Military Leadership Experiences in Information Support Operations

Subject: Leadership Styles
Pages: 83
Words: 29666
Reading time:
107 min
Study level: PhD


The following doctoral dissertation outlines the parameters of a study focusing on leadership development experiences of Military Information Support Operations officers who have served in the recent conflicts in Southwest Asia. The purpose of the study is to determine if these officers agree that the current leadership development paradigm employed by the U.S. Army serves their professional needs. The study will use a qualitative phenomenological methodology to collect data via personal interviews with 20 volunteer officers currently conducting Military Information Support Operations. The goal of this research is to provide insight into the efficacy of current U.S. Army leadership development programs as they pertain to the specific needs of Information Operations and Military Information Support Operations officers.


Introduction to the Problem

The Military has long been recognized for regimental structures of discipline and development. The primary focus of leader and leadership development in the military revolves around military leaders’ ability to provide command and control to units engaged in battle. Known as kinetic operations, military leaders learn to destroy the enemy to achieve mission success. However, long term success requires a military leader to win the hearts and minds of noncombatants; this is known as non-kinetic operations. “Information actions or operations in an information war inform and shape the perceptions, attitudes, behavior, and understanding of targeted population groups in order to reinforce actions within other lines of operation. In the information war, we fight an enemy with words, symbols and ideas. These have the primary purpose of influencing the perceptions, and hence the will, attitudes, and, ultimately, the behavior of target audiences” (Molan, 2009, p. 39).

When a military planner surveys a fight holistically, with both kinetic and non-kinetic operations in equal measure, psychological warfare becomes a valuable tool. Psychological warfare demands different leader and leadership development skills than those applied in kinetic operations. The lack of leadership development tailored to the specific developmental needs of non-kinetic operations officers engaged in psychological warfare creates increasing concern among senior military leaders that non-kinetic operations remain ineffective (Wass de Czege 2008; Wass de Czege 2009). While psychological warfare as a rule has been “repeatedly misunderstood and misrepresented, [Military Information Support Operations], as a means of informing and influencing foreign audiences, remains as relevant in peace as in war and as vital to our nation’s defense as ever before” (Boyd, 2011, p. 22). Non-kinetic operations leaders lack the experience and training of their civilian counterparts and remain poorly equipped to support the ground component commander’s requirements (Wass de Czege, 2009).

The result is the increased use of civilian contractors to conduct information operations and Psychological Warfare, which effectively relegates non-kinetic operations officers to support roles. As witnessed in both Iraq and Afghanistan, civilian marketing firms took the lead in conducting information operations, largely due to the perception that their capabilities exceeded those of their military counterparts. Understanding this perceived lack of effectiveness of military information operations necessitates the exploration of non-kinetic operations officers’ leadership development. This study examines the leadership development experiences of non-kinetic operations leaders with combat experience exclusively. The study seeks to determine what correlation exists, if any, between the experiences of these officers and the degree of leadership development received.

Statement of the Problem

The military defines operations as lethal or nonlethal. Lethal operations involve the use of violent force to achieve military objectives. Nonlethal operations involve the use of civil, information, electronic and deceptive means to engage combatants and noncombatants and achieve military objectives. Lethal and nonlethal operations aspire to be mutually supportive; nonlethal operations often precede lethal operations, for example, in order to set the optimal conditions for future operations. Nonlethal operations exploit the successes of friendly forces and emphasize the failures of the enemy during the campaign.

Senior military leaders now understand that non-kinetic operations officers lack sufficient professional development to apply and integrate nonlethal operations with lethal operations (Wass de Czege, 2008; Wass de Czege, 2009). Although the military has well established training programs for leader development in the application of lethal force to defeat an enemy, leadership development for nonlethal operations has been disjointed and erratic (Wass de Czege, 2008; Wass de Czege, 2009).

Nonlethal actions are no less vital to the successful outcome an armed conflict than lethal actions – this adage is becoming more and more the case as the information age takes root in modern warfare. As Wass de Czege (2010) explained:

The real aim of commanders and their information operations (IO) practitioners was, and still is, to contribute to two broad and practical purposes essential to the success of all highly complex missions: to win the psychological contest with real and potential adversaries; and to keep the trust and confidence of U.S. and allied citizens while gaining the confidence and support of local populations. These two aims accurately describe what savvy modern commanders actually do with IO staff and capabilities, including PSYOP. They influence the decisions of real and potential adversaries, and they inform the decisions of an entirely different group of people – those already disposed to support the unit’s mission and those who are potential supporters (p. 2).

Purpose of the Study

Using a qualitative phenomenological method, this researcher seeks to understand how current and former non-kinetic operations officers experience and perceive their leadership development. Respondents will share their perceptions of the integration and application of military information support operations supporting lethal and nonlethal operations in Southwest Asia. Twenty participants meeting the study criteria will be asked to participate in face-to-face, online or telephonic unstructured interviews. Current and former non-kinetic operations officers with a background serving in the conflicts in Southwest Asia will comprise the population study. Participants will be selected to form a representative sample of combat experienced non-kinetic operations leaders.

When little to no information exists about a problem, qualitative research methodology becomes appropriate. Richards and Morse (2007) stated that qualitative research also suits study methodology when the researchers seek to learn how participants experience a process, how participants express meanings of experiences and how participants interpret these experiences.

This researcher will adopt these criteria, as little is known about this leadership problem and the purpose remains to develop an understanding of the phenomena through real world combat experience. The phenomenological design discovers perceptions of the lived experiences of the researcher and participants (Richards & Morse, 2007; Simon, 2006; van Manen, 1990). The intention in this study is to discover shared leadership development themes by exploring the lived experiences of non-kinetic operations leaders.


For this research, non-kinetic operations officer development will be placed in the overall context of U.S. Army officer leadership development. At the time of the study, a gap exists between non-kinetic operations officer leadership development and the scope of traditional U.S. Army officer leadership development. It is the responsibility of the MISO officer to find and conduct leadership development that is specific to the conduct of propaganda warfare outside the scheduled leadership training the officer already receives. The creation and adoption of leadership development programs that prepare non-kinetic operations officer for real world effectiveness may lift the veil of incompetence that now shrouds non-kinetic operations (Wass de Czege, 2009). This researcher will build on the work of Olivares, Peterson and Hess (2007), and Larsson, Bartone, Miepke, Bos-Bakx, Danielsson, Jelusic, Johansson, Moelker, Sjoberg, Vrbanjac, Forsythe, Pruefert and Wachowicz (2006) to add knowledge to the existing body of literature on military officer leadership development.

The Olivares (2007) study made use of questionnaires to draw out the leadership development experiences of a group of officers from the US Army. The study participants provided 117 distinctive experiences. Olivares et al. (2007) employed a number of different computational methods to empirically find out the particular aspects and structures of these officers’ experiences. The results of Olivares et al. (2007) offered support and justification for the suggestion that beneficial experiences were rated to a higher degree than experiences noted as negative in five distinct areas of measurement: “challenge, self-efficacy, sociality, relevance, and reflectivity. Four of the five elements were represented by two components: an interpersonal component…sociality and relevance…and an intrapersonal component…self-efficacy and challenge. A fifth element, reflectivity, was related to, but distinct from, both components. Reflectivity may bridge or connect the intrapersonal and the interpersonal components” (Olivares et al, 2007, p. 76). The research limitations and implications of the Olivares et al. (2007) study was outlined as follows: “the research was limited to a sample of US Army officers.

Future research should seek to replicate the findings in larger and more diverse samples, for example, the private sector. These efforts are currently planned…” (Olivares et al., 2007, p. 76). The study authors described the following practical implications: “the conceptual framework and method for understanding experiences that facilitate leadership development can be used by any organization. The present framework and findings are consistent with other approaches to leadership development… [for example] the competency approach” (Olivares et al., 2007, p. 76). Olivares et al. (2007) spoke to the originality and value of the study in that the data collection methods used a unique and tractable approach for understanding leadership development experiences. The elements and structure of beneficial experiences were empirically determined using a number of computational methods; heretofore, this has not been done” (Olivares et al., 2007, p. 76). The purpose of this paper is to develop a conceptual framework for better understanding leadership development experiences by melding the existential-phenomenological (E-P) perspective with the leadership literature. The researcher aims to provide useful insight into the current effectiveness of leadership development programs for non-kinetic operations officers.

Laarson et al. (2006) explained that “despite an increasing number of programs that aim to develop or educate leaders, the underlying processes involved in leader development or growth are not well understood” (Laarson, 2006, p. 69). The researchers explained that the “study was undertaken to discover what factors or processes are involved in leader development for junior military officers, from their own perspective and in the natural context of their career and life experiences” (Laarson, 2006, p. 69). Laarson et al. (2006) interviewed 51 “military officers…from…five…different countries…using a standardized approach, and interview transcripts were analyzed according to the constant comparative method of grounded theory, as elaborated by Glaser and Strauss (1967). Consistently across the…five… countries, the core of the process model of leader development is the social interaction between the young officer and his or her significant others…soldiers, peers, and superiors. In the favorable case, officers end this process feeling secure, being able to flexibly adapt their overt behavior on an under distanced – over distanced continuum according to situational demands, and have a firm professional identity” (Laarson, 2006, p. 69).

The ultimate goal of the current study is to provide information that will increase the overall effectiveness of the non-kinetic operations officer organization and U.S. Army Information Operations, hereafter referred to as IO.

Background of the Study

Persistent military operations since the first Gulf War in 1991 have resulted in changes in how military leaders view and engage in the information battle space. The Department of Defense, hereafter referred to as the DOD, recognized the need for units that specialized in information warfare in 1996 and established the United States Army 1st Information Operations Command, hereafter referred to as IOC, in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, formerly the Land Information Warfare Activity Information Dominance Center. During this period in the late 1990s, the U.S. Army possessed two separate and distinct units that specialized in information warfare: Psychological Operations now called Military Information Support Operations, and Public Affairs Office. Hereafter these two units will be referred to as MISO and PAO respectively.

With the creation of IO, the U.S. Army provides a central organization with the primary task to synchronize nonlethal information warfare assets and effects with lethal warfare assets and effects. The MISO influences beliefs and perceptions in target audiences and changes their behaviors via propaganda warfare. The PAO informs public audiences; it does not create or distribute propaganda. “PA assets consist largely of staff assistants, journalists, correspondents and small detachments capable of gathering and disseminating military news for domestic consumption” (Boyd, 2011, p. 26).

These two organizations conduct information warfare but do not interact; the division prevents the PAO from losing credibility through association with the more obvious propaganda organization, the MISO. “For MISO Soldiers to conduct operations within the continental U.S., the secretary of defense must issue a deployment-and-execution order that delineates the objectives, themes, timing, duration and types of information to be disseminated in support of military operations or lead federal agencies. Therefore, MISO authorities to deploy and execute operations are tightly controlled and are kept within the acceptable norms of American culture” (Boyd, 2011, p. 26). PAO and MISO synchronize key messages, yet soldiers that create the messages for the MISO and PAO do not work together. “MISO is communications to influence human attitudes and behavior. The targeting of foreign governments, organizations, groups and individuals is the most revealing feature of the more detailed definition, because it reflects intentions and potential actions that extend beyond the tactical level of war and are not exclusive to combat” (Boyd, 2011, p. 25).

Selected military leaders undergo several weeks of training in order to become an IO officer; he or she is assigned the task to synchronize the five core information operations capabilities. These include Military Information Support Operations, or MISO; Computer Network Operations, hereafter known as CNO; Operation Security, hereafter known as OPSEC; Electronic Warfare, or EW, and Military Deception, or MILDEC. “MISO…has larger tactical and operational units with the skills and resources needed to capture, develop, produce and disseminate multimedia products that can be used to inform and influence foreign audiences” (Boyd, 2011, p. 26). Leaders must meet the rank of Captain or above before they enter training. Selected officers hail from various military careers, including intelligence, infantry, armor and quartermaster. Tellingly, even at the rank of Captain, U.S. Army officers have had little or no training in the application of nonlethal assets.

Similar to IO officers, MISO officers are selected from various career fields throughout the Army to attend a short course on the application of propaganda warfare. MISO officers are also Captains or above; typically, these officer have little or no experience in MISO. Retired Brigadier General Huba Wass de Czege stated that “while progress is being made on other fronts of defense transformation, IO is stuck in an outmoded and naïve mind-set” (Wass de Czege, 2008, p. 15). Military leaders, according to Wass de Czege, have not yet caught up to the ubiquitous reality that modern warfare now inhabits; therefore, kinetic operations still occupy the forefront of military leadership development theories. However, as Wass de Czege (2010) explained:

In terms of beyond-limits warfare, there is no longer any distinction between what is or is not the battlefield. Spaces in nature including the ground, the seas, the air, and outer space are battlefields, but social spaces such as the military, politics, economics, culture, and the psyche are also battlefields. And the technological space linking these two great spaces is even more so the battlefield over which all antagonists spare no effort in contending. Warfare can be military, or it can be quasi-military, or it can be non-military. It can use violence, or it can be nonviolent. It can be a confrontation between professional soldiers, or one between newly emerging forces consisting primarily of ordinary people or experts. These characteristics of beyond-limits war are the watershed between it and traditional warfare, as well as the starting line for new types of warfare (p. 2).

The MISO leader now inhabits quite literally a world war theater, where both the literal and the virtual worlds can become the stage for a battle at any time. In the arena of modern warfare, the management of information becomes critical and demands strong and decisive leadership, supported by a unified and forward-looking organizational culture.

Larsson et al. (2006) conducted research on the effectiveness of leadership development of government employees; however, no research exists specifically on the effectiveness of leadership development training for IO and MISO military leaders. Researchers have yet to draw clear distinctions between leader development and leadership development (Day, 2001). Defining this distinction continues to be the aim of research in the new millennia. Research facilitated the proliferation of new leadership development methodology and a burgeoning acknowledgment of the importance of the empathetic attachment a leader has with others. Leadership development involves more than individual leader development, thus a greater focus on the organizational context in which leaders develop now exists (Day, 2001; Hart, Conklin & Allen, 2008; McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004).

McCauley and Van Velsor (2004) stated that “to expand leadership capacity, organizations must not only develop the leadership capacities of individuals, but also develop the leadership capacity of collectives” (McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004, p. 19). Traditional leader development focused purely on the individual. The U.S. Army manages programs designed for individuals to become better leaders. McCauley and Van Velsor (2004) argued that leadership within an organization is a collective, interactive, and complementary force. Leadership development aligns leader efforts while strengthening the bonds between leaders. This researcher will examine leader and leadership development of MISO officers.

Introduction to U.S. Military Information Operations

“Public opinion is the arbiter of success in all mili­tary operations.” – Anonymous.

“When people at home and in allied countries get the impression that their forces are ineffective and illegitimate, they will withdraw support.” – Anonymous.

The short history of military IO begins on August 27, 1996, when the DOD released FM 100-6 Information Operations: Doctrine, Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, Headquarters, Department of the Army, the DOD Roadmap to the 21st century Information Warfare and an essential element in command-and-control warfare. The 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review identified Information Operations as one of six DOD operational goals going into the next century. It required IO, along with intelligence and space assets, to no longer serve as support systems for current forces, but to serve as core capabilities of future forces. In November of 2003, the DOD updated FM 100-6 to FM 3-13 Information Operations: Doctrine, Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, Headquarters, Department of the Army.

The Information Operations doctrine outlines two operational tenets. The first tenet is; to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversarial human and automated deci­sion making, while protecting our own (FM 3-13, 2003, p. v). “The second tenet is; the integrated employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare, computer network operations, psychological opera­tions, military deception, and operations security, in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities” (FM 3-13, 2003, p. v). Wass de Czege (2008) wrote that these two tenets are “intractable” (Wass de Czege, 2008, p. 14). The first tenet according to FM 3-13 (2003) defines IO as “the employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare (EW), computer network operations (CNO), military information support operations (MISO), military deception (MILDEC), and operations security (OPSEC), in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities” (FM 3-13, 2003, p. v). The second tenet includes the integration of these capabilities through the achievement of a separate IO logical line of operations (LLO) with the objective to influence the behaviors of adversaries and the populations that support them. The principal goal of IO is “to achieve and maintain information superiority for the U.S. and its allies” (FM 3-13, 2003, p. v). Information superiority enables decision makers to observe, orient, decide, and act faster than the enemy.

IO remains an element of Information Warfare (FM 3-13, 2003). The U.S. Army recognized the need to protect the ability to communicate on the modern battlefield while at the same time creating paralysis in the enemy command and control systems through information operations (FM 3-13, 2003). The guiding objective of command-and-control warfare remains to achieve mission success by paralyzing the enemy’s command and control action via the five pillars of IO, with the main effort focused on MISO (FM 3-13, 2003).

IO aims to create dysfunction in the enemy’s ability to predict and respond to its own actions (Dominique, 2009). For example, if the enemy cannot communicate with its troops, it loses the ability to control the fight. In the IO arena, this equates to the enemy not being able to influence target audiences. It will be forced to either defend its position or not respond at all. If the enemy reacts to misinformation or disinformation, its actions ultimately favour its adversary. This is achieved using MISO which relies on the quality, credibility, speed and reliability of messaging to achieve decisive victory (Ceroli, 2007; Scott, 2009). The key tasks for IO are: delay, disrupt, deny, destroy, or deceive the enemy, thus creating a negative impact on the enemy’s ability to make informed decisions (FM 3-13, 2003).

Information Warfare originates from Command and Control Warfare, which further refined the concept of IO. IO has two key objectives: the first is the synchronization, coordination and synthesization of nonlethal operations such as MISO, Military Deception, Civil Affairs, Electronic Warfare, OPSEC, CNO and Public Affairs Operations (FM 3-13, 2003). The second objective is the incorporation of the five pillars – destruction, deception, psychological operations, operations security, and electronic warfare – of IO to influence the behaviors of target audiences and achieve the commander’s desired effects (FM 3-13, 2003).

