As history demonstrates, the challenge of leading a multinational coalition force or military alliance is not
new (Plante, 1998). In fact, it may be as old as war itself. From the time of Troy to the Crusades to the
Thirty Years Wars, from the Napoleonic Wars to the alliances of World Wars I and II, and from the
Korean conflict to the “war against terrorism” in Afghanistan, nations have associated with each other in
order to achieve a common purpose (Lescoutre, 2003; Elron, Shamir, & Ben-Ari, 1999).
Increasingly, however, and particularly since the end of the Cold War in 1989, the employment of military
forces in multinational operations demands a broader range of leadership competencies than previously
required of military commanders (MacIsaac, 2000). Contemporary coalition operations often consist of
new partners who typically have not trained together and who have very different military traditions and
cultures (Marshall, Kaiser, & Kessmeier, 1997). Indeed, cultural bias, deep seated religious prejudices,
and long historical memories have made the integration of a multinational force a significant leadership
challenge in the post-Cold War era (Plante, 1998). Further, since the Cold War, multinationality occurs
lower down in the chain of command, making it an issue for a broader range of personnel, whether at the
strategic, operational, or tactical level (Stewart, Macklin, Proud, Verrall, & Widdowson, 2004).
Proficiency in command or leadership at the operational level, for instance, requires the ability to integrate
the operations of different forces (e.g., within an alliance or coalition) towards the achievement of mission
objectives, despite sources of friction such as differences in goals, logistics, capabilities, training,
equipment, doctrines, intelligence, language, leadership, and cultural practices (Plante, 1998; Stewart,
Macklin, et al., 2004). In particular, McCann and Pigeau (2000) emphasize that building an effective
coalition force in today’s operations requires that a leader be able to weld together military personnel from
different cultures, who have varying abilities and expectations. This ability to integrate diverse forces will
become increasingly important as coalition operations become more prevalent and as such operations
depend more and more upon effective teamwork among members of diverse cultural backgrounds,
each with their own agenda, leadership expectations and style (Bisho, 2004; Bowman ; Pierce, 2003;
Klein, Pongonis, ; Klein, 2000; Plante, 1998). In short, while multinational missions vary in goals,
their participants vary in their agendas, leadership and command structures, and cultures (Klein et al.,
Scholarly work on managing global change in the new security environment has been sporadic and scarce,
with the exception of research conducted by military personnel or affiliates whose work is not widely
published (Graen, ; Hui, 1999). Cross-cultural leadership has not been a major topic of research or
training in most militaries (Teo, 2005). Further, much of the work on interoperability in multinational
military contexts has focused on technological issues and has neglected the role of human, and in
particular, intercultural, factors. This chapter, therefore, will focus on three major aspects of leadership in
the context of multinational military operations and intercultural factors, with a specific emphasis on the
human, cultural dimension. The first aspect pertains to individual leadership characteristics (including
traits, behaviors, and other attributes) that are important in the context of leading multinational,
intercultural military operations. The second aspect concerns the leadership implications of cultural
barriers to multinational teamwork. The third aspect pertains to leadership or command structures that
may be used in the context of multinational, intercultural military operations. The final section of the
chapter will focus on recommendations for leadership training and development in the context of
multinational, intercultural military operations and teams, and will be followed by a few general
concluding comments.
3 – 2 RTO-TR-HFM-120
3.2.1 Defining Leadership
Karol Wenek (2005), author of Leadership in the Canadian Forces: Conceptual Foundations,
defines leadership as “directly or indirectly influencing others, by means of formal authority or personal
attributes, to act in accordance with one’s intent or a shared purpose” (p. 7). Similarly, the United
Kingdom (UK) Doctrine for Joint and Multinational Operations (1999) suggests that leadership is
“essentially about the projection of personality and character to get others to do what is required of
them” (pp. 2 – 4). In the broader organizational scientific literature, no one definition of leadership has
been universally accepted, but in reviewing this literature, and echoing the military definitions, Riggio
(2000) defines leadership as “the ability to direct a group toward the attainment of goals” (p. 340). Despite
the many definitions of leadership that have been put forward in the military and broader scientific
literatures (see MacIsaac, 2000), contemporary leadership theorists generally agree that, rather than
reflecting universal qualities of effectiveness, successful leadership is contextual, in that different aspects
of leadership will emerge as effective depending on the broad organizational or cultural framework
(Gurstein, 1999). In the following section, characteristics (e.g., traits, behaviors, or other attributes) of
individual leaders or commanders that may enhance effectiveness in multinational, intercultural military
contexts are discussed.1
3.2.2 Leadership is More Challenging in Multinational Military Contexts
Gurstein (1999) argues that the requirements of a leader in the multinational context is similar in many
ways to those required of a leader in any other military context: the capacity to motivate; to direct while
including; to articulate and instil a sense of common direction and purpose; and to distil, reflect,
and project unifying symbols and cultural values. However, each of these requirements is more complex,
and more problematic, in a multinational, multicultural, multilingual context, such as the highly political
environment that is typical of a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission. For example, abilities in
mediation, conflict resolution, negotiation, diplomacy, cultural sensitivity, and behavioral flexibility are all
considered central to the task of leading a multinational peacekeeping force; but these are typically not
included as criteria in leadership selection and training (Gurstein, 1999). Other analysts have also
suggested that the requirements for leading a multinational coalition are more demanding and difficult
than the requirements for leading a national force. Bowman (1997) points out that coalition leaders must
clearly understand that coalition politics may override coalition military logic, and that coalition leaders
must be persuasive, not coercive, and sensitive to national needs. According to Barabé (1999),
the multinational force commander faces unique integration and unity of effort issues. Against a diversity
of impediments, political and otherwise, the commander must blend the skills of component forces so that
the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Similarly, Elron et al. (1999) suggest that the creation of trust
in multicultural military settings may be more difficult to achieve than in unicultural military settings,
and that commanders must play an integral role in establishing such trust within a multiculturally diverse

In this chapter, the terms leader and commander will be used interchangeably. However, it is important to point out that in a
military context, “command” has a legal imperative and commanders have the legal authority and responsibility to direct the
actions of subordinates who are subject to a code of service discipline (MacIsaac, 2000). Commanders are “leaders” as a result
of their rank, and their practice of leadership is an essential element of command (MacIsaac, 2000). Leadership by definition
and practice, however, and in contrast to command, does not always include a legal foundation (but may be based on personal
authority; see McCann ; Pigeau, 2000), and not all leaders are necessarily appointed nor do they all have legal authority to
direct followers’ actions (MacIsaac, 2000). These conclusions are particularly pertinent to the context of multinational
military operations, as commanders in peace support operations, for example, are often required to exercise leadership not
only in relation to subordinates as defined above, but frequently must do so when dealing with groups or individuals not in the
formal chain of command (MacIsaac, 2000). Similarly, leaders without formal authority over others may nevertheless be
called upon to lead others in a multinational military context, especially where warranted by the philosophy of “mission
command” (to be discussed).
RTO-TR-HFM-120 3 – 3
force. In short, increased cultural diversity within multinational military organizations will increase the
level of complexity in the military commander’s task at all levels, multiply the challenges facing military
leaders, and require new skills in negotiation, liaison, persuasion, and teamwork (Shamir ; Ben-Ari,
2000; see also Stewart, Macklin, Proud, Verrall, ; Widdowson, 2004).
3.2.3 Unity of Command vs. Unity of Effort/Purpose in a Multinational Military Context
It has been argued that the achievement of unity of command in World War II was due to the qualities of
individual officers, attributes such as confidence (both personal and mutual), logic, loyalty, selflessness,
devotion to a common cause, and a generous attitude (Wheatley ; Buck, 1999). However, it has also been
suggested that unity of command, under a single commander whose authority is clearly defined and absolute,
is much less attainable in contemporary multinational coalition operations, largely due to national chains of
command reaching into theater headquarters and below (Potts, 2004). Bowman (1997), for example, has
argued that the best a coalition commander can hope for is unity of effort rather than unity of command.
Similarly, Davis (2000a) has held that because of the political nature of coalitions, the fact that commanders
typically have restricted authority to direct and control personnel and materiel, and the fact that doctrinal
unity of command is rarely achieved in coalitions, operational commanders must focus on achieving unity of
effort towards common multinational objectives. Such unity of effort, or unity of purpose, may be gained
through cooperation and mutual confidence between coalition partners and the force commander; through
rapport and patience; through respect for different cultures, religions, and values; through an understanding
and knowledge of each member’s national goals, objectives, capabilities and limitations; through identifying
the appropriate mission for participating nations; and through the assignment of equitable tasks in terms of
burden and risk sharing (Potts, 2004; Davis, 2000a). Unity of effort requires that everyone works to achieve
the same ends within the commander’s intent, which must be disseminated and understood throughout the
multinational force (Potts, 2004). However, understanding intent will be a more complex issue when
compounded by linguistic and cultural differences (Potts, 2004). Recognizing the overriding impact of
politics, Davis proposes three strategies to maximize unity of effort within a coalition: innovative command
structures that satisfy national constraints; coordination and consensus building leading to the appropriate
employment of force; and development of mutual confidence and cooperation within the coalition’s senior
commanders and staff (i.e., through leader development and education). Potts (2004) suggests that direct
personal contact, whenever possible, will be critical to ensuring unity of effort and a common understanding
of commander intent.
3.2.4 Attributes of Effective Leadership in a Multinational, Intercultural Military
As is evident from the discussion above, many analysts agree that intercultural factors raise unique and
complex challenges for leaders of multinational military operations. Gillespie (2002) argues that
commanders must be aware of, and have the skills to properly address, the question of culture and diversity
and how it affects unity of effort in coalition operations. National interests and differences in doctrine, rules
of engagement, language, culture, logistics and technology, can all create frictions that could potentially lead
to problems in achieving the sense of unity needed to achieve a common goal (Gillespie, 2002). According
to Moelker, Soeters and vom Hagen (2007), who studied German-Dutch cooperation in Kabul, Afghanistan,
the role of leadership is critical in maintaining a multinational unit’s morale, in keeping good relations with
other units in the mission, and in creating cohesion within the unit. Whatever the similarities and differences
between various coalition forces, commanders must recognize the difficulty of integrating national forces
into a successful coalition (Bisho, 2004). As discussed previously, leaders and planners must ensure a
common understanding of coalition political goals in striving for full unity of effort (Bisho, 2004).
