General de Divisão R1* Joarez Alves Pereira Junior

Different experts present levels of leadership in different ways and offer their own nomenclatures and definitions, according to their line of research, experience, and perception.

It is common, regardless of each author’s study, that in each professional field of activity, there are junior leaders and senior leaders, as knowledge, experience and maturity are acquired throughout life.

The Brazilian Army’s Military Leadership Manual defines leadership to be exercised at three levels of command: small echelons, organizational/tactical, and strategic. This nomenclature of the levels of command defined by the manual has guided the degrees of leadership assumed by the Army with similar terminology.

This article proposes to present the author’s view on the scaling of military leadership into four levels, according to the professional trajectory of military leaders.


The exercise of this leadership begins with the arrival of the professional to the troop to effectively exercise the command of a small fraction, from the combat group to the platoon. This leadership is exercised over a relatively small group of followers.

At this stage, direct leadership is practiced to the utmost: the leader is present with his group, personally leading the actions and speaking directly to the followers. It is the maximum expression of “doing it together,” guiding and correcting actions. The troop, in a jargon often used in barracks, is the mirror of the leader, that is, it reproduces everything that is shown by the leader. In this case, more than ever, he will be the example to be followed in the conduct of actions.

In this phase, technical knowledge has a differentiated weight. The leader must be the expert in training his troops to execute the tasks. He will develop skills and transmit knowledge to his followers. It is necessary to know how to transmit the message in a language that is understood by the followers, remembering that, many times, body language speaks louder than words. The example, admittedly, drags.

This junior leader will fulfill the missions received, coordinating the execution of the actions by his or her fraction and transmitting his or her orders, with clarity, for the accomplishment of the specific task of each team member.

The small fraction leader must develop the ability to understand the intention of the superior command so that, in the absence of detailed definitions or in the event of the occurrence of a new fact, in the restricted space of his autonomy and initiative, he can define orders that are coherent with the determination and direction of his superior echelon.

Despite his young age, he must have consolidated positive values and virtues that will guide his attitude towards his subordinates and that will serve as an example to be followed. These same values and virtues will be one of the bases for gaining the trust of his subordinates who, only in this way, will recognize him as a leader.


The intermediate leader, in the military hierarchy, ranges from captains and sergeants with advanced training to unit commanders, for officers, and lieutenants, for enlisted men.

This is the phase in which leadership is exercised not only directly, but also indirectly, often through small fraction leaders. In this context, the middle leader will have great influence over the level 1 leaders, who will mirror his actions and attitudes.

This is the stage in which the leader increasingly plays the role of a mentor and coach, molding and helping to consolidate the exercise of first level leadership.

The intermediary leader still favors the “being present” and, whenever possible, the “doing it together”, but, in most of the actions, he/she will exercise direct leadership over the level 1 leaders and indirect leadership over the other members of his/her organization, which becomes more complex and with a larger number of members.

Once the youthful boldness and impulses have passed, the values and behaviors that have already been consolidated should be practiced without deviations and will be a reference for the conduct of both the younger ones and the entire group of followers. As he directs and influences a much larger group, the coherence between words and actions will be under observation by a wider audience, and this coherence is the basic foundation for the full exercise of leadership.

The requirement for technical training starts to have a different bias from that of the leader of a small fraction. Knowledge becomes broader and less specific in the technical peculiarities of the execution of small actions. The experience and professional expertise increase considerably, and this professional maturity added to their life experience helps them acquire a more accurate vision to guide the decisions to be taken.

The middle leader will exercise with more intensity another fundamental attribution in the exercise of leadership: the application of justice. He or she will have an already high authority to punish and reward, going further, taking responsibility for correcting possible distortions in the application of justice by less experienced and more impulsive leaders.

As you exercise leadership over a larger group of people, you will also be observed by this larger group. Your communication skills will have to be increased, and you will have to practice the ability to communicate in both directions: with subordinates and with superior leaders. The diversity of the groups you interact with will require flexibility and a wealth of arguments in the way you present your ideas and orders so that they can be understood by all.


Once again, as a reference in the military career, this level of leadership encompasses the senior colonels, who normally hold high school degrees, and the generals in the first brigade and division posts. These are the professionals that hold the positions of Chief of Staff, Commanders of Brigades and Army Divisions, and Chiefs of Directorates, among other relevant positions.

At this level, leadership is exercised, most of the time, indirectly, leading leaders and, through them, exercising leadership over a very large group. Even so, based on the foundations of military leadership, he tries, whenever possible, to be present with his followers and address them directly.