The concept of information warfare has as its battle space both the cognitive and information domains (Robinson, 2005). The information domain provides the connection between the physical domain and the cognitive domain (Robinson, 2005). Success on the modern battlefield requires the mastery of the information domain to influence the cognitive domain against mobilizing in support of the enemy. In 450 B.C.E. the ancient military strategist, Sun Tzu suggested that a commander with knowledge of himself and his enemy will not be defeated in a thousand battles. Sun Tzu’s insight still applies today, at blinding speeds. Information passes through multi-media at very high speeds and bandwidth; millions access and interact with information on a daily basis. Today’s target audiences are far better informed than those of Sun Tzu’s time.

Introduction to Military Information Support Operations

Military influence operations are focused on changing the behaviors of combatants and noncombatants to achieve stated United States Government objectives (FM 3.05-30, 2005). The military conducts influence operations against the adversaries of the United States, whereas the State Department targets the citizenry in various parts of the world to promote democratization and other national objectives. Military support to public diplomacy occurs under the strict control of civilian leaders and does not directly link resources to support military influence operations. The main effort in military influence operations are MISO units which are typically located on all levels of command strategic through tactical (Ceroli, 2007).

MISO attempts to intimi­date, demoralize, mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy and influence the enemy to change its behavior (FM 3.05-30, 2005). MISO reduces or eliminates the need for kinetic action (Scott, 2009). The transparent information world forces MISO specialists and planners to create messages that definitively link to actions, images and words in order to win the cognitive war (Ceroli, 2007; Scott, 2009).

Unlike kinetic action where the effects are immediate, cognitive warfare requires the presentation of ideas through messages aimed to influence attitudes and change behaviors over long periods of time (Sokoloski, 2005). The results of propaganda are seldom seen initially and may take many days, weeks, months or even years to manifest (Scott, 2009). Influence operations are not necessarily linked to kinetic actions. Kinetic actions most certainly will create cognitive dissonance in target audiences, as war is not a normal element of human behavior, it is irrational behavior. Influence operations may support the commander before, during, and after kinetic operations by influencing the enemy and public perceptions after kinetic actions (FM 3.05-30, 2005). Influence operations also support non-kinetic operations such as promoting projects, civil military aid, educations programs on Improvised Explosive Devices (FM 3.05-30, 2005).

MISO soldiers study target audiences in order to provide the message that will resonate with them in order to influence their behaviors, attitude, and perceptions (FM 3.05-30, 2005). Where the enemy is concerned, MISO sends the message that the enemy’s action is futile, and will ultimately result in its demise (FM 3.05-30, 2005). The message to noncombatant target audiences aims to discredit enemy actions and promote the goals of the U.S. and NATO Coalition; most importantly, the MISO seeks to legitimize the goals and objectives of the indigenous government (FM 3.05-30, 2005).

Information Management during Conflict

The events of the Iraq War demonstrate a valuable case study for the successes and failures of information management in a major conflict for MISO leaders. The Iraq War was “a modern urban counterinsurgency conducted among the people and…under intense international scrutiny. It was deeply unpopular because of its contentious origins…was conducted on a very large scale [and] involved many civilian and military casualties” (Molan, 2009, p. 37). The Iraqi opponents demonstrated facility with information management, the usage of propaganda, and the effective deployment of the Internet to send a message that supported the insurgency cause. Colonel Kenneth Tovo, the commanding officer of the U.S. Special Forces 10th Group, said this about the importance of information management during the Iraq War:

I would say that at least for Iraq it’s almost always been a media fight…. When you look at insurgent movements in history, clearly there are some [insurgencies] that thought they could win militarily. But in the end, really the center of gravity is always the people. You’re always fighting a battle for the hearts and minds of the people, so I don’t think it has changed with the rise of the Internet and cameras everywhere. It’s just easier for insurgents to reach the people (Dauber, 2009, p. 15).

Thus, the Iraq War can be employed as teacher for future MISO leaders to provide a sense of how enemy forces develop and implement their own non-kinetic forces. As Molan (2009) explained, “opponents in Iraq were highly effective in the management of their information. Their overall strategy and tactics came very close to success in 2006 and 2007, and so are likely to be used as a template by…future adversaries” (p. 38). The major challenge faced by the information management officers in Iraq proved to be finding a way to hold their own against the skilful manipulation of media witnessed by the insurgent forces. As Molan (2009) explained, “to be effective as a manager of information in this conflict, the leadership of the coalition in Iraq needed to believe that what it was doing was both moral and legal, while at the same time recognizing that such views were not likely to be accepted by the majority of the people that [the] information was trying to influence” (p. 39).

The insurgency forces, on the other hand, demonstrated no hesitation as to the legitimacy of its cause, and almost immediately began to use the media and the especially the Internet to discredit the coalition cause. Similarly, discrepancies in leadership contributed the coalition forces stumbling out of the gate in the information management war. As Molan (2009) explained, “like all other operations of war, information needs to be coordinated from the top down. Nations go to war and run information operations, not militaries. Neither war nor information in war should be the unique province of only one part of government. The occupation of Iraq following the invasion in 2003 is a very good example of the initial clumsiness that we should expect from any nation waging an unexpected war and trying to coordinate any form of operation, especially information the information war or information operations (p. 37). Leader and leadership development programs for MISO officers going forward have the opportunity to utilize the example of the Iraq War as a modern conflict that epitomized the information management challenges that arise when a war mingles among the civilian population. As Molan (2009) posited:

In a modern conflict fought among the people, an antagonist’s messages will be principally directed at uncommitted, disadvantaged groups, political factions which may be persuaded, vulnerable elements of the opposing force and the media. A nation or coalition involved in a conflict must have the ability to accurately tell its story while discrediting the lies and propaganda of its adversaries. To do this, as doctrine states, in thousands of daily interactions, its personnel must support the mission by avoiding dissonant actions and seizing fleeting chances to advance informational objectives (p. 37).

Two recent examples illustrate real world combat situations wherein MISO and IO leaders lacked the experience and leader development to prevent unwanted outcomes. In March 2006, U.S. Special Forces and Iraqi Special Forces engaged and defeated a Jaish al Mahdi force responsible for the murders of several Iraqi civilians and Iraqi soldiers. At the time, the operation, labeled Operation Valhalla, was considered “a completely ordinary engagement, typical of the type of operation U.S. Special Forces units have participated in throughout the Iraq war” (Dauber, 2009, p. 13). Within an hour of leaving the engagement site, the Jaish al Mahdi staged the bodies of the dead Jaish al Mahdi fighters to appear as civilians, photographed the scene, and posted the images on the web alongside a press release claiming U.S. forces had killed the men praying in a mosque. Although U.S. forces also photographed and videotaped their actions, it took three days to release the information (Dauber, 2009). “Colonel Kenneth Tovo…reports that a 24- to 48-hour cycle between an event and the appearance on the Internet of propaganda regarding that event had become routine to Special Forces operating in Iraq during that period” (Dauber, 2009, p. 14). However, in the case of Operation Valhalla, the insurgents “had their story, their propaganda, out on the wires before the assault force was back at the compound, so [in] under an hour, they had their counter-story already on the wires.

That’s how brilliant [this was. It] really surprised us that first time, because we were kind of used to the Al-Qaeda and Sunni insurgent model, which was 24 to 48 hours… to get their story out….” (Dauber, 2009, p. 14). The untimely release of information by U.S. forces created the appearance that the U.S. reacted to enemy propaganda with its own propaganda; this resulted in loss of credibility with the Iraqis and other world audiences. Fortunately for the coalition cause, the “U.S. forces had been accompanied by members of the combat camera units, and had themselves been wearing helmet cams in several cases. Thus “before” pictures were available to contrast with the “after” pictures the militia members posted to the web. “This made all the difference in the investigation” (Dauber, 2009, p. 14). However, the example illustrates one key point related to leader and leadership development of MISO officers. Information moves at the speed of light. Photos and videos can be doctored and uploaded in seconds. Thus, the effective MISO leader understands that he or she must always be three steps ahead of the enemy in the information domain. This relates to the necessity for a visual record of all operations, as well as a strategic plan that can be deployed in seconds in cases where the enemy attempts to manipulate the Internet for its advantage. No such plan existed for Operation Valhalla, and the coalition suffered as a result. “[The enemy’s] media infrastructure is quick, it’s collaborative, it’s virtual, it’s global, it’s technical, and it’s getting better all the time” (Dauber, 2009, p. 15). In the information war, speed is key, thus the MISO leader must combine media savvy and strategic media planning skill and with leadership attributes.

Leadership in the online space also requires MISO officers to master the Internet. The power of the Internet is unprecedented in terms of openness and transparency. The Internet is a media tool that gives each side of the conflict full access to each other’s target audiences, as Dauber (2009) noteed:

For the first time insurgents can now monitor the way their efforts are covered in the American press – almost in real time – from thousands of miles away. This is not only the first war fought with unlimited, global access to their audience, it is also the first war fought as the global press has moved online. Even the smallest newspapers now have an online presence, and television networks all stream their coverage on their own websites, to greater or lesser degrees. Insurgents can watch the way their efforts are covered for the audiences they hope to influence and adapt strategies if they do not like what they see. At the same time, they know the Western press carefully monitors their own websites–even if they are designed and maintained predominately to recruit new members or mobilize existing support. Thus, they can use their web presence as a ready conduit through the press to the American audience (p. 16).

In Operation Valhalla, Multi-National Corps Iraq created an organizational culture, processes, and systems that hindered the timely release of information on attack. Thus the enemy resolved the cognitive dissonance – the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change – within the same target audiences that U.S. forces sought to influence, before the Multi-National Corps Iraq could respond. Thus, the enemy exploited the cognitive dissonance in a way that supported the cultural biases in the minds of the Iraqi people. The Multi-National Corps Iraq faced overwhelmingly negative attitudes and beliefs validated by the enemy, before it had been able to share its own version of the truth.

MISO leaders quickly began to formulate themes and messages as a part of the consequence management plan following the attack by U.S. Special Forces. However, MISO leaders were unsuccessful in their attempts to convince the supported unit commanders of the vital importance of a timely response to the enemy’s propaganda counterattack. This example points to the unequal power dynamic that persists between kinetic and non-kinetic operations, as MISO leaders lacked the leadership development necessary to coach and persuade unit commanders of the importance of a timely response to the overall success of the mission. This example also demonstrates the outmoded ways of thinking that persist among the military in regards to the Internet. As Wass de Czege (2010) explained, “techno-capable outcast nations, extremist political movements, and criminal syndicates stand to benefit more from current conditions. Therefore, the way military thinkers approach doctrine relevant to the potential for Internet warfare must change. The Internet is a global commons to which the cyberspace metaphor is useful from the standpoint of political and legal approaches to sharing its utility with global allies. “From the perspective of denying its benefits to adversaries, the cyberspace metaphor gets in the way of clear thinking” (Wass de Czege, 2010, p. 1).

In July 2008, the U.S.-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan reported an air strike which had killed insurgents. The U.S. responded immediately that no civilians lost their lives. Conversely, civilians at the air strike’s location reported to local media sources that the strike had indeed killed civilians belonging to a wedding party. An investigation later by the Afghanistan government revealed the air strike had indeed killed 47 civilians attending a wedding party. The speed of response by the U.S. forces resulted in inaccurate statements being made before the facts of the situation came to light. This dissemination of unintended misinformation damaged both U.S. and NATO credibility and gave the enemy an opportunity to undermine coalition efforts in Afghanistan.

Again, the MISO leaders that oversaw the response to these reports could not convince the supported unit leadership of the equal importance of accuracy and timeliness to mission success. As a result, the U.S. and NATO issued a retraction and apology to the Afghan people, which effectively perpetuated the local mistrust in NATO forces operating in Afghanistan.

These two examples illustrate how weak leadership development programs contribute to lack of experience, ineffective leadership styles, skewed power relationships, and unwanted mission outcomes.

Outmoded Thinking

As of 2011, the pursuit of leadership in the realm of cyberspace continues to adhere to the standard military protocols of yesteryear (Alfonso, 2010). “Officers with proven worth in their respective fields have risen to senior ranks and assumed leadership positions in the cyber mission. Success in the traditional war paradigm, however, does not necessarily equate to success in the cyber realm…” (Alfonso, 2010, p. 61).

Warfare of 2011 and beyond demands different kinds of military leaders than the stoic warriors of military legend. While personality certainly remains a core tenet of effective military leadership, awareness and strategic comprehension of the sweeping changes that cyberspace has brought to modern warfare has not yet penetrated the military mindset. As Alfonso (2010) explained:

The advent of the cyber domain, however, defies…notions of military genius and challenges traditional approaches to command. For example, the physical violence inherent to war does not exist within the cyber realm. Nor do the demands of traditional war: strength, physical courage, and the ability to cope with violent death. The concepts of cyber and virtual conflicts, unfortunately, seem too abstract for many military leaders to comprehend. Instead, their responses remain consistent with previous approaches to revolutions in military affairs (RMA): deny the revolution, operate as before, and apply tried and true doctrine of past successful models to the RMA (e.g., one need only look at the evolution of the Air Force). In cyberspace the US military has focused on domination and denial, based on the success of current air, land, and sea doctrines, instead of considering more adaptive approaches that could warrant greater successes but at much greater risks (p. 63).

MISO leaders to the upper echelon of leaders of the military, specifically those leaders in the Department of Defense, must all consider the fact that an organizational shift in the military – specifically pertaining to the information age – is afoot. Regardless of whether or not the military hierarchy heeds this change, the information age has already completely transformed the nature of war irrevocably, and the leadership development of the future must acknowledge this truth or be doomed to obsolescence.

This study evaluates this multifaceted problem of leader development, leadership development, and the larger organizational culture of the military, with a specific focus on MISO officers, as these officers remain the key source of messages in the battle arena and these officers will manifest the changes most readily. “Regarding cyber education, Department of Defense…leaders must directly challenge the bureaucratic traditions currently embodied by the military services in order to adopt innovative education and training techniques that recognize this shift in the knowledge structure. Similar to civilian organizations that face challenges to their traditional hierarchy, the DOD must break down deep-rooted biases that inhibit…it…from seizing opportunities to open up innovation” (p. 63). Some of the most damaging biases within the military hierarchy and officer advancement protocols include the fact that “officers must meet certain education, age, personal comportment, and physical requirements in order to be considered for command positions” (Alfonso, 2010, p. 63). Like any organization, the military must adapt to the change wrought by the information age, and this begins with the approach to leader and leadership development, as well as recruiting and retention strategies for MISO leaders with high-level information management skills and acumen. As Alfonso (2010) noteed, “any organization seeking to remain competitive must adapt innovative methods for acquiring and retaining this talent. “The military, which needs this expertise to remain effective in its national security mission, must seek alternatives to traditional recruiting and education methods that will facilitate the discovery and maturing of cyber genius” (p. 63).

Brief History of Psychological Operations

Psychological operations or PSYOP refers to the precursor of MISO; it is the form of military information programs and activities concerned exclusively with the dissemination of overt propaganda, which began in World War I. At the time, according to Boyd (2011), “PSYOP came into its own as a formal activity…During that period, the three shades of propaganda – white, gray and black – appeared in a variety of unclassified and classified government programs aimed at motivating popular support for the war and demoralizing the enemy” (p. 22). Historically, as propaganda moved from its obvious or white form to its darker manifestations, it became more and more oblique and disconnected from its military source , until “in black propaganda, the source is unknown” (Boyd, 2011, p. 22). One of the most well-known and lingering propaganda slogans from that period of history is the belief that World War I would be “the war to end all wars” (Boyd, 2011, p. 22). As current MISO officers can attest, the interpretation of information in target audiences proved difficult for the PSYOP progenitors to manage. As Boyd (2011) explained:

Ultimately, the propaganda campaigns waged by the U.S. and its allies also had unintended consequences. On occasion, propaganda waged at home exaggerated the truth to such an extent as to be construed as disinformation. The deceptiveness of those tactics almost eliminated our government’s credibility, even among sympathetic U.S. audiences. For example, rumors of the Germans making soap out of dead bodies at the “Corpse Conversion Factory” only temporarily aroused war fervor and later aroused suspicion of U.S. government information…By the end of the war, the American public had become indifferent to rumors and disinformation (p. 22)

In World War II, psychological operations fell under the purview of the War Advertising Council and the Office of War Information; the latter organization handled the more sensitive forms of gray and black propaganda (Boyd, 2011). Much like the military of today, the War Advertising Council partnered with the media and corporations “to increase popular support for a variety of government programs ranging from the census to the draft” (Boyd, 2011, p. 22). “The Office of War Information and its psychological warfare arm known as the Psychological Warfare Division “focused its propaganda efforts on confusing, delegitimizing, and demoralizing foreign enemy audiences” (Boyd, 2011, p. 22). At this time, psychological operations regained some form of legitimacy in the eyes of the public and its “use continued during the postwar reconstruction era as consolidation propaganda…similar to today’s MISO support to stability operations” (Boyd, 2011, p. 22).

