by | Jul 10, 2018 | Advice

Private Military and Security Companies (PMSC’s) are part of a multibillion-dollar industry supplying both security and logistical needs for governments, commercial groups and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s). Humanitarian NGO’s have increasing contact with the PMSC industry given their work on the ground although, often in the same operational situation, their tasks are different, as can be the leadership required to carry out these missions – or is it?

The capacity to lead has four characteristics common to all leadership styles:

1 – Leadership is a process;

2 – Leadership involves influence;

3 – Leadership occurs in a group context;

4 – Leadership consists of the attainment of goals.

Leadership is the process of an individual’s influence on a group to achieve a common goal. However, there are different forms of leadership and what leaders do.

The more common style of PMSC leadership is focused on a traditional military hierarchical style where command can be one dimensional from the top down. Leadership found in PMSC’s is borne out of experience in the service of national Armed Forces by their personnel. However, military leadership is not the authoritarian style it is often thought to be. Typically, military leaders utilise a mix of transactional, transformational and servant leadership styles.

  • Transactional Leadership: This type of leader seeks mutually satisfying outcomes by providing clear directions and holding subordinates accountable for their actions.
  • Transformational Leadership: These leaders are charismatic. They motivate and inspire with intellect, quick thinking, and decisive actions which are vital to survival in hostile environments. The essence of this leader is the dedication to others before themselves. It is effective because leaders embody the characteristics of empathy and acceptance, a sense of community, and a calling to serve others.
  • All In One: Effective military leaders possess characteristics of each leadership style. In the PMSC sector, a situational leadership style is developed.
There are qualities that NGO leaders possess that motivate their team:
  • Effective communicators
    NGO leaders are excellent communicators. They are required to deal with a wide range of stakeholders with different agendas, such as the beneficiaries, donors, and external agencies. They tune their communication to suit the audience. Socialisation of meetings is essential, networks are created, and people are engaged to further the cause of the organisation.
  • Focussed on the goal
    There is a process of constant questioning of their staff, donors, and other stakeholders. The ultimate objective of the organisation is central to the effort. Social change and development are well understood as parts of a lengthy process, mapped towards organisational goals, with a vigilant eye on the question, ‘Are we there yet?’
  • Inspire and empower
    Effective NGO leadership ideologies combine passion, compassion and working styles, to inspire team members, donors and stakeholders.  However, they are professionals but still compassionate towards people. There is an acceptance of diversity, be it within the team or outside the organisation, and strong recognition of being ethically responsible and accountable to their teams and even their beneficiaries, motivating ethical behaviour, that reflects their organisation’s policies.
  • Take the initiative
    NGO Leaders are confident, pro-active, and they take the initiative. In the field they anticipate problems and act in time to correct the situation. This also applies to self-improvement which they actively seek. They are always looking for opportunities for the betterment of their own self and their teams. This makes them excellent team workers, and they can do so because they are focused on the larger goal. Their pro-active instinct also makes them identify opportunities and ways to make the best use of them. Such people can genuinely be assets to the organisation.
  • Believe in transformation
    A dominant belief in the possibility of transformation is core. They have complete 
    faith in their own work, the organisational objectives and goals and the means they take to achieve them. They are passionate towards the community, are sensitive and resilient humans, believe in the cause and work consistently towards it.

That is not to say that leaders in PMSC’s do not have these qualities. PMSC businesses operate in a market economy and the drivers to mission success can be different.

Being a good leader is never easy. A leader’s actions are carefully scrutinized when operations become difficult; leadership qualities are most visible when the going gets tough. Be they in NGO’s or PMSC’s the best leaders display common attributes:

  • Clearness: Leaders are mission focused and demonstrate clarity of purpose.
  • Decisive: Leaders are consistent in decision making, rarely backing out or changing their minds unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • Courage: A natural boldness or at least a projection of fearlessness is a strong leadership trait.
  • Passion: Leaders that inspire show seemingly unlimited energy and enthusiasm for what they do.
  • Humility: Confidence is an attractive characteristic of leaders. However, leaders admit when they are wrong and take criticism as an opportunity for growth.

The use of PMSC contractors by NGO’s in dangerous regions is a sensitive subject. While rare, many NGO’s have sought the services of PMSC’s in hazardous areas of operation.