At this stage of his career and life, he has fully consolidated values and behaviors that, besides serving as role models and inspiration, will continue to be fundamental aspects for gaining trust and respect.

Detailed technical knowledge is much less important than the broad capacity for decision making, a frequent attribution at this level of leadership. Usually it relies on study and expert opinion, but the responsibility for the consequences of the decisions made is much greater, given the high position in the institution.

These leaders have vast professional experience, which, associated with life experience and moments of reflection, allows them to have a differentiated vision to offer the best paths to be followed by their followers.

Upon reaching this level of leadership, they also become privileged observers of the entire organizational structure, having close contact with the highest decision-making level of the institution. They are fully trusted leaders of the High Command, as well as their immediate advisors, who should develop a strategic vision that will guide the designs of the entire organization.


The “líder mor” is the one who reaches the highest rank in the military hierarchy and will integrate the Army High Command. They will hold the highest positions as Area Military Commander, Department Chief, Army Chief of Staff and even Force Commander, exercising the supreme leadership of the Institution.

These leaders will be the decision makers of the Land Force’s destiny. They exercise indirect leadership, and their decisions have a differentiated weight, because they will influence practically all the members of the Military Institution, that is, the entire group of followers.

The trust earned by these leaders, throughout their professional lives, will be the determining factor for the effective commitment of all subordinates and of the leaders under their command to the faithful and enthusiastic fulfillment of the orders issued. Any deviation in attitude, contrary to the expected values, will have a broad and devastating impact and will be determinant for the loss of leadership, even though he may continue as a boss.

More than in any career phase, or level of leadership already exercised, the ability to make the most appropriate decisions is the focal point. Technical knowledge will be offered by a qualified group of advisors, but the differentiated vision, the result of vast professional and personal experience, should lead to the most appropriate decision.

At this level of leadership, you will have ample access to the available information. He will, besides coaching leadership, modeling leadership at lower levels, interfere in the meritocratic selection process of the Institution’s top leaders who will have access to the generalate. In other words, he will be responsible for helping to mold the group from which the future leaders of the Land Force will emerge.

At this level of leadership, he must possess a vision that goes beyond the strategic, which we could call political vision, in the sense that politics defines strategy, interacting with the highest decision-making level of the Nation. It is the leader that is capable of implementing not only improvements, but deeper transformations in the processes developed by the organization as a whole.

Consistent with this vision of the four levels of military leadership, it is necessary that the Brazilian Army, in each phase of the professional career, offers the opportunity for the continuous training of its personnel for the exercise of leadership. Leadership is one of the most relevant factors for the motivation of the soldier for combat and for the success of the Land Force in operations, which ultimately justifies the existence of the Armed Forces to guarantee national sovereignty.

About the author:

R1 Division General Joarez Alves Pereira Junior – Graduated from the Academia Militar das Agulhas Negras (AMAN) in 1982. Attended Command and General Staff School (ECEME) in 1997/98. Abroad, he took the Basic Intelligence Course at Fort Huachuca, the War School Course at the War College, and the Politics and Strategy Course at the National Defense University, all in the United States of America.

He was an instructor at AMAN and ECEME, and commanded the Army Administration School and Military College of Salvador. He was Adjunct to the Army Attaché at the Brazilian Embassy in Washington. He commanded the 3rd Mechanized Cavalry Brigade, in Bagé-RS and the 6th Military Region, in Salvador-BA.

He was Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army for International Affairs. His last active duty position was Deputy Head of the Army Department of Education and Culture. He is currently the Executive Coordinator of the Working Group that will carry out the planning for the implementation of a New School for the Formation and Graduation of Career Sergeants of the Brazilian Army.


*R1 Every Armed Force has active duty members and also those who make up its reserve, a fundamental part of the military structure. Within the scope of the Brazilian Army, these components can be divided into three types. There are the so-called R1 soldiers, who have completed a minimum of 30 years of active service and are now in the reserve; there are the R2 soldiers, who are graduates of the Centers and Centers for Preparation of Officers of the Reserve (CPOR and NPOR) spread throughout the country, as well as temporary technical officers and sergeants (OTT and STT); there are also soldiers and corporals who return to the civilian environment, after obligatory military service or after a period of engagement, who also become part of the reserve.

The R1 military personnel form a group of officers and graduates that are transferred to the remunerated reserve. In practice, they become inactive, as they may be called up in the event of war. The age range to which they are subject to recall varies according to the Weapon, Staff, or Service to which the serviceman or woman belongs.

English version by Defconpress

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