The coalition leader must build consensus regarding common goals and objectives, for it is this consensus
that provides the glue that binds the multinational force together (Davis, 2000a). Further, a multinational
coalition must share at least some elements of a common doctrine since this will determine force structure
and procedures. As Bisho (2004) suggests, successful coalition leaders will be those who best handle
3 – 4 RTO-TR-HFM-120
operational realities by applying the proper blend of vision, determination, patience, tolerance, and
flexibility. Further, as Davis (2000b) points out, coalition leadership must be sensitive to the fact that the
participating forces in a multinational operation are not always equally capable, and must assign individual
forces the missions that they are able to accomplish.
Indeed, the commander of a multinational force must have a thorough understanding of the capabilities
and weaknesses of each component and contributing unit, and must be attuned to national and political
sensitivities (UK Doctrine on Joint and Multinational Operations, 1999). This calls for political awareness,
patience, tact, respect, and mutual understanding based on knowledge of other nations’ languages, history,
and importantly, culture (UK Doctrine on Joint and Multinational Operations, 1999). Similarly, mutual
respect for the professional ability, culture, history, religion, customs, and values of participants will serve
to strengthen relationships. The military leader must respect the individual terms of service of the national
forces (e.g., leave and promotion rules, decorations policies, restrictions on types of acceptable
assignments), which may vary dramatically across contingents (see also McKee, Chapter 2). Finding a
means to reconcile these with the accomplishment of the mission is a significant responsibility for the
commander of a multinational peacekeeping force (Gurstein, 1999). The commander must weld all the
national contingents together into a strong and co-ordinated team, and by personal example, continue to
motivate the team. Further, there must be mutual understanding between the operational level commander
and component commanders to ensure unity of effort. In multinational operations, elements from other
nations may be embedded within each component and are likely to be responsive to their national chain of
command. This can cause friction, which the commander must overcome. In short, the force commander
must integrate all elements into the coalition force and maximize their contribution regardless of need,
size, or special competence (Bowman, 1997).
The present international security environment also involves working with many non-traditional
participants or partners, including members of other forces, organizations, and civilians (MacIsaac, 2000).
It is in this area that military leaders must assess the personalities and competencies of the individuals
involved, determine their specific interests, learn how to gain their support, and, where formal operating
agreements do not exist (or force protection/rules of engagement policies or interpretations vary; Potts,
2004), influence their actions to gain unity of effort (MacIsaac, 2000). Leaders must be able to shift from
an emphasis on formal agreed upon procedures to an emphasis in which liaison, negotiation, cultural
awareness, understanding, and patience elicit support (MacIsaac, 2000). Leaders must possess the
capacity to develop and adopt innovative solutions and methods for conflict resolution and to apply varied
leadership approaches to deal with diverse national aims or individual personalities (MacIsaac, 2000).
Gurstein (1999) has identified nine dimensions of leadership that are important in the context of
peacekeeping operations, many of which are applicable to multinational military operations more broadly.
• The first dimension is communication, or the capacity to receive and distribute information
accurately, promptly, and in a manner that can be understood and acted upon by the receiver. In a
national force, one can rely on a shared language and culture and the broadly shared acceptance of
the overall mission to facilitate communication; this is not necessarily so in a multinational
military operation.
• The second dimension is human relations, or the capacity to work with staff in such a way as to
motivate, develop, and coordinate their actions and participation. In a national force this activity
would be facilitated by the general familiarity and camaraderie that leaders have with their
followers and vice versa. In a multinational context, the need to stitch together working teams at
the command and operational level from individuals and units with a variety of cultural
backgrounds is a significant leadership skill and challenge.
• The third dimension is counselling, or the focused concern with the all around well-being of the
individual. In the peacekeeping or multinational military context, counseling is the responsibility
RTO-TR-HFM-120 3 – 5
of the national battalions. In UN peace forces, however, the counseling that might be expected
from senior officers might be inhibited because of national or cultural differences between senior
officers and field level troops.
• The fourth dimension is supervision, or the ability to coordinate the activities of subordinates and
work groups to meet organizational objectives. In this context, the activities of lower level
military supervisors to the battalion level would likely be similar to those activities in national
battalions. At the higher levels, however, lack of mission clarity may present a barrier to effective
• The fifth dimension is technological, or proficiency in technical operations and procedures.
Among the technical skills of particular importance in a multinational context are negotiation and
conflict resolution skills.
• The sixth dimension is management science, or the formal measurement or evaluation element of
management activity.
• The seventh dimension is decision making. In national forces, decision making is a highly valued
leadership quality. However, there may be ambiguities and difficulties in independent decision
making by military peacekeepers, for example, in the field.
• The eighth dimension is planning, which includes the activities of forecasting, setting objectives,
developing strategies, programming, budgeting, setting up procedures, and developing policies.
Leaders in multinational military contexts must be highly flexible and adaptable in order to
respond as required, for planning in such contexts is often ad hoc and situational.
• The ninth dimension is ethics. Ethics in a national force differs from that in a multilateral force in
that the mission of a national force tends to be relatively clear and a reflection of national interest.
By contrast, the mission of a multinational (e.g., peacekeeping) force may be much less clear and
may involve complicated activities in distant lands, only some of which may be considered
traditional military responsibilities. In peacekeeping situations, there is the additional
complication of expecting military leaders and subordinates to identify with a supranational
ethical standard where the operation is undertaken “on behalf of all of humanity” (Gurstein, 1999,
p. 212). Thus, there is the need to develop an ethical base to leadership in such morally difficult
environments as are found in many peacekeeping contexts (Gurstein, 1999). Further, as Graen and
Hui (1999) argue, cultural differences complicate ethical judgments, and leaders must find ways
to deal with these complexities, which is no small task.
3.2.5 Transformational Leadership: An Expanded Leadership Paradigm
In a multinational military context, contingents will each possess their own histories, traditions, morals
and values (Champagne, 1999). Thus, operational commanders will often be confronted with the challenge
of conducting operations under a united and multinational command, influenced by political direction
from multinational or multilateral organizations. The different contingents’ motivations will demand
that the commander foster a strong sense of purpose and trust, along with the capacity to deal with
highly complex operational situations while remaining cognizant of political and cultural aspects.
Indeed, multinational leadership skills involve more than simple team building skills and adaptability.
Given political constraints, and unclear civilian and political chains of command, multinational
commanders must exemplify leadership characterized by a strong sense of purpose, innovative thinking,
enthusiasm, individualized concerns, and satisfaction in accomplishment, while finding innovative ways to
reward and manage their troops (Champagne, 1999). In other words, as Champagne (1999) argues, what is
needed from a multinational commander is charismatic, inspirational, and intellectual leadership
(i.e., transformational leadership), and also aspects of transactional leadership (e.g., contingent reward,
management by exception). Transactional leadership occurs when a leader rewards or disciplines
followers based on the adequacy of their performance of mutually agreed or leader-assigned tasks
3 – 6 RTO-TR-HFM-120
(MacIsaac, 2000). Transformational leadership complements transactional leadership, and the full
spectrum of leadership competencies is needed (Champagne, 1999). Similarly, in discussing the Full
Range Leadership Model by Avolio and Bass, MacIsaac (2000) argues that transactional leadership must
be expanded to meet the new challenges that result from operational deployments in the more complex
and politically ambiguous, less certain, new world security environment. More specifically, in order for
leaders to develop enduring trust, loyalty, and commitment from followers, leaders must pay special
attention to individual followers’ needs for achievement and growth, and frequently act as coach or mentor
(MacIsaac, 2000) – all aspects of transformational leadership. Similarly, Shamir and Ben-Ari (2000)
suggest that multinational military leadership requires several aspects of transformational leadership,
such as individual consideration (sensitivity to members’ needs, respecting differences, and providing
opportunities for development) and intellectual stimulation (challenging others’ assumptions and
stereotypes, encouraging a viewing of the world from different perspectives, and fostering critical and
independent thinking). Thus, to be effective in today’s military environment, a commander must be
willing to adopt and apply the principles of transformational leadership in addition to the more typical
transactional leadership approach, and moreover, must be capable of transitioning from one approach to
the other, depending on the circumstances (MacIsaac, 2000; see also Shamir ; Ben-Ari, 2000).
Indeed, the ability to transition from one leadership style to another, depending on the cultural or
situational context, will be critical to multinational leadership, as different nations within a multinational
military contingent will value and respond positively to different styles of leadership. For example, as part
of the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) studies, and in addressing
the question of whether transformational leadership attributes would be “universally” endorsed in a sample
of 62 nations, Den Hartog et al. (1999) found that while some leadership traits (e.g., decisive, positive,
just and intelligent) were seen as universally positive, and other leadership traits (e.g., ruthless and
egocentric) were seen as universally negative, a number of leadership traits (e.g., sincerity, evasiveness,
cunningness, sensitivity, and enthusiasm) were indicative of effective leadership in some cultures but not
others. Similarly, because of the diverse values and core beliefs of different societies, concepts of
leadership are culture bound; for example, authority might be based on achievement, wealth, education,
charisma, or birthright, depending on the nation or culture (Lewis, 2000). In some societies, leadership is
individual (or even despotic), and authority and decision-making structures are hierarchical; in other
societies, leadership is collective, and authority and decision-making structures are more collaborative
(Lewis, 2000). The most effective leaders, therefore, will be those who can adapt their leadership style to
suit different cultural contexts (see also Lewis, 2000).
3.2.6 Combining Social, Emotional, and Cultural Intelligence: Transculturals
In addition to the above requirements, Champagne (1999) argues that an operational commander in a
multinational context must be able to deal with the social complexity, or the multiplicities, diversities,
and intricacies that are found in social dynamics and interconnections. Leaders will need both conceptual
and social competencies (i.e., “social intelligence”) in order to achieve success in high-tempo, diverse
multinational operations (see also Zaccaro, 1999). According to Zaccaro (2002), social intelligence
reflects an ability to successfully engage in social awareness, social acumen, response selection,
and response enactment. Similarly, Zaccaro, Gilbert, Thor, and Mumford (1991) maintain that effective
leaders possess social intelligence, which allows them to accurately perceive social requirements and
select appropriate behavioral responses. Zaccaro (1999) argues that effective military leadership entails the
utilization of various social competencies, and maintains that behavioral flexibility, conflict management,
persuasion, and social reasoning skills are critical for senior military leaders. Once again, such social
intelligence or cultural intelligence skills will be all the more critical and complex for multinational
military leaders (see Stewart, Cremin, Mills, ; Phipps, 2004). For example, such leaders will require the
ability to conduct cross-cultural dialogue and adapt their communication style to the situation, to engage in
active listening, and to be perceptive and sensitive to other cultures (Teo, 2005).