However, while the key role of psychological operations in communicating the goals and objectives of the U.S. to foreign target audiences remained obvious, “the prevailing opinion was that PSYWAR’s ability to influence foreign audiences exceeded the boundaries of combat and the tactical battlefield, and that a more expansive definition and operational construct were needed” (Boyd, 2011, p. 22). Once the U.S. and the Soviet Union entered the Cold War following World War II, psychological operations returned to its clandestine roots and became a key tactic in the Cold War Theater. Eisenhower spoke of the need of the U.S. to “adapt our foreign policy to a “cold war” strategy… a chance to gain a victory without casualties, to win a contest that can quite literally save peace,” in essence the beginnings of an information war that many military theorists believe is still being fought today, although with different actors” (Boyd, 2011, p. 22). The core objective of psychological operations, “the ability to influence foreign audiences in a manner favorable to U.S. national-security objectives,” has remained consistent since its inception and now forms the mandate of MISO (Boyd, 2011, p. 22). In the context of leader and leadership development, the U.S. Army seeks to fill its MISO ranks with “talented young officers who have the education, experience or aptitude for the art of influence” (Boyd, 2011, p. 22).

Military Officer Leadership Development

Army leaders are rigorously trained in the application of tactical and technical skills to achieve decisive victory anywhere in the world at any time against any enemy. Army leaders conduct their leadership development through long standing and well-established programs such as the Military Academies, Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and Officers Candidate Schools (OCS). These programs focus on the application of leadership basics in war. U.S. Army leaders then conduct specific Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) training, wherein U.S. Army leaders become experts in various career fields including infantry officer, armor officer and ordinance officer. At this point in the junior officer’s career, the view of the Army is still very limited in scope and responsibility. As U.S. Army leaders mature with time and rank, they broaden their responsibility and scope. U.S. Army officer advanced leadership development continues through such programs as Intermediate Level Education (ILE) and War College.

As Army leaders advance in their careers, they begin to train on the application of force on a larger scale. Army leaders remain focused on their specific function but they begin to see how that function ties into the larger operational plan. Army leaders typically at the rank of Major and Lieutenant Colonel have 15-20 years of experience in the Army. It is at this rank that Army leaders begin to take command of battalion size units. Commanders begin to lead other functional areas in which they are not trained during the early years of leadership development. As such, commanders have staff officers that represent the other functional areas to assist the commander in making decisions. One such staff function is IO and MISO.

Military Information Support Operations Officer Leadership Development

MISO officer leadership development typically does not begin until the Army leader is a senior Army Captain. Army officers are not typically trained on MISO as Second Lieutenants or First Lieutenants. New MISO officers are selected from any of the U.S. Army MOSs; these may not necessarily be career fields within the five core capabilities of IO discussed earlier. MISO officers are selected and sent through several weeks of training on the application of propaganda warfare. Initial MISO officer training focuses primarily on two learning objectives:

  1. MISO units learn their organizational structure and determine how this structure fits in the constructs of the larger U.S. Army organization.
  2. MISO units learn the seven step product development process and use it to create propaganda, distribute and disseminate it to target audiences.

Within these two learning objectives, other learning objectives break down the overarching objective into finer details. MISO Officer training includes completion of the Military Information Officer Qualification Course, wherein MISO officers strengthen leadership skills and acquire MISO tactics, techniques and procedures and other critical information sufficient for success in the first unit of assignment. Training includes classroom instruction reinforced by seminar and guest lecturers, combined with scenario-based practical exercises. A command-post exercise and qualification culminates in a situation driven field-training exercise. No further career specific advanced leadership development training for MISO officers exists beyond this initial training. This constitutes the extent of job specific training, leader development and leadership development the MISO officer will receive before he or she is sent to apply the craft in real world environments such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Research Questions

The central research question for this study meets each of the key characteristics required for phenomenological research as listed by Moustakas (1994). The central research question is: How do current and former MISO officers perceive, describe, and experience MISO officer leadership development? The key words in the research question include how, perceive, describe, experience and leadership development. The word how is used to open the door for study participants to choose the paths to be explored through their interview. The word perceives suggests that leadership development is perceived differently by each participant. The word describe refers to the meaning of leadership development to each participant. The word experience acknowledges the experiences of the participants and the importance of their stories of MISO officer leadership development.

Research sub-questions provide greater insight into the research problem. Within the U.S. Army, MISO leaders are selected for key leadership roles supporting ongoing operations in Southwest Asia.

  1. How do MISO leaders perceive their role in providing their supported commands with nonlethal maneuver support?
  2. What types of MISO leadership development training were experienced?
  3. When compared to U.S. Army officer leadership development focused on winning kinetic operations, how effective is the participant’s leadership development in preparing MISO officers for leadership in combat?
  4. What aspects of MISO officer leadership do not adequately prepare MISO officers through MISO leadership development training programs?

Significance of the Study

Many studies conducted on military officer leadership development indicate a need for leadership development to begin early and continue throughout the officer’s career (Larsson et al., 2006; Olivares et al., 2007). These researchers have explored military and government employee leadership development; however, no research exists specifically on MISO officer leadership development. This researcher deduced a dearth of purposeful leadership development, career-long leadership development, and job rotation opportunities for MISO officers, based on findings of Larsson et al. (2006) and Olivares et al. (2007). There is a relative lack of research on leadership development theory coupled with no agreed-upon theory of leadership development (Riggio, 2008). Findings from this research will add knowledge to existing literature on military leadership development and guide future research and program design.

Olivares et al. (2007) explored Army officer leadership development experiences focusing on shared experiences and the differences between beneficial and non-beneficial experiences. Larsson et al. (2006) found that the underlying developmental processes through which people grow or develop into different and better leaders are poorly understood, and remain relatively unexamined. It is the intention of this researcher to determine if the results of this study will be consistent with the findings of Larsson et al. and Olivares et al. Findings may result in a better understanding of the needs for MISO officer leadership development within the U.S. Army.

Definition of Terms

The following definitions of terms and phrases are offered to provide clarity and meaning for the language used in the dissertation. This will be especially relevant when reading the summarized textural description from the interviews.

  • Adversary- “a person or group opposed to an Army force mission, but not engaged in combat operations with Army forces” (FM 3-13, 2003).
  • Combatant- “a person or group engaged in or prepared for a fight, struggle, or dispute” (FM 3-13, 2003).
  • Computer Network Operations (CNO)- “Computer network attack, computer network defense, and related computer network exploitation enabling operations” (FM 3-13, 2003).
  • Electronic Warfare (EW) –The three major subdivisions within electronic warfare are electronic attack, electronic protection, and electronic warfare support. Electronic attack is the division of electronic warfare involving the use of electromagnetic energy, directed energy, or anti-radiation weapons to attack personnel, facilities, or equipment with the intent of degrading, neutralizing, or destroying enemy combat capability, and is considered a form of fires (FM 3-13, 2003). Electronic attack includes: (1) actions taken to prevent or reduce an enemy’s effective use of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as jamming and electromagnetic deception, and (2) employment of weapons that use either electromagnetic or directed energy as their primary destructive mechanism, including lasers, radio frequency weapons and particle beams (FM 3-13, 2003).

Electronic protection is the division of electronic warfare involving passive and active means taken to protect personnel, facilities, and equipment from any effects of friendly or enemy employment of electronic warfare that degrade, neutralize, or destroy friendly combat capability and electronic warfare support—that division of electronic warfare involving actions tasked by, or under direct control of, an operational commander to search for, intercept, identify, and locate or localize sources of intentional and unintentional radiated electromagnetic energy for the purpose of immediate threat recognition, targeting, planning and conduct of future operations (FM 3-13, 2003). Electronic warfare support data can be used to produce signals intelligence, provide targeting for electronic or destructive attack, and produce measurement and signature intelligence” (FM 3-13, 2003).

  • Ground Component Commander- “Military ground commander that controls all assets within an assigned operational area” (FM 3-13, 2003).
  • Information Operations- “The employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare, computer network operations, psychological operations, military deception, and operations security, in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to affect and defend information and information systems and to influence decision making, also called IO” (FM 3-13, 2003).
  • Lethal Operations- “Involves the application of force to achieve a direct effect, such as artillery, infantry, aviation, and armored offensive and defensive operations” (FM 3-13, 2003).
  • Military Deception (MILDEC)- “The five categories of military deception are as follows: Strategic military deception—Military deception planned and executed by and in support of senior military commanders to result in adversary military policies and actions that support the originator’s strategic military objectives, policies, and operations” (FM 3-13, 2003). “Operational military deception—Military deception planned and executed by and in support of operational-level commanders to result in adversary actions that are favorable to the originator’s objectives and operations” (FM 3-13, 2003). “Tactical military deception refers to military deception planned and executed by and in support of tactical commanders to result in adversary actions that are favorable to the originator’s objectives and operations” (FM 3-13, 2003). “Service military deception is military deception planned and executed by the Services that pertain to Service support to joint operations” (FM 3-13, 2003). “Military deception in support of operations security (OPSEC) refers to military deception planned and executed by and in support of all levels of command to support the prevention of the inadvertent compromise of sensitive or classified activities, capabilities, or intentions” (FM 3-13, 2003). “Deceptive OPSEC measures are designed to distract foreign intelligence away from, or provide cover for, military operations and activities” (FM 3-13, 2003).
  • Military Information Support Operations- “Planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals (FM 3-13, 2003). The purpose of MISO is to induce or reinforce foreign attitudes and behavior favorable to the originator’s objectives, also called MISO” (FM 3-13, 2003).
  • Noncombatant- “A noncombatant is an individual not involved in a military force (FM 3-13, 2003). The term is usually used in the context of a warzone to identify non-military personnel” (FM 3-13, 2003).
  • Nonlethal Operations- “Operations that seek to influence a target audience through electronic or print media, computer network operations, electronic warfare, or the targeted administration of humanitarian assistance” (FM 3-13, 2003).
  • Operations Security (OPSEC) – “A process of identifying essential elements of friendly information and subsequently analyzing the friendly actions attendant to military operations (FM 3-13, 2003). These activities identify actions that can be observed by adversary intelligence systems, determine indicators hostile intelligence systems might obtain that could be interpreted or pieced together to derive critical information in time to be useful to adversaries and select and execute measures that eliminate or reduce to an acceptable level the vulnerabilities of friendly actions to adversary exploitation” (FM 3-13, 2003).
  • Propaganda Warfare- “Any form of communications in support of national objectives designed to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of any group in order to benefit the sponsor, either directly or indirectly” (FM 3-13, 2003). Some definitions are very long. Do you think you need them so long? You need to define terms that have a systemic relationship to the study. If these will be used in the interviews, fine. If not, then you need to think about why they are here.


The U.S. Army defines an assumption as “information accepted as true in the absence of facts” (FM 5-0, 2005). An assumption that is an act of faith will not be tested as part of this research. It is also recognized that assumptions that are dismissed by critics will not be taken seriously in this research. One such assumption is the perception of MISO officers that their leadership development is not adequate in supporting the ground component commander, and thus is worthy of further examination. Senior Army leaders have expressed that MISO leadership development is not adequate, thus the first assumption becomes plausible (Wass de Czege, 2009). A second assumption that guides this research is MISO officers are available to participate. This will be a reasonable assumption as current MISO Commanders have expressed they will provide a list of potential participants and the permission to contact those on the list.

It is assumed that the participants would respond honestly and share their experiences regarding the leadership development of MISO officers. This assumption is reasonable because the participants are volunteers, and their identity will be kept anonymous. In phenomenology, participants reflect on their lived experiences and how they made sense of those experiences.

The competency of the participants to evaluate their leadership training or lack thereof and its effects on their performance is also assumed. Participants are assumed to have spent time in thought about the topic of their leadership strengths and weaknesses and how their development prepared them to be MISO officers. This is a reasonable assumption as each participant will receive and sign an informed consent of agreement that describes the purpose of the study.


Limitations include potential researcher bias, participant honesty, and risk of insufficient data. Due to personal experience as a current MISO officer, researcher bias will be controlled through the use of phenomenological epoché or bracketing (Sokolowski, 2000). Participant honesty is managed by ensuring confidentiality through use of an informed consent agreement and the fact that all participants are volunteers. Prior to the interview each participant will read, acknowledge and sign the agreement. As with all qualitative studies data gathered through interviews may be insufficient to draw meaningful conclusions or to extend research results beyond the participants in the study. It is the goal of the study to gather data sufficient to reach meaningful conclusions and address the problem under investigation.

The goal of qualitative research is not intended to generalize results to larger groups (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2008). Contextual findings may be transferable to other settings given that contextual conditions are understood and the contextual conditions of the new setting are understood. To enable possible transferability, descriptions of the experiences and perceptions of participants are collected through interview transcripts.

Nature of the Study

Qualitative research is used to gain meaning, develop understanding, and interpret experience (Huberman & Miles, 2002). Experiential phenomenological design is used to acquire a deep understanding of lived experiences (Gendlin, 1973). Phenomenology aims at gaining a deeper understanding of the nature or meaning of our everyday experiences (van Manen, 1990). Qualitative research methods differ from quantitative research methods in that they gain understandings and interpretations of created data, as opposed to existing theory and knowledge (Huberman & Miles, 2002). The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study is to understand how current and former MISO officers experience and perceive MISO officer leadership development.

The qualitative methodology is appropriate for exploring and achieving the objectives of the research. A central phenomenon is being explored; therefore, a quantitative research methodology is not appropriate. Quantitative research methodology is used to explain or predict variable relationships, measure variables, test theories and then apply the results to the wider population (Huberman & Miles, 2002). Quantitative methodology remains inappropriate for this research, as the perceptions and experiences of the participants will be explored and do not involve variable relationships.

Participants are identified by purposefully seeking current or former MISO officers that have served in the conflicts in Southwest Asia. Purposeful sampling is used to identify participants who have experienced the desired phenomena – leadership development or lack thereof – and are willing to share their experiences. Patton (2002) discussed 16 purposeful sampling strategies used to identify participants who can provide relevant experiences and thus add credibility to the research. This researcher chose maximum variation and criterion sampling to select participants for this study. The sampling strategy of maximum variation can be used to provide a technique appropriate for studies with many sites and people.

Criterion sampling provides a set of criterion for selecting the participants for this research. Leaders will be selected from one of the five core capabilities of IO, in this case MISO. MISO officers are required to have either served in Iraq or Afghanistan or both.

MISO officers were selected over the other core IO capabilities because only IO function has its own long standing command structure and training program for leadership development, independent from the IO career field. Current and former MISO officers that have served in Iraq or Afghanistan will be selected because all other MISO officers have not tested their leadership development in current real world combat situations. This sampling strategy is used to narrow the population to only those who experience study phenomena in combat. The results of the criterion sampling are combined with maximum variation sampling to select the final sample.

Organization of the Remainder of the Study

The remainder of the proposal will contain the following: Chapter 2 the literature review, wherein the researcher will review current and relevant research that supports the research questions; and Chapter 3, and a detailed look at the research design and methodology.


Chapter 1 includes a background section to contextualize the study, as well as section that elucidate the significance of the study to the larger body of research, particularly those studies undertaken by Laarson et al. (2006) and Olivares et al. (2007). Chapter 1 also states the research problem, lists the research sub-questions, determines the purpose of the study, and delivers the study rationale. This chapter also includes a definition of terms, assumptions and limitations that the researcher feels may potentially have an impact on the study results.

Literature Review

The purpose of this phenomenological study is to understand how the study participants perceive and experience the value and efficacy of the current leadership development of MISO officers in the U.S. Army, as of 2011. Chapter 2 introduces leader development, leadership development, and leadership development programs, mainly within the discipline of organizational development theory, and points to suggested links and applications for these theoretical approaches to leadership development within military IO and MISO. The review of military IO provides the organizational context that explains the research findings as they pertain to the specific environment of the U.S. Army. Chapter 2 is a review of current research on leader development, leadership development, and leadership development programs.

Definitions and Distinctions

Day (2001) determined the difference between leader and leadership development is associated with the development of human capital versus the development of social capital. “One of the primary reasons that organizations invest in training and development for employees is to enhance and protect their human capital…In the case of leader development, the emphasis typically is on individual-based knowledge, skills and abilities associated with formal leadership roles…In this manner, leader development results as a function of purposeful investment in human capital” (Day, 2001, p. 584). Day (2001) argued the proposed distinction between leader development and leadership development is more than mere semantics. At the core of the difference is an orientation toward developing human capital and leader development compared with social capital and leadership development. Orientation toward human capital emphasizes the development of individual capabilities related to self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-motivation; these traits serve as the foundation of intrapersonal competence (Day, 2001).

“Unlike human capital…the emphasis with social capital is on building networked relationships among individuals that enhance cooperation and resource exchange in creating organizational value…[thus] social capital requires an interpersonal lens that is grounded in a relational model of leadership” (Day, 2001, p. 585). Orientation toward social capital emphasizes the development of reciprocal obligations and commitments built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect; it rests on a foundation of interpersonal competence, but ultimately, it requires enactment (Day, 2001). “At the heart of this relational model are commitments in the form of mutual obligations, which are supported by reciprocated trust and respect” (Day, 2001, p. 585). Leadership is developed through the enactment of leadership (Day, 2001). According to Day (2001), “the distinction is that leader development can be interpreted as a form of individual-based differentiation in terms of helping individuals enhance a unique self-understanding and construct independent identities” (p. 586). Therefore, the organizational culture of the military that tends to value conformity over individuality may struggle to implement leader development programs.

McCauley and Van Velsor (2004) defined leader development as “the expansion of a person’s capacity to be effective in leadership roles and processes” (p. 2). Leader development differs from leadership development in that it is “context sensitive” (McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004, p. 3). Leaders develop within specific environments and build their leadership muscles in response to certain circumstances. “Leader development experiences are undertaken in diverse contexts [and]…in different settings; there may be different expectations of leaders and different practices that make them effective” (McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004, p. 3).