The combination of leadership styles can lead to mission success. The NGO team and PMSC contractors are responsible for their own efficiency, utilising their own unique leadership style. Cohesive management of a joint team requires the merger of leadership styles. Differing leadership styles and communication can lead to strained cooperation, and it becomes a challenge to achieve mission success. Therefore, it is essential that NGO’s and PMSC’s jointly deployed bring differing leadership styles together to form a more cohesive team.

Defining clear boundaries is essential. Setting ground rules are critical to sharing the management of the same group.

The different leadership styles of NGO’s and PMSC’s can be challenging if they are working together. If these challenges are overcome, it is possible to create a more productive group with both the NGO and PMSC teams successfully achieving the mission for which they deployed together. By learning to work across diverse leadership styles, it also becomes possible to sustain successful and motivating relationships.

Barry ET Harris MBE is a consultant for Proelium Law LLP, he is a British Army veteran, he combines operational experience with extensive commercial consulting, executive, and management expertise gained in complex environments and high-risk jurisdictions worldwide.



Need advice?

If you’d like further information, or to discuss working with us, you can get in touch via our Contact Us page

Our Consultants


Kelly is a barrister and former Royal Marine and UKSF officer. Kelly re-qualified as a barrister on leaving the armed forces and has subsequently developed a wealth of experience and understanding in the mitigation and management of both legal and operational risk for government agencies and global commercial organisations.  Having worked in the private sector as in-house counsel and also in the criminal, regulatory, and international law jurisdictions, he is ideally placed to help clients devise the holistic and commercially-focussed solutions necessary to build resilience and manage reputation in high-risk environments. More recently Kelly has been instructed by the Crown Prosecution Service as independent counsel in the prosecution of a number of high-profile terrorism cases in the UK.

You can contact Kelly through our main office number: + 44 20 3875 7422.


Sinead is a solicitor specialising in employment law. She has acted for clients (including FTSE 100 companies and SMEs) in defending employment tribunal claims covering a wide range of issues such as discrimination, unfair dismissal, whistleblowing and equal pay. She regularly advises clients on day to day employment matters including disciplinaries, sickness absence, performance management and employee rights as well as advising on redundancy situations and TUPE.  Sinead also drafts and negotiates employment contracts, settlement agreements and employment law policies and provides employment law support on corporate and commercial transactions. Sinead trained with a magic circle firm in London before moving to the North West and working for a national law firm for 6 years.  Sinead also has in-house experience after undertaking a client secondment with an international airline.

You can contact Sinead through our main office number: + 44 20 3875 7422.


Alan Donohue is a US lawyer who has extensive experience in the core skills of Proelium Law.  Alan has significant experience providing legal advice to the private security industry, NGOs and businesses operating in challenging environments, both in-country and from the US legal perspective. His experience includes providing advice in such diverse geographical locations as Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Somalia, Mozambique, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and the UAE. He was for many years Vice President of Legal affairs to the Constellis Group and General Counsel to the Cohort Group/Edinburgh International. More recently he has been General Counsel to Reed International.  Alan acutely understands the complexity and interaction of both host nation laws, US laws and extra territorial application of US law. He brings a wealth of knowledge concerning compliance related to US DoS’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls; internal development and implementation of various international standards; procuring and maintenance of US security licences and tax. Corporate registrations, licensing of defense articles, and liaising with host country governments for the countries mentioned. Alan has spoken at the United Nations and was the US security companies representative to the International Code of Conduct Association (ICOCA), located in Geneva, Switzerland.                                               

 Contact Alan directly: adonohue@proeliumlaw.com or US cell: 603-410-7482. 

Read our latest news & articles

Proelium Law Mock Court Trial

Proelium Law was asked to carry out a mock trial at Education Without Borders 2017, demonstrating the likely approach by a claimant’s law firm should a claim for negligence against an organisation reach court.

read more

Organisational Culture in a Foreign Country – Part 2

Cultural differences between people in a company, or between the employees of two companies working together in a joint venture, can create difficulties in terms of communication, teamwork, motivation, or coordination, and the impact on performance can be significant.

Proelium Law LLP

Proelium Law LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership registered in England and Wales No.OC411568.

Proelium Law LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority No. 629608 (www.sra.org.uk)

VAT Registration No. 242 4002 59.

© www.proeliumlaw.com


Web Design by Tim Mitchell Design | Web Consultancy by John Griffin, Up Marketing Co

Pin It on Pinterest