RTO-TR-HFM-120 3 – 7
Similarly, other analysts have suggested that leaders require “emotional intelligence,” or the ability to
perceive emotions, access and produce emotions to aid in thought processes, understand emotions and
emotional knowledge, and monitor emotions for the promotion of emotional and intellectual growth
(Mayer ; Salovey, 1997). Recently, increased importance has been placed on the emotional intelligence
of leaders due to findings suggesting that emotional intelligence can be used to facilitate transformational
leadership (see Zugek ; Korabik, 2004). Although the concept of emotional intelligence (and the use of
emotional intelligence tests for military selection and training) has been questioned (Day, Newsome, ;
Catano, 2002), the ability to understand emotional knowledge will be even more challenging and
important for multinational military leaders, given differences in emotional expression and communication
across different cultures.
Furthermore, as the world becomes more culturally pluralistic, transculturally skilled multinational
commanders will be needed, to transcend and accommodate cultural differences, and in order to integrate
people of different cultural backgrounds together in a unity of purpose (Graen ; Hui, 1999). Thus,
the challenge of multinational military operations is to select and train “transculturals” – those individuals
who transcend cultural differences and who can bring people of different cultures together (Graen ; Hui,
1999). In a similar vein, other analysts, such as Gareis and vom Hagen (2005), have also suggested the
importance of transcultural leadership skills. Indeed, Gareis and vom Hagen call for the transformation of
military multinationality into military transnationality, which corresponds to a culture that is more than
merely the sum of several national elements, and is thus transcultural. To the extent that multinational
military leaders can achieve this cultural integration, cooperation and unit effectiveness will be enhanced.
However, transcultural leaders will be required to deal not only with diversity within the multinational
force, but also with diversity in the local population. As problems become more complex due to
multinational, global issues, the need for cross-cultural teamwork becomes increasingly critical. Thus,
a way of command that promotes such teamwork, or what Graen and Hui have referred to as “Best
Leadership Practices,” is required. Similarly, Elron, Halevy, Ben-Ari, and Shamir (2003) discuss
interculturally effective leadership behaviors such as:
a) Integrating differences (e.g., bringing different cultural perspectives and preferences together,
resolving differences among them, and generating integrative solutions and compromises);
b) Bridging differences (i.e., communicating across differences, making efforts to understand them,
and building shared bases and commonalities, such as a shared military professionalism, lessons
learned, mission specific experiences, and supra ordinate goals); and
c) Tolerating differences (i.e., passive actions or inactions that allow others the space to act freely
according to their own cultural values, beliefs and norms; suspending quick judgment;
and avoiding treading on others’ cultural “comfort zone,” such as not ridiculing others’ religious
customs or practices) (see also Mannix ; Neale, 2005).
Reflecting the themes discussed above, Cremin, Mills, Phipps and Stewart (2005) have also discussed the
behavioral characteristics of effective multinational military leaders. These behaviors include: adopting a
flexible and adaptive command and leadership style in accordance with the foreign contingents under their
command; building personal and professional relationships with foreign contingents by paying them visits
and, where possible, socializing with them; establishing a shared “frame of reference” for the operation;
and engendering understanding and trust between the different nations by negotiating and building
relationships (see also Stewart, Cremin, et al., 2004). Further, the knowledge, skills, and attributes of
effective multinational commanders (Cremin et al., 2005) include leadership and coaching skills;
cognizance of other nations from a variety of perspectives and how they relate to one’s own nation;
empathy towards other nations; and self awareness and self control. Finally, Cremin et al. (2005) offer the
following “top 10 tips for multinational commanders:”
3 – 8 RTO-TR-HFM-120
1) If you don’t already have it, build your ‘national knowledge’ of the historical, social, political,
economic makeup of other nations in your command (along with a database of multinational
2) Be prepared to adapt your command style.
3) Prioritize relationship building. Mutual respect is key. The goal is to foster a communicative,
collaborative, and co-operative relationship.
4) Understand national contingent capabilities. Do not over task contingent forces, but build the
level of challenge in tasks slowly.
5) Don’t assume your way is the only way. Different approaches may be needed.
6) Negotiation is commonplace; command by discussion.2
7) Be prepared for variations in the standard of spoken English (and be careful about the use of
acronyms). Always seek closed loop communication when conveying important information.
8) Establish a common sense of purpose.
9) Where possible, establish a common operating procedure (COP) (e.g., when shared doctrine and
Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs are lacking, create a unifying set of COPs/SOPs).
10) Promote equity of risk and reward.
3.2.7 Assisting Multinational Military Leaders: Liaison Officers and Liaison Teams
In past coalitions, the problem for multinational military leaders of establishing unity of effort or
command has been alleviated to some degree by the use of liaison officers and teams at the operational
and tactical levels (Gillespie, 2002). These groups of personnel are conversant in the national language
and culture of the forces involved, can smooth out communication problems, and may enhance
coordination and cooperation (Gillespie, 2002). These “directed telescopes” or teams of well trained
liaison officers allow the commander to get regular feedback on the comprehension and compliance of
coalition forces in theater (Davis, 2000a; Gillespie, 2002). As will be discussed later in this chapter,
the concept of liaison teams was used in the Persian Gulf War, for example, when General Schwarzkopf
selected a group of liaison teams that established communications between his headquarters and the major
coalition partners. This team reported back to the Coalition Coordination and Communications Center,
which provided information and clarified orders to coalition members (Gillespie, 2002). Similarly,
the formation of “geostrategic scouts,” or officers who have the requisite linguistic, cultural, historical,
regional, and geopolitical knowledge, can assist coalition commanders when they move into various
regions of the world (see Davis, 2000a). Through these mechanisms, unity of effort at the operational and
tactical level can be achieved by confirming that the commander’s intent is properly developed,
communicated, and carried out.
Liaison officers can also assist with technological interoperability in multinational forces which often
involves intercultural issues (Macklin, Christie, ; Stewart, 2004). According to Metz (as cited in Marshall
et al., 1997), asymmetries in technology among coalition partners poses the greatest threat to cohesion and
effectiveness during combat operations (see also Mazakowski, Chapter 7). Thus, while force
modernization has the potential to increase interoperability, it also brings new challenges that could
compromise unity of effort in multinational forces. The challenge for a commander is to balance any loss
of tempo by the most technologically capable elements of the force, against the inclusion of the least
capable, in a way that achieves the operational aim. It is also necessary for digitally superior headquarters
to provide digitized liaison teams to bring appropriate links and functionality to subordinate headquarters.

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It should be noted, however, that in some cultural contexts, a more directive leadership or command approach may be more
RTO-TR-HFM-120 3 – 9
Ironically, the requirement for human liaison in the information age will be greater than ever before,
especially in multinational, intercultural operations. One key element in this new security environment
will be empowered, trained, and equipped liaison officers of appropriate rank that can provide the
lubrication to make the system work (Potts, 2004). Thus, trained liaison teams knowledgeable in military
technology and doctrine, as well as in language and culture, are important for mission success, as such
teams can greatly assist with the understanding of commander intent (Bowman, 1997; see also Macklin et
al., 2004; Stewart, Cremin, et al., 2004; and Stewart, Macklin, et al., 2004).
Regardless of technology, there are several human interoperability issues that must be addressed in
multinational military operations. The most obvious is language. English is now the dominant language in
business and international popular culture. It has also emerged as the language of choice of the North
Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO’s) multinational High Readiness Force Land Headquarters.
This means that it will become increasingly important for native English speakers to be able to speak other
languages in order to enhance cultural sensitivity, and in order to build mutual understanding and respect
(Bowman, 1997; Macklin et al., 2004; Potts, 2004; Stewart, Macklin, et al., 2004). Language training must
therefore become an integral part of officer development (Potts, 2004). The language problem can be
lessened by the early identification of the need for translator support and the use of multilingual liaison
personnel (UK Doctrine for Joint and Multinational Operations, 1999). Further, interpreters can assist not
only with translation but may also act as cultural, diplomatic, and political mediators (Bos ; Soeters, 2006).
Another issue is food. Recent anecdotal evidence suggests that food will remain a key cultural
interoperability issue (Potts, 2004; Bisho, 2004). Further, it is recommended that commanders strive to
accommodate religious holidays, festivals, prayer calls, and other unique cultural traditions important to
various contingents, depending on the circumstances (Bowman, 2004; UK Doctrine for Joint and
Multinational Operations, 1999). In the Persian Gulf War, for instance, recognition and accommodation of
Arab cultural differences were essential in gaining consensus and maintaining cohesion within the
coalition. To assist with cultural and language challenges, linguists and area experts may be employed by
commanders at all levels (UK Doctrine for Joint and Multinational Operations, 1999).
In short, the skills required for effective leadership in multinational military operations are significantly
more complex than those required in national and culturally homogenous military forces, and will present
unique challenges in the present global context (Gurstein, 1999).
It is evident that cultural differences in language, nonverbal behavior, and body language (e.g., differences
in voice inflections or facial expressions; norms regarding acceptable length of eye contact or personal
distance; variations in handshakes) may all pose challenges to intercultural communication in
multinational military contexts (Desimone, Werner, ; Harris, 2002; Gillespie, 2002; see also Riedel,
Chapter 6). In this section, however, potential cognitive cultural barriers to communication and teamwork
in multinational military contexts will be examined, with a particular focus on implications for leadership
and command (Hofstede, 1980, 1983, 1991; Klein, 2005; Klein et al., 2000).
3.3.1 Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
In multinational military operations, as in other military contexts, command and control depends on a shared
understanding of the intent of the mission. Participants must be aware of the goals and expectations for
collaboration. Mission success requires communication and the monitoring of ongoing operations. Military
personnel need to understand the reasoning patterns, judgments, and decision making of multinational
coalition members in complex environments. However, during complex, time pressured missions, such as
3 – 10 RTO-TR-HFM-120
are typical of coalition operations, judgments must be made in the face of considerable uncertainty.