McCauley and Van Velsor (2004) defined leadership development as the collective process of creating capacity within an organization, engaging in effective leadership roles and processes. The researchers understand leadership development as “the process of producing direction, alignment, and commitment…in collectives” (McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004, p. 21). Leadership roles differ from management roles in that leadership roles may encompass formal or informal authority, while management roles follow the traditional structure of managerial functions within an organization (McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004). This definition of leadership “reflects a broader understanding of who produces leadership: from understanding leadership as being produced solely by individuals who are recognized as leaders to understanding leadership as being produced by the entire collective” (McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004, p. 21). This definition applies to the potential future of leadership development training and programs as they pertain to MISO officers, given that these leaders work in an expert collective with specific skills and responsibilities that nonetheless correlate directly to the authority of a particular rank bestowed upon them by the military collective.

Management processes are considered organization specific positions, whereas leadership processes generally enable people to work together to achieve objectives (Keys & Wolfe, 1988). Leadership development is a capacity building process, wherein individuals develop the skills necessary to predict issues and lead teams towards achieving objectives of management. In this sense, capacity refers to cognitive and behavioral skills related to leadership. These skills are refined to develop the leader’s ability to deal with unforeseen challenges that faces the organization.

Leadership development programs are designed to address leadership challenges inherent in organizational behavior. Leadership development programs strengthen the capacity of leaders to build commitment in the organization and translate strategy into effective actions. Developers of leadership development programs use many different approaches including personal growth, conceptual understanding, skill building, and feedback (Allen & Hartman, 2008). There is little research available to link leadership development theory with leadership development programs.

Leadership development programs focus on personal growth, team building, personal reflections, and networking. Conceptual understanding in leadership development programs include short courses, computer based learning and advanced degree completion programs. Building skills and competencies may use development programs that involve job shadowing, assignment rotations, internships, or apprenticeships.

The literature review contains leader development theory, leadership development and the leadership development programs used in the United States Army. This discussion illustrates the differences between leader development and leadership development within the context of this research. The summary of Chapter 2 revisits all the concepts and topics presented as part of this study.

Leader Development and Leadership Development

Researchers have yet to draw clear distinctions between leader development and leadership development (Avolio & Hannah, 2008; Day, 2001; Riggio, 2008). Defining this distinction continues to be the aim of research into the new millennia, as “scholarly researchers potentially have much to contribute to the understanding and improvement of leadership development in organizations. In particular, researchers can help enhance the purposefulness of leadership development by examining how various practices and processes, alone and in combination, contribute to better leadership” (Day, 2001, p. 586). In the past two decades, research has led to the proliferation of new leadership development methods and a growing recognition of the importance of a leader’s empathetic attachment with others (Hernez-Broome & Hughes, 2004). Research shows a growing recognition that leadership development involves more than just developing individual leaders; there is now a greater focus on the organizational context in which leadership is developed (Day, 2001; Hart, Conklin, & Allen, 2008; McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004). As Day (2001) explained, “the real movement is toward understanding and practicing leadership development more effectively in the context of the work itself” (p. 586). Thus, the creation of any leadership development programs specifically designed for the needs of MISO officers will likely be more effective when they exist within the day-to-day military environment, as opposed to a specialized exterior location. Considerations must also exist on how to best use leadership competencies while balancing work/life issues. The current trend of leadership development research in the last two decades falls into two general categories: 1. the proliferation of leadership development methods; 2. the rise of the importance of leader emotional attachment with others (Hernez-Broome & Hughes, 2004).

Hart, Conklin and Allen (2008) attempted to show the relationship and differences that exist between the leader development with reference to the individual, and leadership development in the socio-cultural context of the organization. Individual leadership skills include self-management, social skills, and work collaboration capabilities (Hart, Conklin & Allen, 2008). Leadership development enhances connections between individuals, collectives within the organization, and the organization and its key stakeholders (McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004). Leadership development creates individual and collective shared meaning; this creates effective interdependent work and makes tasks more inclusive (McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004). That said, the dominant culture of the collective that confers power to the individual leader will always have an impact on leadership development as well as the effectiveness of whatever teams the leaders oversees. As McCauley and Van Velsor (2004) explained:

“The organization within which a team resides can also challenge the team in many ways. For example, the climate and culture of the organization may be an issue. Some organizational cultures do not support team-oriented work. In such cultures, silos rule, and competitive individualism is the dominant operating style. Diversity of thought and experience are not valued, and there is little collegial interchange among organization members…Organizational structure also can threaten teamwork and alignment and commitment within the team. Rigid and hierarchical organizational structures hinder the work of cross-functional and cross-level teams. Trust issues and conflicting loyalties continually undermine effective work” (p. 291).

Therefore, as outlined earlier, MISO officers working within the rigid hierarchy of the military experience some limitations to their leadership development potential by virtue of rank and the continued dominance of kinetic military actions over non-kinetic military actions. As Alfonso (2010) notes, “current military leaders and the military cyber system in which they operate ignore novel ways of discovering leadership abilities and genius. Rather, they adhere to traditional methods of leadership development, promotion, and command selection as the only appropriate means for determining combat leaders” (p. 64).

For this research, the criteria of Hart, Conklin, and Allen (2008) and McCauley and Van Velsor (2004) will be used. The criteria describe the primary difference between leader development and leadership development.

Leader Development Theory

Leader development refers to processes wherein individuals expand their capacity to be effective in leadership positions (McCauley & Van Veslor, 2004). Hannum, Martineau and Reinelt (2004) defined leadership development as an interdependent set of actions supporting the collective nature of an organization. (Hannum, Martineau & Reinelt, 2004). As Hannum, Martineau and Reinelt (2004) explained, the impact of leadership development on an individual leader will necessarily be experienced by his or her team as well as the organization at large, since “individuals may learn new leadership models ad practices…[or] develop an increased awareness of their personal leadership styles and how they affect others. “They might change work-related behaviors and or increase their effectiveness using newly acquired skills” (p. 17). Leader development emphasizes the individual-based competencies of knowledge, skills and ability traditionally associated with formal leadership roles within an organization (Day, 2001). In contrast, Day explained, leadership development can be thought of as an integration strategy wherein leaders learn social skills, coordination skills, influence tactics, and the ability to create social networks within the context of an organization (Day, 2001).

Day (2001) expressed concern with the confusion that exists in understanding the differences between leader development and leadership development. Day (2001) proposed that leader development is based on the individual concepts of leadership, thus the focus is on developing individual leader competencies. However, as Day (2001) pointed out, this focus remains overly narrow, and “ignore[s] almost 50 years of research showing leadership to be a complex interaction between the designated leader and the social and organizational environment” (p. 583). The alternative is to view “leadership as a social process that engages everyone in the community” (Day, 2001, p. 583). McCauley and Van Velsor (2004) added that leader development involves expanding the individual leader’s capacity; this involves roles and processes. Together these suggest that developing leader skills should be completed in the context of the organization, since “transformation requires both leadership development at the organizational level…the development of a globally responsible leadership culture…and leadership development at the individual level” (McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004, p. 347).

Leader development rests on a foundation that includes knowledge, skills, and abilities (Day, 2001). Leader development focuses on the individual; it concentrates on intrapersonal competencies versus interpersonal competencies (Day, 2001). These competencies include self-awareness, self-motivation, and self-regulation (Day, 2001). The competence base valued by the leader development model is intrapersonal and promotes skills such as “emotional awareness, self-confidence, accurate self-image, self-regulation, self-control, trustworthiness, personal responsibility, adaptability…initiative, commitment, [and] optimism” (Day, 2001, p. 584).

Chappelow (2004) pointed to 360-degree feedback as one of the more remarkable trends in the field of leader development in the last twenty years. Many researchers call this one of the most important management innovations in the past two decades (Atwater & Waldman, 1998; London & Beatty, 1993). Effective 360 feedback programs implement the following:

  1. An assessment activity that goes beyond just 360 degree feedback. In addition to the feedback, inputs there are objectives and follow-up activities (Hernez-Broome & Hughes, 2004; Chappelow, 2004).
  2. Support from the very top of the organization is critical to achieve buy in of the participants (Hernez-Broome & Hughes, 2004; Chappelow, 2004).
  3. The process works best when all levels participate (Hernez-Broome & Hughes, 2004; Chappelow, 2004).
  4. Poorly administered 360 degree feedback programs generally result in failure (Hernez-Broome & Hughes, 2004; Chappelow, 2004).
  5. The timely execution of the process provides credibility and prevents constructive input from becoming irrelevant (Hernez-Broome & Hughes, 2004; Chappelow, 2004).

Classic leadership research was dominated by the idea of the two factor approach – task and relationships behaviors. Weber (1947) and Bass (1981) created seminal works on transactional leadership that set the foundation for the two factor models used today. Collaborative leader development on the other hand approaches transformational leadership theory as developed by Burns (1978) and Hernez-Broome and Hughes (2004). Transactional leadership serves to establish and exploit mutually beneficial exchanges between the parties involved aimed at achieving organizational objectives (Northouse, 2009). This exchange-model of transactional leadership tends to solve immediate near term issues, but typically does not solve long term problems. This differs from transformational leadership which aims to provide a deeper understanding of issues through the development of commitment and effort to achieve enduring change (Northouse, 2009). Transformational leaders inspire a vision of a better future through inspired trust that is achieved by unwavering ethical conduct (Northouse, 2009).

Classic leadership research did little to distinguish the role of leading versus managing. Authority is equated to someone in a leadership role; however, leadership and management represent different skills and behaviors (Hernez-Broome & Hughes, 2004). This inspired researchers to further advance the theories on transformational, charismatic and servant leadership (Hernez-Broome & Hughes, 2004).

Presumably, the primary underlying interest in transformational leadership is the emotional attachment created by leaders and followers. Recent research delves deeper into the emotional attachment of leader and follower through ideas such as genuineness, credibility, trustworthiness and authenticity (Collins, 2001). Goleman (2005) demonstrated that leader development in the past focused on training leaders to become good managers instead of good leaders. Goleman (2005) listed themes of leadership development as:

  1. Critical reflection on the role of competencies needed for leadership development.
  2. Leadership development conducted within the context of the work environment.
  3. Balancing work and life.

Leadership Development Theory

The emphasis on leadership development involves interpersonal competencies (Day, 2001). The key components of interpersonal competencies include “social awareness, empathy, service orientation, political awareness, [and] social skills [such as] building bonds, team orientation, change catalyst, [and] conflict management” (Day, 2001, p. 584). Day (2001) argued that interpersonal competencies increase due to leadership development and can be linked to an increase in social capital. Leader development is an activity that develops human capital, whereas leadership development develops social capital. Social capital in turn includes a “cognitive dimension, which refers to resources embodied in shared representations and collective meanings among people. Expressions of the cognitive dimension to social capital can be found in organizational culture or a shared vision based on a set of common values that produces and is a product of mutual respect” (Day, 2001, p. 585). Together the development of reciprocal obligations and commitments builds a foundation of mutual trust and respect (Day, 2001). Therefore, in the context of the military, the leadership development of MISO officers encourages non-kinetic operational commanders to assume equal power based on the shared vision of the success of the overall operation.

Hernez-Broome and Hughes agreed with Day that leadership development encompasses a vast range of activities targeting interpersonal interactions within the context of the organization (Hernez-Broome & Hughes, 2004). Leadership development does not have to take place within the traditional boundaries of an organization or “through specially designed programs held in particular locations. Instead, it is a continuous process that can take place anywhere” (Day, 2001, p. 586). Researchers have determined that leadership development programs within an organization benefit from an alignment between strategic objectives and the expectations of senior leadership (Van Veslor, Moxley & Bunker, 2004). The design of leadership programs involves the interaction of individuals from organizations that may or may not ordinarily interact (Veslor, Moxley & Bunker, 2004). The effectiveness of these activities and outcomes are closely related to the individual (Veslor, Moxley & Bunker, 2004).

Leadership development programs seek to combine real world instruction within the context of the true organizational setting (Allen & Hartman, 2008). Programs seek to create performance support through the application of methods such as training programs, coaching, mentoring, action learning, and developmental assignments. The objective of combining leadership development training with the context of real world organizational settings helps the individual gain crucial skills while allowing the organization to focus on pressing real world issues. Leadership development seeks to solve problems first and gain knowledge second (Allen & Hartman, 2008).

McCauley and Van Velsor (2004) wrote that many organizations are event-based rather than systematic in their approach to achieving objectives. Systematic methods of leadership development include classroom and online training, while event-based leadership development relies on experiential and integrated approaches (McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004). Together these methods represent an array of developmental program designs that can be implemented in a meaningful way with each other. Leadership developmental programs are not one time events but dynamic ongoing activities within an organization. Future leadership development strategies will seek to link a variety of developmental practices with various cross functional areas within the organization.

Leadership development aims to provide leaders the opportunity to learn in their own work context rather than learning in settings that do not reflect the actual culture and issues in an organization. Leadership development in the context of ongoing work initiatives that ties to strategic organization objectives is the objective of the training (Moxley & O’Connor, 1998). Iles and Preece (2006) argued that differences that exist between leader and leadership also apply to leader and leadership development. According to McCauley and Van Velsor (2004), much of the early research on leadership development was focused on the individual leader and gave little discourse to the concept of collective leadership.

Day (2001) concluded that while linkages certainly exist between leader development and leadership development, development of leadership transcends but does not replace the development of the individual leaders:

“Leadership emerges with the process of creating shared meaning, both in terms of sense making and in terms of value-added…The distinction between leader development and leadership development should not be taken as an edict for organizations to choose one approach over the other. Either approach is incomplete by itself. Developing individual leaders without concern for reciprocal relations among people or their interactions within a broader social context ignores the research demonstrating that leadership is a complex interaction between and their social and organizational environments…From this approach everyone is considered to be a leader” (p. 605)

Thus, both leader and leadership development apply in the military context of IO, as the high stakes and high intensity of the social environment of military operations continually test and shape both the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills of the MISO officer at work in a conflict zone.

McCauley and Van Velsor (2004) argued that leadership development is the expansion of the organization’s capacity to enact the basic leadership tasks needed for collective work: setting direction, creating alignment and maintaining commitment. McCauley and Van Veslor (2004) made the point that there is a need to address individual leader development in the context of the organization as a collective. This research creates the recognition that leadership theory necessitates evolving approaches for the complex organizational environments in the 21st century.

Research by Ruderman et al. (2001) described the links between emotional intelligence and accepted behaviors to achieve effective leadership. Effective leadership is more than motivating others to use specific behaviors that are perceived as right (Ruderman et al., 2001). For example, effective 360 degree feedback can provide individual leadership input that deepens the leaders’ sense of self awareness and their impact on others (London & Beatty, 1993). Careful reflection on the feedback not only provides an evaluation of individual leadership traits, it also provides enlightenment of one’s personal life. In this, we see leadership development as not just the development of leadership skills but development of the entire person.

Changes created by globalization and technological advancement pressure organizations to reevaluate and reinvent themselves continually to remain competitive. Training is the necessary element of leadership development. Developmental experiences that are linked to leaders on going work have the greatest impact. Activities such as coaching, mentoring, feedback, and action learning are increasingly key elements of leadership development programs.

Developmental relationships exist in two forms: coaching and mentoring (Ting & Hart, 2004). Coaching is practical goal orientated forms of one-on-one learning with the objectives of behavior changes, and typically involves short term interactions intended to develop a specific leadership behavior which may lead to more extensive processes involving multiple training sessions over time (Ting & Hart, 2004). Effective coaching involves collaboration to assess developmental goals against current constraints and limitations. Coaching explores new possibilities to ensure accountability, achieve goals and sustain the capabilities developed (Ting & Hart, 2004).

Mentoring typically involves a long term relationship in which a senior leader supports the personal and professional development of a subordinate or junior leader not directly in the chain of command (Ting & Hart, 2004). Mentoring programs may be formal or informal (Ting & Hart, 2004). The value in mentoring is recognized by organizations; more organizations now attempt to find ways to create formal programs to establish these relationships as part of their leadership development initiative (Ting & Hart, 2004).

Action learning is another useful process that involves training within the context of real world issues and initiatives the organization faces. Action learning has three primary objectives; delivering measurable results, developing more leadership skills and enhancing organization communications (Palus & Horth, 2003). Action learning programs denote a “continuous process of learning and reflection, supported by colleagues, with a corresponding emphasis on getting things done” (Day, 2001, p. 601). Effective action learning programs achieve learning at work while achieving results on organizational strategic objectives, thus transforming the organization and its constituents (Marsick, 2002). Action learning initiatives are “tied to a business imperative,” which in theory makes them equally applicable to a military objective (Day, 2001, p. 602).

Another potent form of leadership development is assigning challenging work assignments. Challenging work assignments can vary from simply providing information to the team to participation in a program of job rotations. Job assignments for developmental purposes often achieve results that go beyond the achievement of some fundamental task and improve the overall competitiveness of the organization.

A rise in leadership development exists in programs that involve teams. The importance of teamwork in organizations today cannot be overstated. There are unique challenges when leading and developing teams that exists beyond the traditional one-on-one relationship that exists between a leader and a subordinate. Nearly every facet of an organization’s activity involves the interactions of teams to achieve strategic objectives.

Olivares et al. (2007) recognized that leadership development must be accomplished within the social context of the organization. Researchers agree that the time has come for the creation of a theory that integrates the interactions between leaders and subordinates within the socio-cultural context of the organization (Avolio, 2007; Iles & Preece, 2004).

Antonacopoulou (2006) stressed the importance of leadership development early in a leader’s career and continuing throughout. Successful leadership development must be viewed as a collaborative endeavor that involves the entire organization and occurs throughout the leader’s career, rather than view it as individual task and effort (Antonacopoulou, 2006).

Rost (1991) changed how organizations view leadership development in the new millennia. Rost (1991) pointed to the need to shift focus from the individual leader to team and collaborative approaches. Leadership development must seek to create effective collaborative team environments to address the demands of globalization and technological advancement.

