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An Analysis of Leadership Behavior in Extreme Military Contexts

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MBA professional rept.

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The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Virginia Tech Shootings, and Hurricane Katrina are examples of intense situations that appear to be increasingly commonplace. This type of event seems to be occurring with much greater frequency than before. How city officials, military officers, and emergency responders lead in extreme situations is an important area of study. The central aim of this project is to uncover the key leadership behaviors and competencies necessary for managers and leaders dealing with major trauma and extreme events. The project identifies leader behaviors that are related to the competencies for effective leadership. The author begins by recounting two failures in leadership by US Airways after 911 and by local, state, and federal agencies after Hurricane Katrina. Next he presents 10 vignettes by 10 officers who experienced an unexpected emergency situation in which there was significant disruption to work routines and possible loss of life. The situation had to be of sufficient magnitude to equate to a life and death situation. The participants had an average of 11 years of service and had served in a variety of fields and places, such as Iraq, Southeast Asia, the Pacific, and Afghanistan. The group ranged from junior officers to midgrade officers and their ages ranged from 26 to 40. Thematic analysis was used to compare and contrast responses and views across the different stories. The analysis of the vignettes revealed several themes relating to the central question of this project what behaviors do leaders in an extreme crisis demonstrate The themes that emerged were self control, optimism, realism, vision, vigilance, awareness, selfless devotion, empathy, and personal responsibility.

Subject Categories:

  • Administration and Management
  • Government and Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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