Moreover, cultural differences may affect such cognitive tasks as planning, problem detection, situation
awareness, uncertainty management, and decision making. If commanders assume that others interpret and
react as they do, manage uncertainty as they do, and think about real and hypothetical issues as they do, then
there can be problems in command and control (Klein, 2005; Klein et al., 2000). Further, command and
control can be an even bigger issue in distributed situations, where face-to-face personal contact is not
possible, and feedback is limited (Klein et al., 2000). Although technology can assist communication in
distributed situations, technology does not always provide a suitable medium for conveying important
messages involving statements of intent, such as commander’s intent (Macklin et al., 2004). Further, the
greater the number of nations with disparate cultures, the greater the quantity of information available and
the greater the complexity of collaboration and coordination (Lichacz ; Farrell, 2005).
In the 1980s, Geert Hofstede made a comprehensive attempt to capture national value and cultural
differences through a cross-cultural classification scheme of work-related values in organizations
(Handley ; Levis, 2001). This classification scheme was based on four dimensions: power distance,
uncertainty avoidance, individualism-collectivism, and masculinity-femininity (Hofstede, 1980, 1983,
1991). Power distance relates to the amount of respect and deference between those in superior and
subordinate positions, or the extent to which the less powerful in a system accept and expect an unequal
distribution of power (see also Klein et al., 2000). Uncertainty avoidance relates to planning, and the
creation of stability, as a means for dealing with uncertainty. Individualism-collectivism relates to whether
one’s identity is defined by personal goals and achievements or by the character of the collective group to
which one belongs. Masculinity-femininity refers to the relative emphasis on achievement versus
interpersonal harmony.3
Hofstede subsequently assessed these value dimensions among thousands of IBM
employees in 72 national cultures and in 20 languages (Hofstede, 1991; see also Gerstner & Day, 1994;
House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, & Gupta, 2004; and Javidan & House, 2001). Although the
generalizability and validity of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions have been questioned (see Klein et al.,
2000), his work is generally seen as a step forward in understanding and measuring differences in national
culture and values (Handley ; Levis, 2001). In particular, the dimensions of power distance and
uncertainty avoidance have been seen as useful conceptualizations of national cognitive differences
relevant to leadership (Klein et al., 2000). Power distance appears to describe a leadership style, while
uncertainty avoidance relates to the concept of risk assessment in leaders’ decision making (Klein et al.,
Since Hofstede’s work was first introduced, many military researchers and analysts have incorporated his
dimensions, and other related cognitive factors, into their analysis of cultural barriers to teamwork.
For example, Bowman and Pierce (2003) have described four cognitive cultural barriers to teamwork that
they argue influence communication, coordination, and decision making in multinational military
contexts. Expanding on Hofstede’s conceptualizations, these four dimensions include power distance,
tolerance for uncertainty, the individualism/collectivism dichotomy, and cultural differences in reasoning.
In Bowman and Pierce’s terms, power distance describes the extent to which less powerful individuals in
a system accept inequality. In low power distance relationships, working patterns are more egalitarian and
team processes are more collaborative and interactive. In contrast, in high power distance teams, leaders
tend to be directive, thereby constraining team creativity and collaboration. Tolerance for uncertainty
reflects the amount of discomfort experienced by an individual or team in the presence of unknown
factors. A low tolerance is marked by a search for details through rules and structure, whereas individuals
or teams who act or make decisions in the face of incomplete knowledge are exhibiting a high tolerance
for uncertainty. This difference can cause problems in a team, or among teams, if members or teams with
high and low tolerances must work together. One member or team will start slowly, collecting as much
information as possible, while the other member or team will move quickly toward an end product or

Since Hofstede’s original work, a fifth dimension, long-term orientation, has been added. Long-term orientation focuses on
the degree to which a culture embraces, or does not embrace, long-term values such as perseverance and thrift (see also
Riedel, Chapter 6).
RTO-TR-HFM-120 3 – 11
solution. The individualism/collectivism dichotomy reflects a preference for working alone or in a group.
This dimension includes a preference for building relationships among team members as contrasted with a
focus on individual task achievement. Individualists often view the mission as primary and relationships
among team members as secondary, whereas collectivists view team relationships as critical to producing
a viable team product. Finally, cultural differences in reasoning can also emerge in the context of
multinational operations. Such differences may be related to concrete versus hypothetical thought patterns:
Hypothetical thinkers are capable of envisioning several solutions to a problem, while concrete thinkers
prefer to have detailed plans of action and often use previously used solutions to solve new tasks. These
differences can cause problems in a team setting when a course of action is unclear or when conditions
require changes to a plan. The hypothetical thinker is capable of generating several possible solutions,
while a concrete thinker may view this as avoiding the problem at hand (Bowman & Pierce, 2003).
3.3.2 Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, and Leadership
As indicated above, Hofstede’s dimensions have important implications for leadership. For example,
masculinity-femininity may affect whether the leader (and team members) are more focused on the
task/achievement or on harmonious interpersonal relationships. Individualism-collectivism may affect
whether the leader (and team members) are focused more on their own personal goals or the goals of the
collective. Long-term vs. short-term orientation may affect whether the leader (and team members) are
open to change or seek to uphold traditions. However, the cultural dimensions of power distance and
uncertainty avoidance appear to be especially pertinent to leadership and command. Differences in power
distance, for instance, are reflected in leadership style, as well as in the interpersonal power and influence
between the superior and the subordinate. In cultures with low power distance, we would find more
collaborative, egalitarian working patterns and team interchanges, less centralized or top down decision
making, and flatter organizational structures (Handley ; Levis, 2001). It is interesting to note that even
among NATO nations, there are variations in power distance. For example, some studies have shown
Norway and Denmark to be low on this dimension, while Turkey, France, and Belgium have been found
to be high on power distance, which is associated with a more top down, hierarchical, authoritarian
leadership style (Hofstede, 1980; see also Soeters, Tanercan, Varoglu, ; Sigri, 2004; but cf. Elron et al.,
1999). Similarly, Soeters (1997) found strong cultural differences in power distance in the military
academies of 13 nations, with the UK military academy showing the highest level of power distance
among all the academies studied (see also Soeters ; Bos-Bakx, 2003; and Soeters ; Recht, 2001).
Significantly, there are also implications of power distance for mission command, or the command
doctrine underlying manoeuvre warfare. Mission command is designed to achieve unity of effort, a faster
tempo, and initiative at all levels; it requires decentralization of authority and decision making (see Davis,
2000b). The emphasis is on the development of skills and the transmission of a commander’s intent so that
personnel at all levels can function effectively when unexpected events occur with no time for additional
input from above (Handley & Levis, 2001). Comfort with this approach will vary with differences in
power distance (Klein et al., 2000; UK Doctrine for Joint and Multinational Operations, 1999; see also
Soeters et al., 2004). Specifically, cultures that are low in power distance will be comfortable with the
mission command approach to command and control, whereas cultures that are high on power distance
will be less comfortable with this approach (see also Stewart, Macklin, et al., 2004). As Potts (2004)
suggests, some nations have inscribed the concept of mission command into their military cultures,
allowing subordinates considerable freedom of action and discretion to take the initiative within the
commander’s intent as circumstances change. Others expect to command, and be commanded, by detailed
orders, with a need for frequent reporting back to superiors and further direction as circumstances change.
Potts argues that nations must work towards a common understanding of mission command in order to
maximize effectiveness in multinational operations, while recognizing and accommodating different
approaches. Similarly, Soeters (1997) has argued that commanding officers of international military units
should be aware that their leadership or management styles are not necessarily understood in the same
manner by different nations, and that they should show mutual understanding and promote multinational
3 – 12 RTO-TR-HFM-120
teamwork on an equal status basis, with shared interests and common goals for all nations involved.
One way to achieve this, as mentioned previously, is for leaders to adapt their leadership styles to suit the
situation and cultures of their component forces.
Differences in uncertainty avoidance, or the extent to which members of a culture experience uncertainty
as stressful and the extent to which they take actions to avoid uncertainty, are also relevant to leadership,
and in particular, to decision making (Hofstede, 1980, 1991). People (e.g., leaders) who are high on
uncertainty avoidance experience change and ambiguity as highly stressful; thus, they may seek out rules
that will provide structure and order for change, and are uncomfortable with making decisions in the face
of uncertainty (Klein et al., 2000). An organization that scores high on uncertainty avoidance will have
standardized and formal decision-making procedures (Handley ; Levis, 2001), and a military
organization that is high on uncertainty avoidance is less likely to be comfortable with mission command
(Stewart, Cremin, et al., 2004). In contrast, people (leaders) who are low on uncertainty avoidance are
more comfortable making decisions in the face of uncertainty (Hofstede, 1980, 1991). In organizations
with low uncertainty avoidance, decision-making procedures will be less formal and plans will continually
be reassessed for needed modifications (Handley ; Levis, 2001). Uncertainty avoidance also influences a
national group’s readiness to adapt in the face of an unexpected development. High stakes, time pressured
decision making is coordinated when multinational collaborators are similar on uncertainty avoidance and
risk assessment. However, it is difficult for people who value spontaneity and last-minute decisions to
coordinate actions with those who need firm, committed plans. When operations include people with
different tolerances for uncertainty, there can be tension. A leader or decision maker with high uncertainty
avoidance is likely to follow the procedure regardless of circumstances, whereas a leader or decision
maker with low uncertainty avoidance may be more innovative (Handley & Levis, 2001). Among NATO
nations, Portugal and Greece are rated high on uncertainty avoidance while Denmark and the United
States (US) are rated as low (Hofstede, 1980). Thus, the challenge for a commander or leader is to
recognize cultural differences in these areas and use them to balance perspectives rather than to create
disharmony (Klein et al., 2000).4
Indeed, although analysts agree that national cultural differences in cognition may present barriers to
successful coalition command and control, coordination and communication (Handley & Levis, 2001;
Klein et al., 2000), these cultural differences may be overcome. Klein et al. (2000), for example, propose a
cultural lens concept that captures cultural differences in reasoning, judgement, and authority structure
(see also Klein, 2005). A cultural lens is a metaphor to allow those involved in command and control
operations to see their world as if through the eyes of other participants and to understand how options are
conceptualized and evaluated. According to Klein et al. (2000), the ability to decenter that is brought
about through the cultural lens can support the anticipation of actions, facilitate accurate judgements,
and lead to the effective negotiation of differences. Further, seeing the world through the cultural lens of
others may increase common vision in the face of divergent views (Klein, 2005). In short, a cultural lens is
a tool that a multinational leader can use to strengthen common ground and the coordination of action, and
to enhance understanding in the context of multinational military operations (see also Lewis, 2000).