The current field of study on leadership development moves from viewing leadership and leadership development solely in terms of leader attributes traits and skills. These traits remain core competencies of leadership for most organizations. Leading edge companies see leadership as more than just a set of competencies that guide leadership development. Organizations create list of competencies that best fit their particular operational environment and socio-cultural context. The future of leadership development will be shaped by several trends:

  1. Individual leadership competencies, core to leadership development programs.
  2. Globalization creates diversity in leadership.
  3. Technology facilitates problem solving and increases the speed at which decisions are made.
  4. Integrity, ethics and character continue to be of increasing value to followers.
  5. Financial pressures require organizations to implement programs that demonstrate return on investment.
  6. New theories and paradigms require dynamic, flexible, and adaptive leadership models for organizations.

Current Findings on Leadership Development Research

As noted early in this chapter leadership development theory and leadership development are well researched areas in recent years. However, there is still a need to create a holistic theory that supports leadership development. Three prominent emerging theories support leadership development. Weiss and Molinaro (2006) created the integrated leadership development theory, Mintzberg (2004) introduced the leaderful development theory, and Avolio and Gardner (2005) discussed authentic leadership development.

Integrated Leadership Development

Weiss and Molinaro (2006) argued that leadership development follows two approaches: single solution or multiple solutions. Single solutions focus on one approach to leadership development, while multiple solutions use a plethora of concepts as part of leadership development, including coaching, experiential, and formal learning (Weiss &Molinaro, 2006). Single source leadership development solutions are used for their simplicity in understanding and implementation (Weiss & Molinaro, 2006). Single source leadership development places too much emphasis on the classroom development of generic leadership models, while at the same time multiple solutions also have limitations in their holistic approach (Weiss & Molinaro, 2006). The potential exists to water down leadership development programs due to covering too many concepts and ideas at once (Weiss & Molinaro, 2006).

Integrated solutions are difficult to implement, but Weiss and Molinaro (2006) agree that the results can provide high returns on investments if given the commitment from the organization. The integrated approach is synergistic, strategic and sustainable (Weiss & Molinaro, 2006). Avolio (2007), Day (1991) and Harrison (1999) supported this emerging theory by noting that the more integrative approach provides leaders and subordinates the opportunity to interact during the process within the context of the organization. Avolio (2007) used integrative leadership development theory in his emerging theory authentic leadership development.

Authentic Leadership Development

As an emerging leadership development theory, authentic leadership development provides a different approach to traditional leadership development initiatives. Authentic leadership development represents complex concepts and should not be considered a leadership development program. Avolio and Gardner (2005) explained that authentic leadership theory uses concepts from cutting edge leader theory on transformational, charismatic and servant leadership. Avolio and Gardner (2005) suggested that authentic leaders are able to restore confidence, hope, and optimism, and can bounce back from catastrophic events by displaying resiliency. Avolio and Gardner (2005) went on to suggest authentic leaders help people in their search for meaning by fostering an environment that promotes self awareness. Finally, authentic leaders are seen as being genuine in nature.

Avolio and Gardner (2005) suggested that authentic leadership development theory is generic and able to adapt to the context of the organization. The researchers agreed that more research was needed to prove their assertions but at the same time they note that application of authentic leadership development can greatly improve individual and organizational performance (Avolio & Gardner, 2005).

Avolio & Gardner (2005) further defined the concepts of authentic leaders, authentic leadership, and authentic leadership development. Authentic leaders as those that are deeply aware of how they view the world, how they interact with the world and how others perceive them. The researchers went on to clarify further the authentic leaders are aware of their own and other’s values and moral perspectives (Avolio & Gardner, 2005). Authentic leaders understand their own context and present themselves as being confident, hopeful, optimistic, resilient and of high moral character (Avolio & Gardner, 2005).

Authentic leadership is seen as a related construct of an authentic leader. Avolio and Gardner (2005) describe authentic leadership as a process which draws from the psychological capacities within the organization context. This fosters the idea that authentic leadership is a result of authentic leaders that have greater self-awareness and self-regulated positive behaviors which create an environment that fosters positive self-development (Avolio & Gardner, 2005).

Avolio and Gardner (2005) agreed that authentic leadership development is a complex process which cannot be achieved through a simple training program. In order to label it as a training program the researchers note that it would have to be titled life’s program (Avolio & Gardner, 2005). Authentic leadership development is an ongoing life process where leaders and followers gain self-awareness; this establishes open, trusting, transparent, and genuine relationships (Avolio & Gardner, 2005).

The Authentic Leadership Questionnaire developed by Walumbwa et al. (2008) was used to test the theory that a positive relationship exists between authentic leadership and organizational performance. Walumbwa et al. (2008) theorized that the integration of authentic, ethical, and transformational leadership traits into leadership development programs will result in sustainable performance improvements. Results from the study proved that careful integration of leaderful development improves leadership development programs (Walumbwa et al., 2008).

Leaderful Development

Raelin (2005) indicated that leadership is a series of collective practices. Raelin (2005) viewed this phenomenon as being anchored by four basic tenets of traditional leadership: the collective-people working together to achieve a common purpose, (b) compassion-all members are valued, (c) collaborative-any and all members can lead, and (d) concurrent-multiple leaders working simultaneously.

Leaderful development is the process of creating individual and group capacity to increase the human capital of the organization, whereas leadership development increases social capital (Day, 2001). The idea of building capacity to create human and social capital within the context of the organization is the overarching objective that supports Raelin’s leaderful leadership development theory. Day (2001) stated that organizations should not choose leader development over or in place of leadership development as both initiatives support today’s organizational climate. Day (2001) posited a better approach that links leader development with leadership development; it transcends but does not replace the development of the individual leader. Mintzberg (2004) pointed to the research of Raelin and Day when he states leaderful practice may lead to leaderful development.

Leadership Development Programs

Allen and Hartman (2008) discussed the lack of research that exists to link leadership development theory with leadership development programs. Leadership development programs vary as widely as the number of organizations that implement these initiatives. Allen and Hartman (2008) went on to point out that leadership development is the responsibility of the individual as much as that of the organization. Allen and Hartman (2008) created a framework useful for this research that includes the following approaches to leadership: conceptual understanding, 360 degree feedback, personal growth and skill building. Although these approaches are not meant to be all-inclusive of various leadership development methods, the techniques provide common methods experienced by participants in their research (Allen & Hartman, 2008).

Personal Growth Approaches

Personal growth includes personal reflection, team building, and networking (Allen & Hartman, 2008). Personal reflection is the introspective process that is ongoing and integrated with all other development initiatives. Early in leadership development that places emphasis on team building has proven successful in creating effective collaborative organizations. Coaching and mentoring are forms of networking where leaders learn and develop skills through the relationship with others in the context of the organization. Leaders learn with whom from their networks they can use to solve problems, provide resources, facilitate coordinated effort, and dissolve “barriers between functional areas” (Day, 2001, p. 596). Day (2001) proposed that networking is an approach to combine leader development with collaboration and “a prime means of enhancing social capital in an organization” (p. 597).

Conceptual Understanding Approaches

Traditional forms of education develop conceptual understanding of leadership. These approaches typically include traditional classroom instruction, higher education, online learning, and apprenticeships (Allen & Hartman, 2008). These formats expose the leader-to-leader theory and leadership development concepts integrated in the socio-cultural context of the organization.

Feedback Approaches

360-degree multi-rater feedback methods are used by many organizations in the implementation of their leadership development programs (Day 2001). 360-degree feedback is useful in providing leaders with information on how co-workers perceive the leader’s performance, individuality and effectiveness (London & Beatty, 1993). “Rating sources typically include peers, direct reports, supervisors…and…such external stakeholders as customers and suppliers. A purported advantage of such intense, comprehensive scrutiny is that a completer and more accurate picture of an individual’s performance can be obtained” (Day, 2001, p. 587). Day (2001) noted that multi-rater feedback has several weaknesses: extensive time requirements to implement, large amounts of data to manage and focusing feedback to provide constructive input to achieve change. Whether or not the rigid command structure of the military could feasibly implement or even benefit from the implementation of 360 feedback multi-rater programs remains doubtful. MISO officers are more likely to benefit from coaching and mentoring programs as a practical means to develop leadership skills while simultaneously learning the responsibilities and particularities of their roles. Coaching and mentoring continues to be a very popular approach to leadership development programs especially when combined with a 360 degree feedback program (London & Beatty, 1993).

Research has shown that many organizations have replaced traditional formal classroom executive training programs with executive coaching/mentoring programs with exceptional results (Zenger & Stinnett, 2006). A growing industry trend provides leaders with coaches before they begin to struggle (Zenger & Folkman, 2003). Bernthal and Wellins (2006) found that more than half of the leaders in their research used a coach and mentor; of those leaders, more than 90 per cent reported a benefit to their career progression.

Career progression and leader succession planning ensures continuity of leadership within the changing environment of the organization (Barnett & Davis, 2008). Researchers show that organizations that integrate succession planning and career progression planning with coaching/mentoring using 360 degree feedback improve the performance of the organization (Bernthal & Wellins, 2006). Organizations that create a culture of feedback enhance leadership development (Zenger & Folkman, 2003).

Skill And Competency Building

Job rotation is an example of skill and competency leadership development. Day (2001) points to experiential learning as critical to leadership development. Developmental and special projects often create effective development activities (Bernthal & Wellins, 2006). Developmental assignments are inexpensive and easy to implement. Job rotations provide the leader with opportunities within the organization with new experiences.

Researchers have questioned the effectiveness of the competency approach to leadership development (Carroll, Levy & Richmond, 2008). Bolden and Gosling (2006) noted that more efforts are needed to enhance reflection, discussion, and experience instead of traditional leadership skills, and the researchers call for a greater need for collective competencies instead of individual competencies. Carroll et al. (2008) argued that competency approaches have restrained leadership development theory.

Army Leadership Development

Researchers have long agreed that leadership development should begin early and continue throughout the officer’s career (Larsson et al., 2006; Olivares et al., 2007; Oh & Lewis, 2008). IO officer leadership development has been explored yet little to no actual research exists. Military leaders that have reviewed IO officer leadership development point to a lack of purposeful, career long development that includes job rotations within the functional areas (Wass de Czege, 2008; Wass de Czege, 2009).

Larsson, Sjöberg and Fors’s (2006) study of Army officer leadership development experiences may provide important useful insight in what leadership development needs exist for IO officers in the Information Age. Laarson et al. (2006) conducted a qualitative interview study of military officers that represented international military operations from the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, and the United States. The study organization involved a series of semi-structured interviews that the researchers then analyzed according to the method of constant comparison. According to Laarson et al. (2006), the findings of this study pointed to the fact that “leader development in…military officers appear to entail two co-occurring processes. One is inner or private and is characterized by a gradual strengthening of the feeling of security. The other is overt or public and consists of a gradual change from over distanced behavior toward subordinates to a flexible adaptation along an under distanced – over distanced continuum according to situational demands” (p. 3). Army leaders may gain insight into the best methods for closing the leadership development gap that exists between conventional and special operation force leaders and IO leaders.

Current MISO Leader Development Climate

As of 2011, according to Boyd (2011), “there are more than 2,000 active-duty PSYOP Branch Soldiers, most of whom are assigned to the Army Special Operations Command’s 4th Military Information Support Group…formerly the 4th PSYOP Group…and twice that number are assigned to the two Army Reserve groups…the 2nd and the 7th. Those active-duty and reserve forces conduct operations planned to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately, the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups and individuals” (p. 25).

In March of 2011, the chief of staff for the U.S. Army, General George Casey, announced policy changes in officer career development that will affect MISO officers as well as Civil Affairs and Special Forces. The policy changes reflect the Army’s intention to “enforce officer professional-development timelines and standards for officer promotion and command contained in DA PAM 600-3, Commissioned Officer Professional Development, and Career Management. Officers need to be proactive in managing their careers and leaders need to ensure that officers meet their developmental timelines, especially for professional military education, or PME” (Casey, 2011, p.22). Those officers who have finished key and developmental positions or KD assignments must be free to attend professional military education “or to meet requirements in the generating force” (Casey, 2011, p.22).

The ideal company-grade qualification period is two years for Special Forces and MISO, and three years for Civil Affairs (Casey, 2011). Other changes include revised prerequisites for leading units and promotion; these changes will take effect in 2013. Officer candidates will need to be graduates of senior service college before they are allowed to take up a command at the level of colonel, and officers will also need to have finished Intermediate Level Education before they can be considered for promotion to the level of lieutenant-colonel (Casey, 2011).

Changes also have occurred regarding professional military education pilot release procedures. “In regard to early release from theater in order to attend PME, the Army Manning Guidance advises commanders not to prevent captains and majors who have completed their KD assignments from returning from deployment if replacements are on-hand. Army Manning Guidance recommends that commanders coordinate individual officers’ redeployment from theater on a case-by-case basis to allow them to take advantage of professional-development opportunities and to bring their expertise into the generating force” (Casey, 2011, p. 22).

These recent changes demonstrate three key elements of leader development and leadership development within the U.S. Army. The first element to be recognized is the commitment to officer leadership that these changes reflect, while the second element to note is the inherent competitive aspect of officer advancement within the U.S. Army. The third and most important element to deduce herein refers to the onus for leadership development, which still rests with the individual officer. A tertiary goal of this study will be to ascertain what areas of the current leadership development programs available for MISO officers might benefit from a shift in organizational culture that supports leadership development from within the military in addition to as the sole responsibility of the MISO officer.

MISO Leadership Development In Combat

Leader and leadership development within the context of the military must remain cognizant of the distinctive military environment of combat. Combat leadership situations differ significantly from the private sector business environments that most leadership studies analyze. High stress environments have a definitive impact on leadership that remains the exclusive domain of war. The goal of this researcher is to conduct a study that accurately reflects the select and distinctive environment that MISO officers engaged in combat operations work in, and inform leader and leadership development programs that serve the particular needs of MISO officers in these environments.

The study of leader and leadership development in the context of the military often takes as its focus the personality types of individual military leaders. As Bartone (2005), explained, in some cases personality types play a role, specifically “the influence of personality “hardiness.” In addition to empirical studies showing that hardiness is associated with healthy response to stress and effective leader performance, the hardiness construct provides a theoretical framework for understanding the leader influence process under high-stress conditions. “Especially in regards to stressful and ambiguous events military leaders can apply hardiness qualities to facilitate generalized positive interpretations or sense-making among unit members” (p. 1).

What the U.S. Army defines leadership is best described by Field Manual 22–100, Army Leadership, which as Bartone (2005) explains is the main doctrine used by the organization to establish a framework for leadership and elucidate desired competencies among army leaders. Bartone (2005) explains how Field Manual 22–100, Army Leadership characterized leadership:

“In terms of the “Be–Know–Do” framework of leadership, which is said to include character, values, and other personal attributes (the “Be” dimension), knowledge and skills (the “Know” dimension), and behaviors or actions (the “Do” dimension). Similar to many other models of leadership, the “Be–Know–Do” model is both descriptive and prescriptive, defining both what leaders are and what they should be, all in somewhat global terms. Military organizations like the U.S. Army also favor geometric and spatial metaphors (including pyramids, pillars, and building blocks) to describe how leadership is composed, and to suggest how leader development might occur” (Bartone, 2005, p. 4).

For MISO officers, “a key aspect of leadership concerns the ways in which events get interpreted by members of the unit” (Bartone, 2005, p. 3). In the high-speed, high-stress environments of military operations, MISO officers have the opportunity to shape how events are spoken about, written about and broadcast to the world beyond the military unit. This opportunity is of supreme importance in the ongoing objective “to meet the mission demands of counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare in particular” (Boyd, 2011, p. 24). Added to this important function is the constant need for the MISO officer to keep the goal of the operation in mind while maintaining credibility for the U.S. Army as a whole. Thus, leader development and leadership development within the IO branch of the U.S. Army entails a very specific focus, as the “influence of leaders on subordinates in this regard may be even greater under highly stressful external conditions” (Bartone, 2005, p. 3).

MISO officers in particular live and work in high stress environments, not simply as result of the life-threatening quality of war itself, but also the nature of information technology, which changes continually and requires endless adaptation on the part of the MISO leader. “The environment in which Army special-operations forces operate today is uncertain, challenging, and varied. ARSOF Soldiers may find themselves using marketing and information-sharing techniques to collaborate with foreign security forces, performing sensitive-site-exploitation operations, influencing the attitudes and opinions of foreign audiences or helping to rebuild the infrastructure of a country torn apart by insurgency” (Sacolick, 2010, p. 4). The U.S. Army’s view of the ideal MISO leader is an individual who strikes a balance between kinetic and non-kinetic modes of leadership qualities. “The future of our Civil Affairs, Military Information Support Operations, and Special Forces regiments is predicated upon our ability to produce adaptive ARSOF leaders whose leadership qualities are based upon humility, critical thinking, and comfort with ambiguity, acceptance of prudent but calculated risks and the ability to make rapid adjustments based upon a continuous assessment of the situation. “These leaders must be highly trained in warrior skills and highly educated” (Sacolick, 2010, p. 4).

The MISO leader in the Information Age

According to Boyd (2011), the “simplest way to think of the difference between information operations and historical PSYOP is that IO is the integrator, whereas PSYOP was the instigator… it logically flows that MISO gains the advanced understanding of IO tools and techniques to further discourage or defeat the target of influence” (p. 25). The MISO leader exhibits an understanding of the power of information technology to engender support for U.S. Army objectives in foreign target audiences. He or she also understands that in order to maintain credibility in the Information Age, “MISO has no business associating itself with such ventures as deception that rely on misperceptions and misinterpretations of the facts among target audiences…MISO must and will be truth-based” (Boyd, 2011, p. 26). However, the question as to whether or not the U.S. Army itself understands the power of technology or so-called non-kinetic operations to win wars in lieu of traditional battle scenarios remains unanswered. Thus, leader development and leadership development of the MISO officer within the current constructs of the U.S. Army may reveal the need for an organizational culture and shift in the Army’s prevailing attitudes toward the supremacy of kinetic over non-kinetic operations.

