time reduce to be at par with that of regular Air Force pilots, which is 300 hours (Branen, 2015). The strategic considerations include the effectiveness of the drones to conduct ISR so that it makes it easier to target IS militants in the Middle East and Africa. They make it easier for surveillance because they can operate for at least 24 hours as opposed to manned fighting jets. In addition, the lives of people or personnel required to operate the jets are not put in jeopardy because the drones do not need anyone on board to control the air strikes or conduct surveillance, rather, the drone team, which is remotely located controls the ISR missions. The U.S. military needs the drone pilots more than ever as it provides a strategic advantage over IS among other terrorist groups because they act as the eye to the troops on the ground. Therefore, the drones should be perfectly working to provide ISR intelligence to allow the military to take strategic advances on terrorists.
The Air Force leaders need to be reactive to the crisis, which can be adopted using crisis management. According to Prewitt and Weil (2014), there are three phases of in the lifecycle of a crisis and the U.S. military crisis of drone pilots seems to have passed through the first two, preparation and emergency. In essence, the first cycle is preparation where leaders are cognizant of the signals of misplaced behaviors and values, and in the case of the drone pilots, it is quitting. Secondly, the emergency phase follows and it entails institutional awareness of the crisis. Thirdly, the cycle involves adaptive cycle, where the crisis is controlled. Therefore, there need to be measured for managing the crisis.
The elements of change for the included transparency, time (Prewitt and Weil, 2014), as well as vision (Malewska & Sajdak, 2014). According to Prewitt and Weil, leadership transparency is vital for crisis management and is not only about honesty, integrity, and credibility; rather it should also include interacting with the team members through accountability, openness and straight talk. Also, Prewitt and Weil assert that members will not be willing to follow them until they are satisfied that the leaders truly care about them, and the leaders should take care of physical, safety, belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization needs. Leaders will also need to implement a crisis mitigation plan that allows for continuous planning, through which they identify obstacles, effective resources, communication plan, and distribution of resources (Weil & Prewitt 2014). The time element is vital because the leaders need to plan on how to implement the mitigation strategy, as well as work with the pilots to identify the most appropriate plan to take. The leaders should also have various skills for the organization to deal with current and future crises including: anticipative, challenging, interpretive, decisive, appreciate learning and align with the organization’s goals, and promote a learning culture (Schoemaker, Krupp, & Howland, 2013).
In addition, the most appropriate leadership style in this crisis is the transactional style. Eagly, Johannesen-Schmidt and van Engen (2003) assert that in the transactional style, the leader capitalizes on the contingent reward for followers exhibiting satisfactory performance. According to Dionne et al. (2002) contingent, reward is critical in achieving viable performance outcomes. On a positive note, the leader actively attends to their failures actively to meet the set standards and guidelines. As such, the leader utilizes rewards to motivate the followers. In my opinion, this style is also not effective as the leader to some extent controls the followers through a transaction, they have to perform for them to be rewarded. Even though the leaders will perform optimally, they end up not enjoying idealized influence on behavior and attributes; there is no intellectual stimulation, as well as no individual consideration, which is present in the transformational leadership style. Therefore, the Air Force leaders need to motivate the drone pilots, which can be done financially and non-financially, which is the basis for transactional leadership. Non-financially, the U.S. Air Force should appreciate the efforts of the drone pilots. For instance, they can offer them appreciation gifts and recognition for each pilot involved in a successful ISR role. Further, through financial motivation, the U.S. Air Force should offer an attractive remuneration to the pilots, such as an increase of 75% of their salary, and this will work effectively in keeping them because this will motivate them. sss
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Chatterjee, P. (2015). American Drone Operators Are Quitting in Record Numbers. Retrieved from https://www.thenation.com/article/american-drone-operators-are-quitting- record-numbers/
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