Before proceeding to a discussion of leadership and command structures, it may be pertinent to discuss
some of the implications of network enabled operations (NEOps) or network centric warfare for the
leadership of intercultural, distributed military teams.5
According to the 2005 Canadian Forces (CF)
keystone document on NEOps, the objectives of NEOps are to improve the planning and execution of

In addition, differences in activity orientation may also be associated with cultural differences in decision making or
leadership style (Klein et al., 2000). “Do-ers” take a pragmatic approach to decision making and are more focused on work
and achievement, while “be-ers” tend to be more concerned with interpersonal relationships (see also Klein, 2005).
At the time of this writing, NEOPs is the term used in Canada, while NCW is used in the US, where it constitutes a pillar of
ongoing transformation of the military. Similarly, the UK has adopted this concept as Network-Enabled Capabilities (NEC)
and NATO has begun its implementation under the name NATO Network Enabled Capabilities (NNEC). Sweden refers to it
as Network Based Defence (NBD) and has made this concept the center of its future defence forces. Australia, New Zealand,
Singapore, and Germany are other examples of nations that have adopted this concept.
RTO-TR-HFM-120 3 – 13
operations through the use of information and communication technology linking people, processes,
and ad hoc networks (Department of National Defence, 2005). Such operations are intended to allow joint,
interagency, multinational and public stakeholders, as appropriate, to access information and data
seamlessly, from a wide range of sources, in order to facilitate effective and timely interaction between
sensors, leaders and effects. The results should be an expanded awareness and comprehension of the
environment (situational awareness), improved access to timely, relevant information, improved reaction
time and synchronization of activity, and improved ability to act. Further, through a clear understanding of
the commander’s intent and the operational picture, leaders, including those at subordinate levels, will be
able and expected through NEOps to exercise increased initiative, thus enabling a greater degree of
mission command to take place. Furthermore, according to the CF keystone document, NEOps will
enhance the ability to work effectively with allies, coalition participants and a range of governmental and
non-governmental defence and security partners to achieve a common goal, with due consideration for any
legal, jurisdictional, or proprietary constraints (Department of National Defence, 2005). Thus, NEOps is
expected to increase interoperability. NEOps may also be viewed as the means by which the effects
desired by a commander (i.e., effects based operations) are most successfully achieved.6
as discussed previously, not all nations are equally comfortable with the notion of mission command or
the decentralized power/authority (low power distance orientation) that is permitted by NEOps, and not all
nations are equally technologically equipped (or “net ready”) for NEOps in the first place (see also
Masakowski, Chapter 7). Further, effective NEOps require a high degree of trust between partners
(e.g., in order to share information), and this will place unique demands on the skills of leaders and
commanders in order to engender such trust without the benefit of direct personal contact. Indeed, NEOps
will require the shaping of culture to realize greater information sharing and collaboration, higher levels of
trust, and greater devolution of authority.7
In short, NEOps is fundamentally a human endeavour,
not simply a technological practice, in which intercultural factors and awareness play a critical role.
It is likely that training, as well as strong leadership, will be required to build trust and confidence between
nations that may have to collaborate on a distributed and temporary basis within the context of NEOps.
3.4.1 Types of Command Structures
It is widely accepted that the most important principle for international coalition effectiveness is a defined
and viable command and control structure (MacIsaac, 2000). The command structure will determine who
is in charge, and the command authority will determine the authority that the commander will have over
the force (Lescoutre, 2003). However, the issue of command structure may be especially contentious and
complicated within the context of an intercultural, multinational military operation (Bowman, 1997;
Lescoutre, 2003). As Gillespie (2002) points out, the national interests of forces involved in a
multinational operation may lead to potential conflicts. Alliances can deal with these issues by established
command and control structures that take into account differences in national procedures (Gillespie,
These structures have personnel from each of the alliance members, who become integral to the

An effects based approach can be seen as an outcomes versus outputs approach to operations. Outcomes (e.g., damage to
specific enemy capabilities) are distinct from outputs (e.g., sortie rates); further, outputs may not have a direct effect on the
desired outcomes of the military campaign. As seen above, some analysts view NEOps as simply enablers for effects based
In order to ensure interoperability, militaries will likely have to adopt international data standards such as those developed by
NATO or the Armies of the United States, Britain and Canada (ABCA). Such interoperability, however, will likely be realized
most readily by nations with similar levels of technological expertise.
It should be recognized, however, that even among NATO nations, there is a lack of universally accepted definitions of
command authorities. Both officials and planners need to be aware that command authority definitions are not internationally
standardized, may conflict with many similar national definitions, and are often modified for specific operations (DurellYoung,
1997). Consensus is also lacking within NATO regarding whether an allied commander can do something not
explicitly proscribed under his/her command authority (Durell-Young, 1997).
3 – 14 RTO-TR-HFM-120
command and planning process in both operational and logistical billets, and this integration, along with
addressing potential problems early on, creates a sense of trust amongst the participants (Gillespie, 2002).
In short-term coalition efforts, however, commanders will typically not have the same luxury, as time will
be a factor, and leadership must be based on trust, persuasion, and sensitivity to national needs (Gillespie,
Whatever the command structure, multinationality poses a number of challenges, the resolution of which is
critical to military effectiveness and operational success. These challenges include the formation of an
effective command and control system, an intelligence system that can employ data from a number of
multinational and national sources, and a logistics system that takes into account the need for national
support but also multinational needs. The coalition commander must be responsible for co-ordinating all
military infrastructure within the theater of operations, and the presence of civilian groups, nongovernmental
organizations, and private voluntary organizations will make the coordination requirements
even greater (Bowman, 1997). All things considered, multinational command requires an attitude of mind
that is international in perspective (UK Doctrine for Joint and Multinational Operations, 1999).
The structure of command within multinational military operations may take a number of forms. Current
doctrine generally recognizes three main types of coalition command structures: lead nation command,
parallel command, and integrated command (Durell-Young, 1997; see also Lescoutre, 2003;
and Overton, 2003). As Lescoutre (2003) suggests, the commander of a multinational military force must
choose a command structure that will maximize the potential to command and provide for unity of effort
or purpose throughout the coalition. However, current doctrine does not offer any guidance to a force
commander as to which command structure may be preferable in any given coalition situation (Lescoutre,
2003). Durell-Young (1997) has identified three characteristics that should be considered when selecting a
command structure (see also Lescoutre, 2003). First, the commander must be cognizant of the political
dimension that influences the coalition dynamic, and must thoroughly understand the political objectives
to be achieved, in order to select the optimum command structure (Lescoutre, 2003). Second, if a coalition
must intervene rapidly into a conflict, then a strong lead nation command structure is recommended
(Lescoutre, 2003). This lead nation should be regionally based and maintain its existing integrated
headquarters (Lescoutre, 2003). Third, if there is a vast diversity of cultures involved in the coalition, then
a parallel command structure should be selected (Lescoutre, 2003). A strong spirit of cooperation and
mutual support between the multinational commanders must accompany a parallel command structure
(see Durell-Young, 1997; Lescoutre, 2003; cf. Bowman, 1997).
3.4.2 Command Structures in Action: Case Histories
Lescoutre (2003) illustrates considerations for selecting a command structure in the context of four
coalition operations: the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, and the UN International
Force in East Timor (INTERFET). These examples or case histories are detailed in the paragraphs below. Lead Nation Command
As Lescoutre (2003) explains, the lead nation command structure is present when one of the nations in a
multinational coalition has the acknowledged and explicit lead role. This role normally includes the
position of multinational force commander and the domination of the command and control element in the
headquarters. In most cases, the lead nation has the largest force in the operation; further, all other national
elements in the coalition are subordinate to the lead nation with some specific conditions over the use and
control of their forces. Depending on the size and duration of the operation, the force commander will
integrate, within his/her headquarters, a number of coalition member representatives based on each
nation’s contribution. This integration of the headquarters also provides smaller coalition members with
the feeling that they are playing a role in the leadership of the mission. However, the greater the
contribution that a nation makes to the coalition operation, the greater the role that a nation will have in
RTO-TR-HFM-120 3 – 15
the decision-making process. The UN sponsored operations in Korea (in which the US took the lead) and
in East Timor (in which Australia was the lead nation) are two examples of a lead nation command
structure in coalition operations (Lescoutre, 2003; Wheatley & Buck, 1999). As will be seen below, even
where there is a lead nation command structure, lead nations depend on the support from liaison teams or
coalition operating regions in order to achieve mission success. Further, lead nations must respect the
culture and traditions of subordinate nations, or problems may arise.
In the Korean War, there were significant cultural and language differences between the Republic of
Korea (ROK) and the Eighth US Army (EUSA). Differing religious customs, the importance of “saving
face,” and the limited number of translators in the Hangul language, as well as the lack of modern
technical terms within this language, were difficult challenges (Wheatley & Buck, 1999). To facilitate
joint operations, a liaison corps (i.e., the US Military Advisory Corp, or KMAG) was established between
the EUSA and ROK units. The KMAG’s main responsibilities were to maintain a liaison between the
ROK Army and the EUSA and to assist the ROK Army by providing guidance and suggestions relating to
US actions and intentions. As the liaison, the KMAG Headquarters was co-located within the ROK Army
Headquarters. Since the KMAG advisors were also assigned to ROK units, they were able to provide
information regarding the activities and status of these units to EUSA. Despite problems within the
KMAG, including not having enough advisors and equipment, the KMAG helped to overcome language
and cultural differences between the coalition partners (Wheatley ; Buck, 1999).