Military Officer Leadership Development

The military forces of the United States have a long and proven process used to develop its leaders at all levels and throughout an officer’s career. The great amount of emphasis placed on military leadership development arises from the serious nature of the tasks military forces undertake; decisions involve the lives of both those that are led and those that are engaged. U.S. Army leadership development incorporates indoctrination programs to weed out those early that do not have what it takes to become an officer in the U.S. Army. These programs include Reserve Officer Training Corps, Officer Candidate School, and the service academies.

U.S. Army leaders follow a set of career benchmarks tied to rank advancement that require higher levels of leadership development training. The training progresses from the early stages of task accomplishment to more advanced stages of military political interactions at state levels or higher. Training remains rooted in the application of conventional military tasks to achieve stated national objectives; this creates the gap for military leaders engaged in nonlethal military missions such as IO.

Military officers typically follow a set of increasingly demanding promotions to higher levels of commands that involve leading larger organizations. Traditional military leaders with 15 to 20 years of experience achieve the ranks of Major or Lieutenant Colonel and command Battalion size formations. Equivalent IO officers may never command a formation.

The Army training environment consists of three domains: operational, institutional and self-development (Quinn, 2008). All Army officers will interact in these environments at various levels and times during their careers. The three domains are mutually supportive and largely integrated. The self-development domain remains the preferred method for learning (Quinn, 2008).

In the operational domain, leader development builds as soldiers conduct their jobs in real world combat situations, conduct face-to-face individual and collective training and evaluate lessons learned and officer assessment by senior leaders (Quinn, 2008). Junior officers gain the greatest amount of experiential leader development in the operational domain; in real world combat situations, junior leaders experience accelerated leadership development as they adapt to the rigors and demands of combat (Quinn, 2008).

More traditional methods of operational domain for leader development are the combat training centers in Fort Irwin, Fort Polk and Hohenfels, GE. These training centers provide junior leaders with near real world operational training, leading up to deployments supporting combat operations in Southwest Asia. The training centers link with units in theater and replicate real world events shortly after they occur. This ensures junior leaders are exposed to the latest enemy tactics before going into combat. By providing the examples of current operational environment situations, the combat training centers provide Army leaders high levels of leadership development opportunities.

The combat training centers exemplify an adaptive learning environment (Quinn, 2008). Army officers have access to the most current lessons learned and tactics, techniques and procedures used by forces conducting ongoing combat operations. The operational domain expands beyond on the job training with the help of technology; leaders and units become adaptive in developing their training and leader development programs (Quinn, 2008).

The institutional domain remains the foundation for leadership development in the U.S. Army. Standards-based training conducted in traditional learning formats provides junior leaders with the skills necessary to command and conduct small unit operations. Titled Professional Military Education (PME) the Army has an extensive array of schools and training programs that provide standardized training to ensure all leaders develop the basic leadership skills necessary to support senior commanders.

Junior Army officers attend Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC) which has three levels of education. BOLC I is pre-commissioning training provided by the commissioning bodies: the ROTC, OCS and the service academies. The BOLC I emphasize team building, cultural awareness, warrior ethos, and basic soldier tasks. During BOLC II, the officer applies 71 leadership tasks in a field environment. Finally, the junior officer attends a 33 day course that focuses on combat specific training preparing the leaders to deploy.

The third domain is self-development. This is lifelong learning that is essential to every leader and his or her development. Self-development requires the junior leader to establish goals for leadership development that contribute to growth in technical and professional competencies. The self-development domain lacks much of the formal aspects of operations and institutional domains. The Army has no specific established process that junior leaders follow when conducting self-development. Junior officers typically focus their self-development to support command directed training required to support upcoming missions.

Information management in modern warfare demands a skill set that many theorists believe the military brass fundamentally lacks – the ability to perceive of cyberspace as a legitimate theater. This occurs largely as a result of the fact that the age and experience of most high ranking military commanders places them far beyond a practical experience of the relatively recent invention of the Internet. Thus, this older generation of leaders cannot yet grasp the important of the presence of the military in the cyber realm. A further problematic condition is the lack of access in the military education system between the older generation of leaders and the younger generation of MISO leaders. As Alfonso (2010) explains, “the hierarchical model ingrained in the modern US military system and its education system – one that creates tremendous difficulties for any attempt to educate and develop personnel by using new methods that depart from the traditional teacher-student or expert-amateur model. With regard to cyberspace knowledge and experience, though, the paradigm has reversed itself: individuals traditionally considered amateurs or students, based on age and experience, have become the experts. Considered digital or net natives, members of the younger generation, who have grown up surrounded by and using the Internet and associated platforms, are actually teaching members of the older generation, who are digital or net immigrants” (p. 62).

Military Information Support Operations Officer Leadership Development

No research exists specific to MISO officer development. Army leaders have recognized and written about the lack of adequate leadership development for IO officers (Sokoloski, 1998; Velasco, 2005; Wass de Czege, 2009). MISO officer leadership development does not begin until the leader is a senior First Lieutenant or Captain, 8-12 years in the military. Initial training is conducted at the John F Kennedy Special Operations Warfare School in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The length of training varies depending on real world mission requirements, whether the Army officer is active duty or reserve component, and funding. Two thirds of all MISO officers are reserve component soldiers; these soldiers may receive 29 days of training in an accelerated format, or 10 weeks of training in a combined training environment, wherein the soldier completes a portion of the training online and the rest at Fort Bragg.

Joint IO doctrine lacks definition of requirements for leadership development. The result is a MISO training program that lacks integration with other well established leadership programs throughout the military (Wass de Czege, 2009). Advance leadership development for MISO officers reverts to traditional military functional area training as the leader continues to advance in rank and responsibility. The training includes Army Officer Advance Course, Intermediate Level Education, and War College. These programs are designed to specifically study the application of propaganda warfare at any level.

MISO officers sent to combat quickly learn many stakeholders play a role in decision making in influence operations (Sokoloski, 1998). These stakeholders include Task Force/Combatant commanders, the ambassador of the host nation interacting with the U.S. Department of State, the host nation government and the product approval authorities up through DOD level. Due to large operational areas, stakeholders tend to retain authority for product development and dissemination, regardless of the authorities outlined in campaign plans for specific theaters (Sokoloski, 1998).

MISO officers of the rank of Captain go to MISO detachment commanders, who assign them to a Brigade level unit commanded by a Colonel. The Colonel, Task Force Commander, is the stakeholder that defines the operations, the environment and processes to create desired outputs. The MISO officer lacks the rank, experience and training to effectively influence the Task Force Commander on the application of influence warfare (Wass de Czege, 2009). This is a systemic issue that permeates all levels of command that MISO units support. MISO leaders learn to adapt to the short term wants of the stakeholders, including Task Force Commanders, Division Commanders and Corps Commanders, regardless of the long term objectives of the campaign plan. This creates a misaligned MISO campaign (Sokoloski, 1998).

Leader Development and Leadership Development Summary

The three emerging leadership development theories provide a basis for this research to evaluate the effectiveness of different approaches to leadership development programs. Common to the emerging theories is the recognition that both leader and leadership development programs are necessary for organizations (Day, 2001; Iles & Preece, 2006). Summarizing this section on leader development and leadership development the literature review has established that leadership theory and leadership development are well researched areas in recent years. The fact that a definitive leadership development theory does not yet exist is the one caveat uncovered during this review (Avolio, 2007).

The integrated leadership development theory and leaderful development more accurately represent leadership development for MISO officers supporting combat operations in Southwest Asia. Integrated leadership development shifts the focus of leadership development away from the traditional hierarchical approach to the follower relationship approach. Integrated leadership development supports the idea that leadership is part of a dynamic and evolving pattern of behaviors and interactions among the members of an organization. This definition more closely represents what MISO officers currently experience while supporting combat operations in the Global War on Terror.

Due to persistent operations, MISO officers have often conducted several combat tours supporting many different units. MISO officers learn to develop patterns of behaviors which align with different organizational strategies, power structures and networks of relationships. Working in multiple organizations in a counter insurgency environment creates nonlinear dynamics, emergent organizations and forces MISO leaders to become much more adaptable than leaders that deploy forward with the same unit again and again. The integrated leadership development approach accurately depicts the current training models employed by the U.S. Army in preparing MISO officers for operations in Southwest Asia.

Transformational leadership refers to the style of leadership that facilitates shared goals designed to improve the organization. Transformational leaders empower colleagues and stakeholders in order to elicit and sustain lasting organizational change. This form of leadership remains ambiguous as to its utility in the military context, as transformational leadership applied in the military hierarchy might be viewed as insubordination. Depending on the rank of the MISO leader, transformational leadership may positively affects the working environment of MISO officers and information operations staff, as well as improve the perception of the office in the eyes of target audiences.

Authentic leadership represents another style of leadership that has significant application in the realm of MISO leader development and leadership development. According to George and Sims (2007), this style of leadership understands that “no one can be authentic by trying to imitate someone else” (p. 191). As a rule, those leaders who are authentic leaders use the experiences of their own lives and the experiences they encounter on the job to form an authentic leadership style, thus leadership emerges from their own unique perspective on their life and work experiences. As George and Sims (2007) asserted, “when asked what motivates them to lead, authentic leaders consistently say they find their motivation through understanding their own stories…The stories of authentic leaders cover the full spectrum of life’s experiences. They include the impact of parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors who recognized their potential; the impact of their communities; and their leadership in team sports, scouting, student government, and early employment. Many leaders find their motivation comes from a difficult experience in their lives: personal illness or the illness of a family member; death of a parent or a sibling; or feelings of being excluded, discriminated against or rejected by peers…all [authentic] leaders…find their passion to lead through the uniqueness of their life stories” (p. 8).

Authentic leaders demonstrate “attributes such as confidence, hope, optimism, resilience, high levels of integrity and positive values…across business, educational, political, religious, military, athletic, and other settings, individuals who exemplify the virtues of trustworthiness, empathy, responsibility, respect, fairness, and integrity are often described as role models who lead by example” (Brown & Gardner, 2007, p. 56). The MISO officer that is an authentic leader therefore is not afraid to trust his or her experiences as an officer to inform strategy and spearhead military direction, particularly when decisions are contentious, fraught with internal conflict, or instrumental in the lives and well being of soldiers and civilians alike. Successful MISO leaders that engage an authentic leadership style remain devoted to their own development and willingness to “test…themselves through real-world experiences and reframe…their life stories to understand who they [are] at their core. “In doing so, they discover…the purpose of their leadership and learn…that being authentic [makes] them more effective” (George and Sims, 2007, p. 9).

The nature of any job in the military tests the fortitude and self-confidence of even the most seasoned leader; however, in the case of the MISO officer, the vital role of information management can be especially psychologically and emotionally taxing, as the role of information management becomes increasingly integral to victory as the war moves into the virtual space. As Wass de Czege (2010) noted:

“Every changed fact-on-the-ground – whether an objective taken by force, a village secured, or a new schoolhouse or water tower built – must speak clearly and distinctly to friends and adversaries alike. Intimidating and mystifying, misleading and surprising the enemy, as T.J. (Stonewall) Jackson would have said, is better accomplished by people who understand the human mind and how native culture and beliefs filter and shape information. Informing the decisions of citizens at home and in allied countries, as well as those in the foreign countries in which we have interests, is a vital dimension of all military operations today. Finally, the aim of all military operations is to support policy. The coin of the realm for the performance of this critical informing function is credibility – consistently doing what we said we would do and consistently speaking the truth” (p. 1).

MISO officers that are authentic leaders also understand the importance of engaging the hearts and minds of the soldiers under their command. “The emerging theory of authentic leadership…is yet another leadership perspective that recognizes the critical importance of the leader’s exemplification to the follower’s development” (Brown & Gardner, 2007, p. 56). Authentic leaders demonstrate certain traits and transferrable aptitude across many areas of responsibility, including “self-awareness, confidence, resiliency, and optimism” (Bird and Wang, 2011, p. 144).

Authentic leaders in the role of MISO officer will similarly manifest dexterity with language and communication tools; they may also have a public persona that suits leadership positions – magnetic, charismatic, and adaptable. As a rule, authentic leaders tend to be “future oriented and have a proclivity for action. They establish long-term, meaningful, and transparent relationships with followers. Authentic leaders have a passion for their purpose and practice their moral and ethical values consistently. They have the ability to empathize with different types of people and situations and they build on the strengths of followers” (Bird and Wang, 2011, p. 144).

In the realm of information management, MISO officers that maintain an authentic leadership style fare well in this highly changeable role. Adaptability is a key component of authentic leadership. According to Bird and Wang (2011), “the review of literature reveals some interesting parallels between leadership style behavioral characteristics and effective operational practices. Leaders who are steadfast, unbiased, goal-focused, and develop deep and open relationships with their subordinates, seem particularly well matched for complex organizational operations that require vision, data driven decision-making, honesty, and teamwork” (p. 145). Authentic military leaders drawn to the field of MISO often find that authentic leadership is a transferrable skill set from one area of responsibility to the next as well as one unit to the next. The tenets of authentic leadership – self-development, communication competency, openness, and personal magnetism – to help them navigate the role and unite often deeply divided cultures and interests (Bird & Wang, 2011).

Although authentic leadership is an emerging leadership development theory, it is not yet officially represented by any kind of formal military leadership development program. Authentic leadership refers to “a process that draws from both positive psychological capabilities and a highly developed organizational context, which results in both greater self-awareness and self-regulated positive behaviors on the part of both leaders and associates, fostering positive self development” (Brown & Gardner, 2007, p. 61). Avolio and Gardner (2005) posited that the dearth of ethics revealed by the actions of the leaders of major corporate boondoggles such as Worldcom, Enron, Arthur Andersen and the Madoff scandal can be linked to a lack of authentic leadership. Avolio and Gardner (2005) assert that the loss of faith in leaders as a result of these questionable ethics can also be linked to societal problems including the global War on Terror and environmental degradation. Authentic leadership combines authenticity with positivity and optimism; it is “a process that draws from both positive psychological capacities and a highly developed organizational context, which results in both greater self awareness and self-regulated positive behaviors on the part of leaders and associates, fostering positive self development” (p. 317).

George (2003) offered the following definition of authentic leadership as “being yourself…being the person you were created to be…[as opposed to] developing the image or persona of a leader” (p. 89). As discussed elsewhere in this paper, the organizational context of the military, specifically the rigid hierarchical structure and linear mode of promotion and advancement may not support authentic leadership. Ideally, the authentic MISO leader finds a way to adapt to the military hierarchy effectively while maintaining the integrity of his or her self-concept and leadership style.

This literature review identifies the scarcity of empirical studies that definitively address the relationship between the authentic leadership style, leader development, leadership development, and the leadership development needs of the MISO leader in modern warfare. Authentic leaders tend to be extreme individualists; thus, the particular leadership style of authentic leadership that may not play well in the organizational of the military, which often favors conventionality and conformity over individualism.

Military leaders are taught early in their careers as part of their leader development to follow the four C’s of leadership: candor, courage, commitment, and competence. Although these ideas are individual traits when followed they represent the skills required of authentic leaders as outlined by Avolio and Gardner (2003). Many MISO leaders might be classed as authentic leaders; however, this is more a result of their personal resiliency and experience than the result of any formal training program (Avolio & Gardner, 2003).

Leaderful Practice

Raelin (2005) proposed a definition of the “leaderful leader” as part of an overall theory of leaderful development (p. 19). These individuals “are not interested in going off on tangents. Their leadership is not a guise for abdicating responsibility for action. True, they are given enormous freedom to develop themselves and their community to the fullest potential, but they are also interested in working with and within their community to accomplish a mission. They develop sufficient trust in others to make leadership a shared and yet very powerful tool for action and responsibility” (Raelin, 2005, p. 19). In Raelin’s (2005) model, the mission itself becomes the “stabilizing force” that maintains group cohesion and focus (p. 19).

The Leadership Model: A Traditional View

A traditional image of the successful leader comes to mind in regards to the idea and application of leadership in a practical context or organization, what Raelin (2005) refers to as a “cultural presumption, or an implicit model,” that serves an automatic function in the mental processes or individuals and organizations (p. 20). The qualities of this traditional leader remain “so widely accepted that there is no apparent need to question its prevailing connotation. “In other words, its qualities have become commensurate with leadership itself” (Raelin, 2005, p. 20). The traditional leadership model prevails in numerous organizations, including the military. It is a distinctive view of how power is acquired and shared that Raelin (2005) argued has seen its day. Raelin outlined the qualities of this traditional model of leadership herein in a series of “four tenets that describe the Western historical tradition in leadership,” particularly as it pertains to business (p. 21). However, Raelin’s (2005) model of the traditional leader model applies to military organizations equally:

Leadership is serial. Once one achieves the office of leadership, that position is retained at least for the duration of the term of office. Only when one completes his or her term, or vacates or is forced to leave the office, does leadership thereupon transfer to the next leader, though it may return at times to the original leader. Leaders are thus always in a position of leadership and do not cede the honor to anyone else. Once acquiring power, most leaders attempt to sustain or increase it. Giving up or sharing power with others would be seen as abdicating one’s responsibility.

Leadership is individual. That a leader is individual signifies its solitary role. There is only one leader of an enterprise and normally such a person is designated as the authority or position leader. It would weaken or minimally confuse leadership to talk about having more than a single leader or to share leadership because there would not be a concrete end-role for making decisions and directing actions.

