Date of Award
Doctor of Education (Ded)
Professional Studies in Education
Robert Millward, D. Ed.
George Bieger, Ph.D.
Wenfan Yan, Ph.D.
The purpose of this study is to examine sources of leader attributes and values of U. S. Army officers and to ascertain which attributes and values commissioned officers find most applicable to modern combat. The study compares the theoretical attributes taught in Army officer education programs with the attributes and values practiced by four commissioned officers in Iraq, Somalia, Rwanda, and Afghanistan. In narrative case study form, it presents a phenomenological exploration of the philosophies, beliefs, and conclusions of those four commissioned officers. The study identified four sources of the values that the participants consider important to their performance as leaders: commissioning sources; military role models, including family members; self-study and reflection; and values defined by the requirements of service to legitimate civilian authority. Regarding individual values, the study concluded that selflessness creates the foundation for all other leader behaviors in combat, and that personal integrity, confidence, courage, empathy, humanity, and proportionality were five other critical values required in combat. A commissioned officer who manifests those six values in his behaviors will be a successful combat leader. The study revealed that combat leaders believe that leadership behaviors cannot be learned in a classroom environment; they must be acquired by habitual confrontation by challenges pertinent to a specific virtue. The study found that combat leadership corroborates theories of action-based leadership by leaders who personify important core values, first articulated in Aristotle’s theory of virtue ethics and promoted by Army leadership doctrine. Finally, this study concluded that the most valuable attributes in combat are those that compel subordinates to overcome the cognitive dissonance between self-preservation and action, between risk and duty. Often, the leader must overcome his cognitive dissonance first.
Gibson, Robert D., "Virtue Under Fire: Leadership Attributes Required in 21st Century Combat" (2008). Theses and Dissertations. 1030.