In East Timor (Operation Stabilize), in which Australia, the largest contributing nation, was the lead
nation, more than 20 culturally diverse countries participated (Lescoutre, 2003). However, the cultural
diversity of the coalition members did not impact negatively on the success of the mission. Lescoutre
(2003) attributes this success to two main factors. First, since the Australian Defence Forces were already
structured to operate in the region, most of the coalition members were regionally based. Second,
the theater commander (General Peter Cosgrove) of the INTERFET made every attempt to meet the goals
and concerns of the troop contributing nations (Lescoutre, 2003; see also Ballard, 2001). In fact,
INTERFET built upon the strong relationships that existed among the Australian, New Zealand, UK,
and American elements of the coalition. This trust made for fluid communication among the English
speaking members of the coalition (Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Canada, and the US). Significantly,
it was among these nations, which shared a common language and similar culture, where most of the
communication occurred within the coalition (Ballard, 2001). Further, within the INTERFET staff,
Thailand’s General Songkitti Jaggabatara served as both a national command element commander and
General Cosgrove’s deputy. This assignment was designed as a contribution to coalition cohesiveness,
and although the complexity of both roles did not always coalesce, the effort was successful. The key issue
was the method of ensuring centralized control of the entire coalition while facilitating the execution of
assigned tasks by national elements using their own doctrines and procedures. General Cosgrove
alleviated this problem by employing coalition operating regions (Ballard, 2001). Parallel Command
The second type of command structure is the parallel command model, in which two or more
multinational headquarters exist with their respective subordinated coalition forces, but no single force
commander is designated (Lescoutre, 2003). The member nations retain control of their own forces,
and command responsibilities are shared (Lescoutre, 2003). The parallel multinational headquarters
achieve unity of effort through the formation of a 24-hour Coalition Coordination, Communications,
and Integration Center (C3
IC) (Lescoutre, 2003). The functions of the center are to coordinate the various
activities between the multinational headquarters; to communicate and disseminate the various orders and
transmissions (including translation from one language to another); to act as the focal point for force
sustainment, host nation support and movement control; and to integrate the coalition forces in terms of
doctrine, training, and strategies (Lescoutre, 2003). Staff elements from each coalition member are
represented in the C3
IC (Lescoutre, 2003).
3 – 16 RTO-TR-HFM-120
A recent example of parallel command structure is the coalition operation in the Persian Gulf War
(Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm), in which Western coalition forces came under the control of a
US force commander (General Schwarzkopf), and the Arab and Muslim coalition forces came under the
control of a Saudi force commander (General Khaled Bin Sultan) (Lescoutre, 2003). In Operation Desert
Storm, coalition effectiveness was an early priority and the military commanders understood that a
structure had to be developed that incorporated each national contribution in a way that maximized its
effectiveness and minimized its limitations (Ballard, 2001). Both force commanders recognized the
diversity of the cultures involved in the coalition and judiciously selected a parallel command structure for
their respective multinational operations (Lescoutre, 2003). As suggested above, the spirit of cooperation
and mutual support between the two multinational headquarters was due in large part to the existence of
the coordination center – the C3
IC – which facilitated the combined planning process and improved the
everyday integration of coalition operations (Lescoutre, 2003). Although the C3
IC cell did not have
command authority or a direct role in the campaign planning process, it was particularly efficient at
integrating the efforts of the two major partners (or “lead nations”)9
in the coalition into a unity of effort,
through the assignment of missions that were consistent with political restrictions, military requirements,
and force capabilities (Barabé, 1999). Without usurping the power of the two multinational headquarters,
the C3
IC provided the linkage that contributed to the success of the coalition, and proved critical to the
success of Operation Desert Storm (Lescoutre, 2003).10
Furthermore, the personal rapport, dialogue, and good working relationship between General Schwarzkopf
and General Khaled Bin Sultan were all instrumental in resolving any cultural issues that surfaced during
the conflict (Lescoutre, 2003). Indeed, there were vast cultural differences in the coalition as reflected in
national traditions, language, religions (Islam vs. non-Islam), class (officers vs. soldiers), gender roles,
discipline, cultural tolerances (e.g., between Arab and non-Arab states), the issue of “saving face,”
discomfort with outsiders, and standards of living (Western vs. Middle Eastern) (Lescoutre, 2003;
Wheatley ; Buck, 1999). Due to his personal knowledge of Middle Eastern culture, and the input of
foreign assistance officers, General Schwarzkopf understood that the coalition’s efforts against Iraq were
extremely vulnerable to cultural sensitivities, and therefore he made sure to foster cross-cultural
interaction throughout the campaign (Dickinson, 2004). In addition, the use of culturally aware liaison
teams in the parallel headquarters also contributed to the success of the parallel command structure
(Dickinson, 2004). In short, the recognition and accommodation of Arab cultural differences were
essential in gaining consensus and maintaining cohesion within the coalition. Although General Khaled
bin Sultan recognized that the US would make the ultimate command decisions, the parallel command
structure assured Saudi Arabia the retention of its sovereignty as well as its religion, culture,
and traditions, and enabled the coalition to exercise a united front (Lescoutre, 2003). Integrated Command
A third type of command structure, which is not as widely recognized in the doctrine as the other two,
is the integrated coalition command structure (Lescoutre, 2003). This type of structure is present when all
coalition members participate equally in the operation and are represented in the command headquarters to
assist the force commander, who is usually selected amongst the contributing nations, in making decisions
(Lescoutre, 2003). Good examples of such command structures can be seen in many UN sponsored

Some recent literature refers to the command structure in the Persian Gulf War as combination (lead and parallel), or hybrid
(Lescoutre, 2003; see also Wheatley & Buck, 1999). Indeed, according to Durell-Young (1997), the three basic command
structures (lead nation, parallel, integrated) need not be mutually exclusive (see also Bisho, 2004).
10 A three-tier parallel command structure was adopted in the Vietnam War between the United States, South Vietnam,
and South Korea. However, the absence of a coordination center between the multinational headquarters may have inhibited
the coalition’s unity of effort and contributed to the defeat of the South Vietnamese government to the communist regime of
North Vietnam (see Lescoutre, 2003). Further, South Vietnam was not given a significant part in the development of
operational strategy or allocation of forces; nor was it fully integrated in the command structure above the tactical level
(Ballard, 2001).
RTO-TR-HFM-120 3 – 17
operations such as UNPROFOR in the former Republic of Yugoslavia and UNAMIR in Rwanda.
However, Durell-Young (1997) suggests that there may be some disadvantages with this type of command
structure, in the areas of level of experience, staff training, and integration. For these reasons, DurellYoung
(1997) believes that an integrated command structure for high intensity operations may be
inappropriate. This might partially explain some of the breakdown in the command structure that occurred
during the Chapter 7 United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM II) (Lescoutre, 2003).
Durell-Young (1997) further argues that it would make little sense to establish universally applicable
guiding principles for the selection of command structures. Rather, it may make more sense to identify the
strengths and weaknesses that may arise when selecting an appropriate structure (e.g., an integrated
coalition command may provide the most political advantages; a lead nation structure can respond
quickly). According to Durell-Young (1997), however, the parallel command structure that was
implemented in Operation Desert Storm (the US and Arab/Muslim forces each had their own separate
chains of command) may have been successful in part because of the presence of a lead nation (the US).
In other words, and somewhat ironically, a parallel structure without an explicit or implicit lead nation
may not be able to develop and maintain an essential unity of purpose in the conduct of operations, which
is so important to mission success (Durell-Young, 1997).
Similarly, in analyzing multinational command and control arrangements since World War II (including
Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm, operations in Somalia, Haiti, Southwest Asia, and Eastern
Europe), Ballard (2001) concludes that one key to success in multinational military operations is to
maintain a focus on developing operational cohesion and unity of purpose. Where a combined staff can be
used, overall coalition effectiveness increases. When the differences within a coalition are dominant, some
version of the parallel structure may be the most useful (see also Lescoutre, 2003; but cf. Durell-Young,
1997). Other important keys to coalition success include developing and empowering coordination cells;
ensuring that national commitments match command authority and staff representation; and including
joint boards, component commanders, decentralized operations, flexible boundaries for joint fires, and the
synchronization of air, land, and sea (Ballard, 2001). Each of these command tools has the potential to
assist in the development and effectiveness of complex, intercultural coalition operations (Ballard, 2001).
Given the increasing frequency and complexity of multinational military operations, it is necessary to
consider strategies for dealing with the cultural differences that arise in relations with multinational
military forces (or other non-military organizations, such as international relief agencies and
non-governmental organizations), and to identify the specific training requirements of multinational
military leaders and operations (Gurstein, 1999; Winslow, Kammhuber, ; Soeters, 2003). Indeed,
the focus on education and training to overcome cultural differences and historical biases will pay
dividends, both within the coalition and within the countries in which the coalition will conduct operations
(Bowman, 1997). Below is a discussion of training strategies for developing effective multinational
military leaders, followed by a discussion of general strategies for developing effective intercultural
military operations and teams.
3.5.1 Training and Development for Multinational Military Leaders
As discussed earlier, it is the task of the operational commander to successfully integrate all of the diverse
contingents of a multinational military force in order to ensure its overall cohesiveness and effectiveness
(Plante, 1998). Potts (2004) suggests that one way of developing leaders for this task would be to establish
a world class institution to develop commanders and senior staff for multinational appointments.
Recognizing the complexity inherent in leading a multinational force, the US military has identified a
3 – 18 RTO-TR-HFM-120
number of key points that the operational commander must address (Plante, 1998). The US doctrine on the
subject, as articulated in FM 100-23, states that the effectiveness of multinational operations will be
improved by:
1) Establishing rapport and harmony among senior multinational commanders. The keys are
respect, trust, and the ability to compromise. The result will be successful teamwork and unity of
effort. Similarly, Potts (2004) suggests that a common understanding of doctrine and procedures
(co-operability) can also be developed through good working relationships within a coalition and
through training.
2) Respecting multinational partners and their ideas, culture, and customs. Such respect
(consideration and acceptance) shows each partner’s importance to the alliance or coalition.
3) Assigning missions appropriate to each multinational partner’s capabilities. Multinational
partners’ opinions should be sought during the planning process. National honour and prestige
may significantly impact mission assignment. It must be ascertained that multinational partners
have the necessary resources to accomplish their assigned missions. Cross levelling among
partners may be required.
4) Ensuring concerted action though liaison centers. For example, the ability to communicate in a
partner’s native language is important because it enhances and facilitates liaison.
5) Enabling all partners to operate together in the most effective manner and to make the most
efficient and economical use of resources. Standardization agreements are the result of
rationalization, standardization, and interoperability efforts in alliances. These agreements may be
appropriate for rapid adoption by coalitions.