Leadership is controlling. The conventional leader believes it is his or her ultimate duty to direct the enterprise and engender the commitment of community members. To ensure smooth coordination of functions, the leader is the spokesperson for the enterprise. The subordinate role is to follow the guidance of the leader and to help him or her successfully accomplish the mission of the enterprise. Leaders may choose to share their deepest beliefs about self and organization but only with their closest associates.

Leadership is dispassionate. Although the leader recognizes that people have feelings, the leader’s function is to make the tough decisions for the enterprise in a dispassionate manner. Tough decisions may result in not satisfying (or may even hurt) particular stakeholders, including employees, but accomplishing the mission of the enterprise must come first. Leaders are also the authoritative source when facing problems in the operation and tend to exude a confidence that they are in charge and that subordinates can rely upon them to handle any challenge facing the enterprise (p. 21).

The traditional leader model, in Raelin’s (2005) view, “tends to paint the leader with heroic imagery” (p. 21). As such, the leader remains outside of the organization and outside of his or humanity.

Leaderful development and leaderful practice offer another option for organizations to adopt. Raelin (2005) outlined the four C’s of leaderful development as the collective – people working together to achieve a common purpose; compassion – all members are valued, collaborative – any and all members can lead, and concurrent – multiple leaders work simultaneously. As Raelin (2005) explained, “in the 21st Century organization, everyone will need to share the experience of serving as a leader, not sequentially, but concurrently and collectively. In other words, leaders need to co-exist at the same time and all together. “In addition, each member of an organization will be encouraged to make a unique contribution to its growth, both independently and interdependently with others” (p. 18). All of these attributes exist at the core of military leadership development. The Army culture fosters all the ideals of leaderful development in the training of each leader, from the noncommissioned officer to the commissioned officer. It stands that the military has practiced “leaderful development” long before it became an emerging leadership development theory.

Raelin’s (2005) first C is the tenet that leaders create an environment where all members work as a collective to achieve a common goal. All military leaders seek this tenet first and foremost with all followers to complete the mission. Through a disciplined process known as the military decision making process, military leaders develop the mission statement and commander’s intent. These are continually updated as the battlefield conditions change or national objectives and interests change. All soldiers are continually reminded of the mission. All soldiers work together to achieve the common goal of mission success. This bears close resemblance to Raelin’s assertion that leaderful individuals and organizations “share the leadership in a community, namely, any setting where people congregate to accomplish work together. It is leaderful because it is a community not deprived of leadership but full of leadership since everyone shares the experience of serving as a leader, not sequentially, but concurrently and collectively” (p. 18). Leaderful practice requires shared control, which despite the collective understanding soldiers have of the overall goal of the operation, may or may work in the rigid top down hierarchy of the military. However, Raelin’s (2005) “model proposed here is inherently mutual throughout all levels of practice: individual, group, and organization. “In its operation, it transforms leadership from being an individual property into an emerging paradigm that redefines leadership as a collective practice” (p. 19). Thus, the common goal may override the organizational culture in many cases, especially in a combat situation.

The second C is to have the compassion to make all members feel as though they are valued (Raelin, 2005). Although the military culture has a very direct style of leadership at its core is the ideal that every soldier is valued and required to achieve mission success. Army leaders seek continually to improve the performance of each individual soldier. Through the interactive process of counseling leaders and the soldiers work together to find ways to improve performance. In addition the military has a long standing history of awarding those that perform their specifically roles above and beyond what is customarily acceptable. These awards range from simple letters of recognition to military decorations awarded for heroic actions in combat.

Raelin’s (2005) third C states any member can lead. The military creates this condition as part of its hierarchical structure. Members learn that whomever the senior ranking person, they lead until properly relieved by someone of higher rank and authority. This condition fosters the environment where all members understand that they must be ready to lead at any time. This may involve a simple detail such as cleaning the motor pool to leading a platoon that has received casualties. Leaders create confidence in all members through communicating the mission and installing confidence in each individual member via their ability to lead when called upon.

Raelin’s (2005) final tenet is the concept of multiple leaders working concurrently. Military operations are complex. They require centralized control and decentralized execution down to the lowest level. Military leaders work tirelessly to support each core discipline as it relates to achieving overall mission success. Military operations require senior leaders to charge all their subordinate leaders with the authority to achieve mission success. This requires trust on the senior leader’s part, as there are too many pieces in any operation for one leader to oversee.

MISO officers command units to achieve overall mission success. Like all military leaders MISO leaders experience and apply integrated leadership development, authentic leadership development and leaderful leadership development. MISO officers support many types of units from traditional conventional forces to special operations units. The diversity of units and commands creates additional leadership development challenges.

Leaderful development speaks to the perceived need for change in the approach to leadership and power models across all industries and organizations, including the military. As Raelin (2005) explains, “a number of institutional forces that are requiring a change in the nature of leadership. From a structural point of view, new forms of organization are beginning to break down bureaucratic authority as the organizing principle” (p. 23). These changes in organizational structures demand a new leader, a new method of power brokering that favors sharing, and a new mode of strategic direction. In Raelin’s (2005) model, these “newer post-bureaucratic forms are emphasizing lateral relationships across functions, business units, and geographic regions and are making more liberal use of alliances, outsourcing, and teams…Cross-functional teams are given a relatively high degree of autonomy to determine how to carry out their mission” (p. 23)

What this means for the military organization has yet to be studied empirically; however, clearly large changes in the way leaders operate in traditional organizations in the private sector typically affect other organizations both within and without their sphere of influence. In Raelin’s (2005) model of leaderful development, “every organizational member needs to be equipped with the necessary tools to not only run his or her immediate work function but to also see how that function connects to the rest of the organization, not to mention how it operates across organizational boundaries. People have access to information that was once the exclusive domain of top management. As workers become more connected to one another, the entire enterprise becomes much more interdependent than in the past…Expertise has become as much a function of the cross-functional unit operating together as intelligence professed by one single individual” (p. 25). For MISO officers and the units they oversee, Raelin (2005) highlighted the changes in technology that will continue to have a direct impact on the traditional power channels within the military:

“each worker is also likely to possess knowledge that may exceed that of his or her superiors. Take as an example the emergence of military forces which are becoming digitally networked, supported by unmanned spy planes and robotic sensors. This new technology in order to achieve its objectives of speed and agility pushes information down the line to the lowest-ranking troops. The strategy, though, can only succeed if officers in the field are able to act on the available information without waiting for orders from command headquarters” (p. 25).

MISO Leadership in Practice

This section includes two self-reported leadership experiences from information operations officers serving in Iraq. The first account comes from Major Paul Green (BDE S7), a soldier on the ground who interacted directly with the Iraqi people in an information operations role. Major Paul Green completed a tour with the 2AAB 3 ID in a part of Iraq known as the Ninewa province (Green, 2009). The dates of his tour ran from October 2009 through October 2010 (Green, 2009). This account marked Major Paul Green’s inaugural deployment as an Information Operations Officer (Green, 2009). Prior to this assignment, Major Paul Green had worked in Iraq as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer (Green, 2009).

The second account details the leadership experience of Major General Jim Molan, who was Chief of Operations at the Headquarters Multinational Force in Iraq in 2004. Major General Jim Molan has since retired from active duty. His experiences detail the significance of information management during the war, and highlights the fact that “managing information was seen to be at least as great as any other form of operation in the complexity of Iraq, and at least as difficult. Its intensity and its breadth were new, at least to me. “We were fighting the information war across the world — operating 24/7 in the information battlespace” (Molan, 2009, p. 38).

These accounts provide context for the significance of the study, underscore the statement of the problem, and offer perspective on MISO officers in the field and their practical experience of information management in a combat situation.

Major Paul Green

“The days of United States Forces disseminating a message via radio, loudspeaker, face to face, TV or handbills are slowly coming to an end in Iraq. The requirement to win the trust and confidence of the local populace, however, still exists. To this end, the Iraqi Security Forces…have increasingly incorporated non-lethal activities, which are designed to positively influence the population, into their planning and execution of daily operations. The 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade (AAB) of the 3rd Infantry Division began its deployment to Ninewa province in October 2009. During the brigade’s first six months of the deployment, the unit had a Tactical Psychological Operations detachment (now known as a Tactical Military Information Support Detachment) and one Tactical Military Information Support Team (TMIST) with each of the brigade’s five maneuver units. With the reduction of forces in May 2010, the brigade was reduced to one four-man TMIST for its entire area of operations (AO). In Ninewa province, this remaining TMIST was located at the brigade headquarters with its primary focus on developing the ISF Information Dissemination Operations (IDO) program throughout the province. This two-week course focused on training selected Iraqi Army, Federal Police, and Iraqi Police Officers in IDO. The course produced officers trained on how to effectively influence local nationals through print, audio, and visual products in accordance with their commander’s intent. The first phase of the course introduced the ISF Officers to the concept of IO and the process to analyze target-audience conditions and vulnerabilities. The IDO students then learned how to effectively choose the right message and medium to influence or inform the target audience to commit desired actions in accordance with IO objectives. Implementing a relatively new concept created drawbacks…

Proactive IO was not something that the ISF had historically conducted in Ninewa. Advising and assisting the ISF IDO to strike with non-lethal effort during this critical period in order to limit impacts on the OE from potential verbal or physical backlash from the local populace or violent extremist networks required significant interaction and oversight by the…MISO officers. Another drawback was the need for additional or refresher training based on the turnover of ISF IDO graduates or the lack of utilization of IDO skills by some of our ISF partners. Since IDO was a relatively new concept in Ninewa province, key leader engagements (KLEs) between local U.S. Commanders and their ISF counterparts stressed the merits and effectiveness of how IDO was essential in ensuring that non-lethal means were considered in ISF operational plans…With the decrease in TMISTs throughout Ninewa province, it was essential to have this backup to the ISF IDO program to ensure that critical messages and products were disseminated in a timely manner. Handbills and posters were developed and disseminated through maneuver battalions to their ISF counterparts. The BDE IO also utilized the Ninewa Operations Center media cell to disseminate media releases to TV and radio within the brigade’s OE, based on significant activities (SIGACTs) the BDE received. The media releases focused on ISF success and SIGACTs that described continued failures of Violent Extremist Groups (VEG). The BDE IO’s efforts were to show to the Iraqi citizens the successes of the ISF and highlight the failures of VEG.

The BDE IO and MISO also utilized commercial TV and radio to disseminate positive messages and TV shows that highlighted the positive aspects of Iraqi culture, the improvements in everyday life, and the success of the ISF…As an indirect result of these actions, confidence in ISF greatly increased in Ninewa province and tips to the ISF by local citizens steadily went up each month of 2AAB’s deployment. Whenever possible, the BDE IO/MISO also utilized deception that capitalized on intelligence reports. One particular report referenced the surveillance balloons positioned at forward operating bases in Ninewa province. The intelligence reports referenced the VEG stating shoot down the crusader balloons because they are watching our operations. Based on the intelligence, the BDE IO created messages to inform the local populace that the balloons were watching for criminal activity in specific areas of Mosul in order further decrease the likelihood of future violent activity in those targeted areas…With the change in mission to Operation New Dawn in September 2010, it is encouraging to know that the BDE is departing Ninewa province with an established IDO program that enables an ISF commander to seek alternative means to accomplish mission objectives, influence or inform the local populace, and to deny safe havens for VEG” (Green, 2009, p. 2-3).

Major General Jim Molan

“Deception is a normal part of military operations…but it is a mistaken belief that it must be a part of every information operation. If it is, it can severely work to your disadvantage. A credibility problem arises if one minute we are expecting the trust of the media to convey our views, and the next we are using the media as a tool to achieve deception” (Molan, 2009, p. 39). “What was apparent to us all in Iraq was how fundamentally different are the military and the media cultures. The media wants to report everything it can. The military tends to want as little reported as it can and what is reported is to be favorable. Military public affairs officers want to get the bad news out quickly while a military operator may want to delay it somewhat. Public Affairs tell the bad, information operations is generally not interested in telling the bad. This created tensions within operations branch on occasions. We continually tried to focus ourselves by saying that the aim of STRATCOM in Iraq was to coordinate and disseminate the US military message in Iraq, not to invent it. Commanders and soldiers create the military message by what they do” (Molan, 2009, p. 41).

“The insurgency and the terrorists had their own media capability and their own ability to disseminate information. They produced DVDs either inside the country or outside, featuring the beheading of hostages and improvised explosive device attacks on US forces. If an attack on the Coalition was to be conducted for money, as so many were, often the condition for final payment was proof by video. These videos could then be used for recruiting purposes, and could be found as far afield as Indonesia. They were very effective. An interrogation report of a young foreign fighter who had been detained by us quoted him as saying: “I wish that I had not watched so much al Jazeera!” (Molan, 2009, p. 46).

“The second battle of Fallujah in November 2004 had particular challenges for us in terms of the information war. It is very difficult to sell the idea of an assault through a city of 300,000 people, even in Iraq. In esoteric military terms, I describe the second battle of Fallujah as a strategically defensive fight that used offensive tactics. We were attacking Fallujah to remove an insurgent/terrorist safe haven and to restore the status quo in order to conduct an election. And this action was conducted with the authority of the legitimate Iraqi government and under a UN mandate. Our method of attack was decided by the fact that most of the non-combatants had left Fallujah prior to the attack. The above rationalizations are very important not just morally to justify our own actions and our soldiers sacrifice, but to establish our message in our own minds. Of course, it was inevitable that journalists, looking for an easy story to serve to their editors, trotted out the old headline that we destroyed Fallujah in order to save it. Predicting this approach, some months earlier I had the imagery analysts count the number of structures in Fallujah, so that we at least had a start point. Comparing imagery over time, we were able to count the structures destroyed or severely damaged by direct strikes in the April fighting and in the lead-up to November. They came to fewer than ten percent. In my view, it was less than honest to say that we destroyed the city. But my perception of honesty was not the issue and the headlines screamed that Fallujah had been destroyed. Repeated often enough, its destruction became an accepted fact. “Most people still believe that the city had been wantonly destroyed by US troops and that the bodies of women and children lay thick among the ruins” (Molan, 2009, p. 48).

“[Command] had directed an information operation to be conducted to support the assault. On the heels of the assault troops were to be information teams, with the overall effort run by a US brigadier general. The aim was to increase the reactiveness of information by by-passing the military chain of command. The information found on the ground in Fallujah by the information teams was passed directly to my headquarters and was offered immediately to the world. This was the most sophisticated information operation that I saw run in Iraq. Its product was a daily multi-media summary of the actions of our enemies in Fallujah, to complement the reports of the sixty or so embedded journalists recording the actions of the assaulting troops. The reports, using videos and stills with text, covered the roadside bomb and car bomb factories, the extent of the enemies preparedness, chemical weapon cookbooks, the number and type of weapon caches, the slaughter houses, some with kidnapped hostages among bloodstained walls and torture instruments—one shackled but still alive— the National Islamic Resistance Operations Centre, complete with laptops containing evidence of executions on them, and locations for the entry of foreign fighters into Iraq. We disseminated this information very efficiently but no one really cared. Many commentators, especially in Europe and the United States, had made up their minds and were not going to pay any attention to any source that could be linked to the United States. Most of the Arab networks no longer had stringers with the insurgent forces in Fallujah, and so many just made up stories that fitted with their audiences preconceptions. Some of these stories leaked into mainstream western networks and so were seen by audiences in the west as coming from trustworthy sources” (Molan, 2009, p. 49).

These eyewitness accounts demonstrate the multiple moving parts and competing interests involved in the dissemination of accurate and ethical information in the battle space. The goal of this study is to provide data that adds to existing research to support the leadership development requirements of MISO officers in these types of complex and ever-changing combat situations.


This researcher has provided a review of the literature that exists on leader and leadership development theory and their application to both leader and leadership development. The review illustrates how emerging theories have moved from individual leader perspective to theories on collaborative leadership and team-focused leadership development, as a result of the external forces placed on organizations today.

In the literature review, this researcher pointed to the fact that leading leadership theories continue to adapt to changes created by advances in technology and globalization; however, the same cannot yet be said for leadership development theories (Avolio, 2007). In addition, the literature review supports the assertion that no research exists regarding IO officer development. There is an increasing recognition within the U.S. Army that IO officer leadership development is not adequate or effective, and that more research fulfills leadership development theory tailored to the military. Therefore, this gap in literature and research forms the rationale to conduct the study.


The purpose of this phenomenological research is to understand the experiences and perceptions of the participants with regard to MISO officer leadership development. Although the United States Army has proven systems for leadership development of its junior leaders, Captains and below conducting traditional military lethal operations, the same cannot be said for the ad hoc leadership development of IO leaders (Wass de Czege, 2008, p. 19).

The difference between lethal and nonlethal military officer leadership development is recognized although no empirical research has been done on MISO officer leadership development within the United States Army. This researcher will explore the perceptions and experiences of leadership development for 20 U.S. Army MISO officers that have served in combat in Southwest Asia since September 11, 2001. Phenomenological research methodology is appropriate because the research explores the lived experiences and perceptions of the participants (van Manen, 1990).

Chapter 3 contains a description of the phenomenological design of this research, which will explore the perceptions and experiences of the participants, as they pertain to the phenomenon of leadership development. Chapter 3 provides a discussion of the research design, appropriateness, research questions, sampling, population, ethical concerns and geographic locations. Descriptions of the data collection and data analysis, validity and reliability are also discussed.

Research Design

Qualitative research explores the meaning of perceptions and experiences to develop understanding; this form of research is appropriate when exploring a phenomenon in which one seeks a deeper understanding of lived experiences and perceptions (van Manen, 1990). Using these definitions, the researcher chose qualitative research methodology to conduct this study.