6) Ensuring all multinational members’ efforts are focused on a common goal to produce unity of
7) Knowing and understanding the capabilities of multinational partners as well as or better than
you know the belligerent parties, from movement and manoeuvres to logistical support.
In a similar vein, Gillespie (2002) offers suggestions to educate and prepare officers in the skills needed to
deal with national and cultural frictions, and recommends tools for achieving unity of effort (and
command) in modern coalition contexts (cf. Davis, 2000a). In particular, Gillespie (2002) describes the
following as important elements of a coalition leader’s toolbox:
1) Education. Leaders must have the knowledge of their own position in the operational level of
warfare and of the conflicts that arise in building a multicultural force. Foreign language and
foreign cultural training should be a priority for selected personnel. Schools like the Pearson
Peacekeeping Center11 should be offered as well as other international schools12 and courses in
order to establish a human database that can be drawn upon in the future. Generic intercultural
issues in multinational military operations should be included in officer training syllabi,

11 The Pearson Peacekeeping Center, established in 1995, provides training programs to participants from different countries
and also founded the International Association of Peacekeeping Training Centers, which provides an informal forum for the
exchange of peacekeeping information among peacekeeping nations around the world. Similarly, the Peace Support Training
Center was established in 1996 to ensure that all deployed CF personnel are fully prepared for modern operations (Grant,
2003). Training conducted at the Peace Support Training Center focuses primarily on non-traditional military subjects, such
as negotiation and mediation techniques and cultural awareness. The aim is to make personnel better prepared to perform
their duties in the complex world of peace support operations (Grant, 2003).
12 The NATO School (Oberammergau) acts as a center for training military and civilian personnel serving in the Atlantic
Alliance, as well as for Partner countries. Its courses are continually revised and updated to reflect current developments in
Allied Command Europe and Allied Command Atlantic. Each year a wide range of courses are taught on topics such as
weapons employment, nuclear, biological, and chemical defence, electronic warfare, command and control, mobilizable
forces, multinational forces (including multinational crisis management), peacekeeping, environmental protection, crisis
management, and basic NATO orientation. More information is available at
RTO-TR-HFM-120 3 – 19
supplemented by nation-specific information just prior to operations or exercises (Stewart,
Macklin, et al., 2004). However, all personnel who are likely to be involved in multinational
operations must be made aware of cultural issues that may affect interoperability. Thus, crosscultural
training and instruction should be given to all troops prior to deployment.
2) Liaison Officers. The use of officers with multicultural knowledge or experience (e.g., officers
who are themselves visible or cultural minorities within their own nation), as a source of expertise
in this area should be considered as there is a wealth of knowledge in them that sits largely
untapped. This tool can be invaluable in overcoming perceived frictions (Gillespie, 2002).13
3) Training. Multinational training opportunities must be explored as a method of understanding
potential partnership issues. There must be agreements between countries to allow selected
personnel to be assigned to different armies and to understand the complexities between forces so
that, when operations actually begin, there is a capability established between forces in that they
have experience in working together. As Bowman (1997) argues, the more personnel available
who are experienced in the cultures of various coalition partners, the smoother the coalition
operations will be. Similarly, multinational planning exercises could significantly improve initial
operational responses to emerging crises. Such training exercises will help to overcome the initial
confusion of coalition operations and cultural problems by identifying them in a training situation
before an actual crisis occurs (Bowman, 1997). Multinational immersion training, in which roleplays
of operations with various nationalities are conducted, has also been recommended
(see Stewart, Cremin, et al., 2004).
Similar in intent to the above recommendations, Graen and Hui (1999) have proposed a comprehensive
global training model to prepare leaders for global leadership. This global training model, which may be
applied to leaders of multinational military operations, involves:
a) Transcultural skill development,
b) Third culture making skills,
c) Cross-cultural creative problem solving skills, and
d) Ethical skills.
Transculturals, as eluded to previously, are those who grow beyond their own cultural socialization so that
they can understand different cultures with minimal biases, make valid cross-cultural judgements,
and develop cross-cultural partnerships (see also Elron et al., 2003). Those with third culture skills are
those who can use cross-cultural partners to understand, reconcile, and transcend systematic cultural
differences and build a third culture (such as a global or common military culture) in which both cultures
can cooperate (see Elron et al., 1999). Third cultures involve the bridging and transcending of two or more
cultures. In bridging cultural differences, third cultures involve ways to bring compromises between the
different cultural practices. When bridging cultural differences, cross-cultural partners find ways to come
up with organizational practices and management techniques and programs that are acceptable to members

13 Indeed, countries with diverse, multicultural populations can play a special role in preparing forces for multinational military
operations. For example, David Last suggests that Canada, as a multicultural country through national policy, is at a
comparative advantage in dealing with multinational military issues, as Canada has a pool of culture and linguistic experts
from which to draw (Grant, 2003). Dickinson (2004) recommends making better use of Canadian diversity, by actively
recruiting first- and second-generation Canadians (ethnic/visible minorities) into the CF; using more efficient means of
tracking the linguistic abilities and the cultural background of CF personnel in order to provide support for international
military operations; and increasing the emphasis on language and cultural training for personnel prior to deployments.
Dickinson (2004) also discusses how first-generation Canadians have contributed to multinational military operations
(e.g., as interpreters or gatherers of intelligence). Also, with two official languages, Canadian soldiers can provide a useful
insight into understanding the problems associated with working with translated documents and with coalition partners
operating in their second language. Dickinson (2004) adds, however, that although Canada has had some success in using
culturally aware personnel to improve operational effectiveness, no policy has been adopted that would make systematic use
of the multicultural nature of Canadian society.
3 – 20 RTO-TR-HFM-120
of each culture. Those with multinational creative problem solving skills are those who can mediate and
negotiate multinational interests in a creative problem solving context. Those with ethical skills are those
who can understand multinational ethical conflicts and have the means to deal with them. Graen and Hui
(1999) propose that training involving these four skills should continue throughout the career for both
individual leaders and teams. As Bowman (1997) suggests, the education of officers and noncommissioned
officers will help change perceptions and stereotypes concerning the roles and abilities of
other nations, and thus will play a critical role in the leadership of change.14
3.5.2 Training and Development of Multinational Military Teams
In addition to intercultural training and development for individual leaders, commanders should also develop
intercultural awareness among their soldiers and officers – in effect, their teams (Winslow et al., 2003).
Towards this end of sharing expertise, commanders must establish a training and development program to
close any critical gaps that have been identified, and must also develop multilingual standard operating
procedures, cultural awareness training, staff training at the headquarters level, and education in a basic code
of ethics (Plante, 1998). The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, for example, has been developing
training programs and regular pre-deployment inspections to improve the overall quality of the troops
deployed. Once a commander knows the strengths and weaknesses of their troops, they are in a much better
position to develop an appropriate training program (Plante, 1998). For UN peacekeepers, for instance, such
training may include an understanding of the broader global political context of peacekeeping, recognition of
the diversity of national interests that must be accommodated within a multilateral peacekeeping mandate,
and a set of materials and standards that articulate broad ethical standards and codes of conduct (see
Gurstein, 1999). Commanders must also create awareness of the benefits of diversity through both words and
actions (Winslow et al., 2003). In the context of multinational operations, commanders should stress the joint
character of the mission as the superordinate goal for everyone involved in order to achieve a unity of effort.
Commanders should emphasize the equal status of all groups involved in the operation, and if necessary,
boost the status of any low status groups (see also Soeters ; Bos-Bakx, 2003; and Soeters ; Recht, 2001).
Commanders should make decisions so that members of every group can maintain their dignity without loss
of face. Such principles of intergroup relations can be complemented by policies that enhance intercultural
encounters, such as concrete collaboration with diverse groups and preparation before deployment, and
should be integrated into the whole training period before deployment. For these tasks, commanders must
carry the primary responsibility.
It is also important for commanders to introduce diversity training with some urgency and strength
(Winslow et al., 2003). In many countries, participation in diversity training is voluntary; this sends the
message that diversity training is relatively unimportant. Thus, according to Winslow et al. (2003),
diversity training should be mandatory. If this mandatory approach elicits some resistance, then it is
important for senior leadership to clarify the reasons for the diversity policy. Indeed, leadership support is
extremely important for the implementation of diversity policy and is critical to the initiation of
intercultural competence. Further, official statements about the importance of diversity policy must be
followed through with its actual implementation (Winslow et al., 2003).15

14 For example, the Marshall Center has shown this to be the case for the nations of Eastern Europe. Such training could be
expanded into national military schools. Something like the Marshall Center or the School of the Americas in Fort Benning,
Georgia, should be considered to support education and training of officers and non-commissioned officers from African
nations. However, the Marshall Center is currently restricted to relatively senior personnel, and should be expanded to
include more junior military personnel (Bowman, 1997).
15 As a result of problems that arose with the German Armed Forces in Somalia and Cambodia due to a lack of awareness of
local norms and values, the German Ministry of Defence commissioned the Institute for Psychology at the University of
Regensburg to develop an intercultural curriculum to train German soldiers for international assignments (Winslow et al.,
2003). Training was aimed at improving intercultural encounters with civilians of the host country, officials of the host
country, and soldiers of other nations. In particular, soldiers cited the last category of encounters as especially difficult.
RTO-TR-HFM-120 3 – 21
Elron et al. (1999) have identified a number of “integrating conditions” and “integrating mechanisms” for
understanding how multinational military forces are able to establish cohesion and function effectively
much of the time – without fighting each other. The integrating conditions include: a common military
culture (based on the notion of a military profession, maintained through national training institutions that
are open to the militaries of different nations); bureaucratic controls and structural similarity among
different national forces; integrative missions (with superordinate goals or objectives such as “peace” or
“international justice”); shared conditions and experiences (such as the integrating effects of uncertainty
or danger and of “foreignness” or being far away from home); the temporariness of the system
(e.g., multinational forces may be more tolerant or understanding of one another because they know that
this is only required of them for a limited period of time); and a high level of cultural diversity
(paradoxically, a very high level of cultural diversity may ease communication and coordination problems
by facilitating the formation of a “hybrid” organizational culture that provides a common sense of identity
for each participant).
In addition to such integrating conditions, the following integrating mechanisms may offset the potentially
negative effects of cultural diversity: joint or combined operations and training (e.g., joint exercises provide a
means of sharing military values and an opportunity for achieving cooperation); cross-cultural training
(pre-deployment); an internal division of labour among national units in ways that minimize the need for
coordination and the opportunities for friction; formal coordinating mechanisms (i.e., structures at the top of
the command framework in the form of diverse headquarters representing all participating countries);
information flows and the sharing of knowledge (knowledge management); and leadership and deliberate
cohesion building activities (see also Stewart, Macklin, et al., 2004). As Elron et al. (1999) and others have
pointed out, commanders of multinational forces must constantly engage in efforts to create distinctive
identities and internal cohesion, and in short, to create a team-oriented, cooperative environment. Leaders
must therefore articulate a unifying vision and institute a range of educational, cultural, and sport activities
designed to introduce national cultures to each other and create a common esprit de corps.16
3.5.3 Training for a Multinational, Intercultural Military Context: Additional Tools and
Besides cultural awareness and diversity training programs, analysts have also identified other strategies
for dealing with intercultural issues in multinational military operations. As discussed earlier, the use of
liaison officers, who are well versed in the cultures of the countries involved, offers one possible strategy
(Gillespie, 2002). The US military, for instance, recognizing the importance of these types of personnel,
have a system of Foreign Assistance Officers (FAO) who, based on language testing, are posted to
different countries (Gillespie, 2002; see also Dickinson, 2004). After initial selection and a 2-year course,
including basic language training, they live in these countries where they interact with the national
military leaders and act as advisors to the host nation (Dickinson, 2004; Gillespie, 2002). A result of this
program is that FAOs become totally immersed in the culture of the people, and in effect, become advisors
on culture (Gillespie, 2002). They become a conduit back to the US regarding what the country expects
and the potential pitfalls that may be encountered (Gillespie, 2002). FAOs are now an integral part of the
US Forces and the advice given by these personnel – which constitutes, essentially, a human database on
various cultures – is utilized in the planning and conduct of operations. The system is designed to produce
an in-house capability that provides the US military with cultural and linguistic expertise in every region
of the globe (Dickinson, 2004). Other countries, such as Canada, are also developing this capacity.

16 For example, the Australian contingent of the Multinational Force and Observers invited force members for a day of games
and sport on Australia Day (the day Australia was colonized by the British), while the New Zealanders offered a Maori style
feast on Waitangi Day (the day Britain signed a treaty with the Maori people). In other contexts, drinking, eating and
partying are central to the creation of cooperation and affiliation, and, to the extent that these activities are institutionally
supported and ensure equality among the participating groups, may contribute to the weakening of prejudice and the
integration of the force (for a more detailed discussion of these and other integrative mechanisms, see Elron et al., 1999;
Elron et al., 2003; and Ben-Ari ; Elron, 2001).
3 – 22 RTO-TR-HFM-120
In terms of training for successful coalitions, experience has shown that headquarters elements, whether
existing multinational headquarters or a national headquarters that has been designated to assume a lead
nation role in a future coalition operation, require additional preparation in order to command coalition
operations. In addition to enhanced communications and augmented language capabilities, specific
mission training is necessary. Much of this training can be done in advance through the use of command
post and computer-assisted exercises and workshops and seminars for key personnel. Distance learning
techniques may also enhance training and education of individuals and units, and training in public affairs
and civil military operations can be added to this package. Once again, the main advantage of field
training exercises between national forces is that cultural and historical differences between nations may
decrease greatly after working together (Bowman, 1997; see also Barabé, 1999).
Klein et al. (2000) argue that understanding national differences through the use of the cultural lens can
improve the command and control effectiveness of coalition operations (see also Klein, 2005;
and Masakowski, Chapter 7). The cultural lens can allow for more effective training of military personnel
entering multinational military operations, and it can inform the design of decision support systems so that
they can accommodate differences in reasoning, judgement, and power structure. Although it may seem
impractical to develop a cultural lens for every ethnic group in every country that exists, Klein et al.
(2000) argue that it is possible to identify a small, usable set of dimensions (e.g., power distance,
dialectical reasoning, counterfactual thinking, risk assessment and uncertainty management, activity
orientation, and independence/dependence) that reflect the diversity of how people think, make, decisions,
and assess risk. In terms of training, for example, programs developed by the North Carolina Center for
World Languages and Cultures and by Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO) provide
US forces with information about cultures around the world. Such programs have been particularly useful
for negotiators, business people, and Peace Corps volunteers involved in face-to-face interactions. Klein
et al. (2000) further argue that in distributed teams, it is particularly important for team members to
understand cognitive differences that may affect coordination and decision making. Training programs
must prepare military personnel to understand the clusters of cultural dimensions so that they may develop
common ground and thus increase the effectiveness of multinational military operations (Klein et al.,
2000). Similarly, decision support systems must help distributed teams sustain common ground, through
models and simulations that include national culture factors. Importantly, such capabilities would expand a
commander’s ability to anticipate and react to challenging situations (Klein et al.).17
In a similar vein, Bowman and Pierce (2003) suggest that an understanding of how culture affects
teamwork has provided critical information for the development of training tools to help leaders and teams
overcome cultural barriers. Bowman and Pierce identify two training tools that have been developed.
The first is a communication skills training tool that can help individuals to develop understanding and
tolerance of culturally diverse cognitive styles. The second is a web-based decision game designed to
provide information and situational awareness of cultural differences in cognition. Both tools will have
application before, upon arrival, and throughout the period of deployment and will be available to US and
other leaders and teams, thereby creating opportunities for national and multinational team building.18
With increasing emphasis being placed on interoperability of systems between coalition partners, Bowman
and Pierce (2003) suggest that this project will provide a foundation for continued linkages between
nations in technology and human systems.

17 The Decision Support Systems for Coalition Operations (DSSCO) project has been developing tools that US military
planners can use to improve the effectiveness of multinational coalition operations involving diverse military and civilian
organizations. A prototype is being developed by SPAWAR Systems Center – San Diego to support the Operations Planning
Team (OPT) of the Commander in Chief, US Pacific Command (Handley & Levis, 2001; Handley, Levis, & Bares, 2001).
18 Soeters et al. (2004) have argued that simply preparing for deployment beforehand is unlikely to be sufficient. It is worth
considering holding a sort of “cultural debriefing” half-way through the deployment, giving cultural experts the opportunity
to consider the actual experience of the reactions and behavior of the “other parties” (see also Watson, Kumar, &
Michaelsen, 1993). Cultural debriefings could take place regularly or on request. It might also be possible to hold these
cultural debriefings jointly with colleagues of different nationalities (Soeters et al., 2004).
RTO-TR-HFM-120 3 – 23
Finally, some further recommendations regarding language training in the context of multinational
military operations should be mentioned. In addition to language training, dictionaries of common terms
must be developed and distributed, including logistical and tactical terms (Marshall et al., 1997).
As mentioned earlier, acronyms and abbreviations should be avoided in order to ensure a clear
understanding of terms within a coalition, and operational and logistic plans and orders should be written
in greater detail and clarity to avoid misunderstandings (Bowman, 1997). Once again, it is recommended
that native English speakers are able to speak other languages, in order to build mutual understanding and
respect (Potts, 2004; Bowman, 1997; Stewart, et al., 2004), and that they speak slowly and avoid
colloquialisms (Bowman & Pierce, 2003).
In summary, as the composition of multinational military operations becomes more diverse, the need for
leaders to bring groups of different cultures together to function as a unit becomes more crucial (Graen &
Hui, 1999). Thorough preparation and training is vital if commanders are to be culturally aware and
sensitive, patient, adaptive, and tolerant (Soeters et al., 2004). In general, all personnel who are deployed in
multinational military coalitions should have thorough training in the cultural aspects of their work.
Attention must be paid to the cultural characteristics of both the coalition partners and the local population.
Steps taken to develop common operating procedures, to train together, and to educate future leaders will
help ensure that future coalitions successfully accomplish their assigned mission (Bowman, 1997).
Multinational coalitions will become more prevalent in the future as nations seek alternate methods of
resolving conflict (Davis, 2000a). With the increasing complexity of such coalitions, and with new
partners, future coalition commanders will face a myriad of challenges, including the integration of
culturally diverse groups and the establishment of an effective command and control structure (Davis,
2000a). This environment will demand a greater range of leadership skills and competencies, the ability to
overcome cultural barriers to effective teamwork (such as cultural differences in power distance and
decision making), and an ability to lead within various command structures. Leaders must recognize that
both national interests and cultural factors will influence the setting of coalition goals and objectives, place
constraints on the coalition force, and determine a nation’s contribution in terms of organization,
capability, and command authority (Davis, 2000a). Through the development of intercultural leadership
skills, innovative command structures, and thorough coordination, liaison, and cooperation, both political
interests and cultural diversity in coalition operations can be addressed, and cultural diversity in
multinational military operations can be used effectively as a positive resource (Davis, 2000a).
As discussed in this chapter, the focus in multinational military operations must be toward achieving unity
of purpose, as opposed to unity of doctrine or command (Davis, 2000a). To achieve unity of purpose,
operational level commanders must develop mutual confidence amongst the military leadership of the
coalition partners to ensure that a balance is struck between competing political and military interests and
to ensure that cultural issues are addressed (Davis, 2000a). Indeed, of the intangibles of coalitions’
command and control matters, mutual confidence and trust between partners may be the most important
consideration. Being able to trust is essential to unity of effort, much more so in the case of
nonconventional operations in which the commander must blend the skills of culturally diverse national
contingents so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (Barabé, 1999). More research is needed,
however, to examine the issue of trust and reliability in a multicultural environment (Graen & Hui, 1999).
Doctrine publications and professional military education curricula must reflect the political and
intercultural realities of coalition operations to ensure that future leaders can meet the challenges of
coalition command (Davis, 2000a). This education and training must include diversity training for both
leaders and teams. Although the development of multinational command structures has been aided by new
doctrines and by the exchange of lessons learned in operations (e.g., see Ballard, 2001), it will remain a
challenge as long as national groups do not share a common vision of the desired objectives for a given
3 – 24 RTO-TR-HFM-120
operation, and intercultural factors are in play. International organizations such as the UN have
contributed to the development of international consensus regarding objectives and vision, but more work
in the education and training of multinational military leaders and teams, particularly in terms of cultural
diversity, is needed. As Ballard (2001) suggests, the ground is fertile for further investigation, as
multinational responses are needed to deal with an ever shrinking and increasingly interlinked world