Quantitative research was not appropriate for this study, due to the fact that the research explores a central phenomenon. Creswell (2005) defined a central phenomenon as an issue or process explored in qualitative research. Quantitative research explains or predicts the relationship between variables, measures variables, tests theories and applies results to the population (Simon, 2006). This researcher will not attempt to measure variables; the research will be an attempt to explore the meaning of experiences and perceptions of the participants, and as such, the quantitative methodology will not support the aims of the study.

The science of Phenomenology was chosen to provide the philosophical framework used during this research. Edmund Husserl is referred to as the founder of phenomenology (Patton, 2002). Husserl wrote that the study of human phenomena could not be done using only the paradigms of the natural sciences; rather, there are two kinds of reality, noumenon-being in reality itself, and phenomenon-appearance of reality in the consciousness (McPhail, 1995). Husserl moved away from the natural world toward the appearance of reality in the consciousness of humans (McPhail, 1995). He argued that human experiences are the source of all knowledge, and that natural science paradigms could not be used for the study of phenomena involving humans (Sokolowski, 2000). Phenomenology is based on four over arching philosophical principals: intentionality, life world, inter-subjectivity and embodied consciousness (Sokolowski, 2000).

Phenomenology is the study of human experience and of the ways things present themselves to us in and through such experience (Sokolowski, 2000). Phenomenology is both a philosophy and a method that explores the lived experiences of researcher and participant. Phenomenology provides the philosophical foundation for this study. Intentionality describes how one lives in the world and serves as a fundamental tenet of phenomenology (Moustakas, 1994).

Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Schutz advanced Husserl’s philosophy on phenomenology; it is not clear the degree of influence Husserl had on Heidegger’s philosophical development (Hickerson, 2009). The primary disagreement centers on the level of Husserlian phenomenology contested by Heidegger, versus how much it influences Heidegger’s work (Sokolowski, 2000).

Heidegger’s basis for hermeneutics paralleled Husserl’s; both arrived at the same conclusions through the same phenomenological methods (Hickerson, 2009 p. 579). Heidegger’s work, like Husserl’s, accounts for temporality of time on the internal consciousness, defining what it is ‘to be,’ while Husserl argued ‘to be’ does not necessarily indicate physical presence (Hickerson, 2009). The primary difference between these two philosophers resides in the idea of temporality: Husserl accounts for internal time consciousness with pretentions that Heidegger claims have neither the finiteness nor the authority central to the future of ecstatic horizontal temporality (McPhail, 1995).

Merleau-Ponty drew heavily on the work of Husserl in which he added to and modified Husserl’s definition of phenomenology to suggest that phenomenology is the study of the essence of experiences (Flynn, 2004). Merleau-Ponty originated contemporary existential philosophy and introduced the concepts of linkage of perceptions with human experiences, with phenomenology understood as the study of the essence of these experiences (Flynn, 2004).

Alfred Schultz built on Husserl’s phenomenological theories as applied to sociological research to state the researcher’s task is to understand reality as it is consciously perceived by humans (McPhail, 1995). Schultz argued the everyday world is a world of intersubjective culture; its intersubjectivity comes from being bound to others through common influence and work, understanding others and being understood by others (Harrington, 2000). The relation to others obtains its meaning only in reference to the individual (Harrington, 2000).

Schultz explained that developing meaning of phenomena is not created by waiting passively but to actively seek to define the structure of multiple realities which provide meaning through language, roles, rules and status (Harrington, 2000). Schultz theorizes that phenomenological research attempts to uncover how meaning is constructed, not the structure of meaning (Barber, 2006). The major impact of Schultz’s philosophy is to make individuals both the researcher and the subjects of the research by interpreting the perceptions of the world around them as central to the research (Barber, 2006).

Husserl and the others often differed greatly in their views of consciousness; however, they did agree that the positivistic scientific paradigm was flawed in regards to the study of human phenomena (McPhail, 1995). The foundation of phenomenology rests on four philosophical constructs: intentionality, life world, intersubjectivity and embodies consciousness (Gibson & Hanes, 2003).

Intentionality represents the essential features of consciousness (Giorgi, 1997). Intentionality is defined as how one life and interacts with the world; it is a fundamental tenet of phenomenology (Moustakas, 1994). The life world or natural attitude provides a starting point to study phenomena as they are experienced by humans (Sokolowski, 2000). How one is in the world is defined as intersubjectivity (Sokolowski, 2000). The connection between the life world and intersubjectivity is the embodied consciousness of each individual (van Manen, 1990).

Phenomenology is the philosophy used to research the lived experiences of research participants (van Manen, 1990). When applied in research phenomenology, phenomenology becomes a research methodology and moves away from simply philosophy. Phenomenology seeks to find the essences of human experiences (Gibson & Hanes, 2003). Phenomenology provides a method to research the essence of human experiences as part of the study (van Manen, 1990).

Phenomenological research is not limited to the study of a single individual. Multiple participants often factor, as research seeks to determine how individual perceptions of experienced phenomena differ among participants. Phenomenological research methodology is the method of choice for this study to evaluate the leadership development of leaders in military IO.

Interview Questions

  1. Tell me a little about your career up to and including becoming a MISO officer. This question is related to research sub-question 1.
  2. How do you define leadership development within the context of the Army? This question is related to research sub-question 1.
  3. How would you describe your leadership style? This question is related to research sub-question 1.
  4. How do feel about your leadership development experiences that occurred prior to and during current position as a MISO officer? This question is related to research sub-questions 2 and 3.
  5. What is it like to be a MISO officer? This question is related to research sub-question 1.
  6. Given what you have said about your leadership development and MISO officer experiences, how well do you feel you were prepared to support commanders conducting combat operations? This question is related to research sub-questions 2, 3, and 4.
  7. What do you think of the MISO officer leadership development programs you have experienced to date? This question is related to research sub-questions 2 and 4.
  8. Of the MISO leadership development programs you have experienced thus far in your career, which did you find to be most beneficial and why? This question is related to research sub-questions 2, 3 and 4.
  9. Of the MISO leadership development programs you have experienced, which do you feel were the least beneficial and why? This question is related to sub-questions 2, 3 and 4.
  10. How would you describe any MISO leadership training, education, or experiences you have experienced that prepared you for MISO unit commander roles? This question is related to research sub-question 1.
  11. Reflecting on your Army officer career growth, what would you have done differently to better prepare yourself for your MISO officer commander roles? This question is related to research sub-questions 3 and 4.
  12. In your opinion, is U.S. Army to moving towards a more collaborative approach to leadership development? How? This question is related to research sub-question 4.

Appropriateness of Design

Phenomenology aims at gaining a deeper understanding of the nature or meaning or our everyday experiences, van Manen (1990). Phenomenology allows the researcher to explore the lived experiences of the participants and how they made sense of them (van Manen, 1990). Phenomenologists direct their research efforts to participants that make up a population that have shared experiences, shared interpretations, and shared meaning. The purpose of this research is to develop an understanding of how leadership development of MISO officers was perceived by the MISO officers. Phenomenology was selected as the appropriate research design to attempt to answer the research question for this study. This researcher will attempt to find reoccurring themes uncovered by the participants who have lived experiences being a part of leadership development as a MISO officer.

Experiential phenomenology is a qualitative research design used by professional practitioners rather than professional philosophers (van Manen, 2002). This research examines the phenomenon of leadership development which aligns with van Manen argument (van Manen, 2002). Of the four research designs considered, experiential phenomenology provides the best approach.

Population and Sample

Creswell (2005) stated that the results of qualitative research is not generalized and applied them to a population, but rather develops a deeper understanding of the central phenomenon. This requires the deliberate and careful selection of participants (Moustakas, 1994). Several criteria are pertinent for this study: (a) the phenomenon has been experienced by the participants, (b) the participants are interested in understanding the phenomenon, (c) participants are willing to participate in lengthy interviews, (d) the participants are willing to allow recording of the interviews for transcription later or their written responses will be saved for transcription, (e) participants understand the findings from their interview will be included in the dissertation (Moustakas, 1994).


The population for this research is composed of U.S. Army MISO officers that have served in the ongoing operations in Southwest Asia since 2001. MISO officers serve in various commands throughout the DOD around the world. All MISO officers are members of the United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (U.S.ACAPOC). MISO officers serve nearly all commands in the army in many different capacities. The primary formations for MISO officers are the three Groups of brigade sized elements: the 2nd Psychological Operations Group, Cleveland OH; the 7th Psychological Operations Group, Moffet Field CA, and the 4th Psychological Operations Group, Fort Bragg NC. MISO officers from these formations then lead subordinate formations of battalions and companies that conduct nonlethal combat operations supporting ground combatant commanders. The MISO commanders from these formations will provide the researcher with names of potential participants for this research.

Sampling Frame

The sampling frame provides the connections between the population and the study sample (Cooper & Schindler, 2003). Purposeful sampling indentifies participants who have experienced the desired phenomenon – leadership development – and are willing to share their experiences. Patton (2002) outlined 16 purposeful sampling strategies used to indentify participants who can provide rich and deep insight into their experience of the phenomenon which will add credibility to the research. Maximum variation and criterion sampling were selected to choose participants who meet the sampling criteria of the study.

MISO officers will be selected from various positions and units including Battalion S3, Battalion Executive Officer (XO), Battalion Commander, Company Commander, Detachment Commander, Task Force Commander, and Group Commander using a maximum variation sampling strategy. Criterion sampling will be used to narrow the sample to only those participants that have experienced the phenomenon.

An important decision for this qualitative research is to decide how many participants are required to effectively answer the central question. The sample size in qualitative research normally relies on a small number of participants (Leedy & Ormond, 2005). The typical sample size for a phenomenological study is from five to 25 participants who have had direct experience with the phenomenon (Leedy & Ormond, 2005). For this study, 20 participants will be selected.

According to Seidman (2006), two criteria exist when determining the right sample size: sufficiency and saturation. Sufficiency occurs when the numbers of participants reflects the population, so that those outside the sample are able to connect with the experiences described by the sample. When the researcher determines that saturation has been achieved, no additional data will yield new information. Moustakas (1994) suggested that saturation might be achieved after only a few participants from the sample have been interviewed.


The sample for this research will be purposefully selected as described in the sampling frame section earlier. The sample for this study will be selected from a population of MISO officers that work for various units throughout the DOD, but who all have had experience in MISO leadership roles in Southwest Asian conflicts; the aim is to create a study sample that provides the experiences of 20 MISO officers since September 2001. If y ou are working through military units, you will need permission from the head of each unit. If you are going directly to individuals, you do not need permissions.

Geographic Locations

Participants will be selected from the three primary formations for MISO officers, 2nd PSYOP Group, Cleveland OH; 7th PSYOP Group, Moffet Field, CA, and the 4th PSYOP Group, Fort Bragg, NC. These participants occupy leadership positions through the United States and in the combat theaters of Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world. These three primary locations represent the three largest sources of the total population of MISO officers and will result in a sample size meeting the saturation criterion. 4th PSYOP Group in Fort Bragg, NC provides the largest population of MISO officers. The 2nd and 7th PSYOP groups in Cleveland, OH and Moffet Field, CA provide the second largest populations of MISO officers in their respective commands. Sufficiency will be achieved by including the MISO officers currently serving in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.


Quantitative or mixed method research may use existing tests of data inventories, questionnaires, or surveys as instruments to collect data in support of a study (Simon, 2006). Rather than use a quantitative instrument to collect data, the researcher is the instrument in qualitative research (Patton, 2002).

When the researcher becomes the instrument, he or she provides the information about his background, experience, knowledge, and training relating to the research topic and the connections to the organizations and people involved in the study. The researcher brings more than 26 years of military service as a medic, forward air controller, tanker, armor officer, and MISO officer. The experience of the researcher may enhance or detract from data collection and analysis due to potential bias throughout all stages of the study. Researcher bias will be controlled though the use of epoché or bracketing, due to the personal experience of the researcher as it pertains to the phenomenon being studied. Phenomenology uses epoché to reduce the natural intentions that must occur when we contemplate those intentions (Sokolowski, 2000). Bracketing is the setting aside of one’s personal experiences and relationship to the experience in order to view the phenomenon from a new perspective (van Manen, 1990). Exploring the researcher’s personal assumptions ensures the current study contains those assumptions.

Using open ended interview questions will allow the research participants to explore any direction desired by the participant which will create boundaries to guide the interview (Seidman, 2006). The semi-structured interview technique is appropriate because the researcher has personal experience and knowledge of the research topic. A semi-structured interview combined with open-ended questions will provide an adaptive approach that will guide the flow of the interview process (Moustakas, 1994). The interviews provide the participants a vehicle in which to share their stories, experiences, and perceptions of the phenomenon under examination.

The interview questions and their relevance to the central question appear in Appendix A. The first question will serve as an ice breaker to begin the interview. The second question will allow the participant to explain past leadership development experiences prior to becoming a MISO officer. Questions 3-7 explore the experiences of the participants in leadership development as an MISO officer. The eighth question asks the participants to reflect on the meaning of their leadership development experiences leading to their current MISO leadership roles. Additional questions may be necessary to provide further clarification or follow new themes of the study that develop during the interviews.

Field Test

This researcher conducted a field test of the study Exploring Leadership Experiences of Military Leaders Conducting Military Information Support Operations in order to gauge its validity and ensure that the interview questions will obtain the type of data necessary for the study’s viability. There were four respondents selected, all of whom were Military Information Support Operations officers that had recently served in the active war zones Afghanistan and Iraq. The military ranks represented by the field test participants included Major General, Lieutenant Colonel, and two Colonels.

The researcher posed the interview questions to each field test participant and asked for the following feedback:

  • Did the participants understand the questions?
  • Did the participants find the questions relevant or irrelevant as a means to determine the leadership experiences of current Military Information Support Operations Officers?
  • Were the participants able to answer the questions within the time allotted?
  • Were the participants clear on the distinction between leadership development and leader development?

Each field test participant concurred that the questions were indeed relevant and that the researcher had worded them in a way that allowed the participants to discuss their leadership experiences candidly. All field test participants also agreed on the clarity of the interview questions and the distinction between leadership development and leader development. Each field test participant stated that the interview questions supported their ability to provide insight into the areas of leadership development training among Military Information Support Operations officers that can require improvement.

The result of field test and the feedback received from the participants confirmed the validity of the data collection method and the soundness of the survey instrument. As a result of the recommendations from the field test respondents, this researcher will not amend the research questions and no revisions will be made to the survey instrument.

Data Collection

Potential research participants will receive a letter that requests their participation in the research. The request letter will be in the form of an email sent to a secure Army website. Each invitation will be digitally encrypted, digitally signed and sent individually to each potential participant. Potential participants will be asked to indicate their desire to participate be responding with a yes or no email response. Each participant will be contacted to confirm his or her participation, and establish the date, time and location.

The primary method for collecting data in support of this research will be telephonic and e-mail interviews, due to participant’s current geographical location. In-person interviews will be conducted if participants are within reach geographically. The intent is to provide the participants the most flexible and adaptable methodology to conduct the interview.

Seidman (2006) emphasized that the most important skill required of a researcher conducting interviews is the ability to listen; researchers must listen to what is being said, concentrate on substance and internalize what is being said. To assist the researcher with listening, the interviews will be recorded.

The interview process will begin with the researcher providing and reviewing the informed consent form. This step ensures that each participant understands participation requirements and his or her rights. The participants will be asked to sign the informed consent agreement before beginning the interview. For phone interviews participants will be asked to sign the form and mail or email back to the researcher so an interview time can be scheduled. Those participants that have to conduct the interview using electronic collaborative means the process will mirror the in-person process using emails. The process is adaptive so the process may involve one or more of these techniques in order to allow the participants the time necessary to fully answer the research questions.

The researcher will be ready to answer any questions of the participants before, during and after the interview. The interviews will be scheduled at the convenience of the participants in the locations of their choice using methods of their choice. The researcher estimates each interview will last from 60 to 90 minutes. The interviews will be transcribed in order to evaluate the data created.

Interviewer Skills

The researcher’s personal experience as a current MISO officer proffers familiarity and context to the interviewing climate, given that the interviewer and the interviewees share the experience of working within the organizational framework of the military. This knowledge gives the researcher a heightened awareness of the organizational culture, which in turn gives him the ability to function as an effective catalyst during the interview. This skill also builds rapport with interviewees. Other applicable skills that the researcher provides include active listening and sensitivity to the interviewees’ frame of reference.

Data Analysis

Seidman (2006) notes a personal preference to complete all interviews before starting data analysis, whereas other researchers may prefer to conduct the analysis of the data while conducting the data collection. The researcher selects the method that best fits their research. In the case of this study, all the interviews will be completed before the transcripts are evaluated.

Data will be analyzed using the Moustakas (1994) modified seven-step van Kaam method. The modified van Kamm seven step process includes: (a) listing and grouping, (b) reduction and elimination, (c) clustering and thematizing, (d) identifying invariant constituents, (e) creating individual textural descriptions, (f) creating individual structural descriptions, and (g) creating textural-structural descriptions (Moustakas, 1994). Coding each participant’s transcripts is the first step in the process.

Inductive coding will be used to complete the first three steps of the modified van Kaam process (Moustakas, 1994). Inductive coding uses three procedures: open, axial, and selective (Lewins & Silver, 2007). Open coding identifies small segments of data, while axial coding refers to the second pass through the data after the initial open coding has been reconsidered (Lewins & Silver, 2007). Selective coding is the third stage of coding, when the researcher revisits the data and the codes in an effort to find instances in the data that illustrate themes, concepts and relationships (Lewins & Silver, 2007).

Core themes of leadership development emanate from the first three steps and are identified as invariant constituents. The invariant constituents and themes will be validated against the transcripts to determine if they are compatible with each participant’s experience. The validated invariant constituents and themes will then be used to create individual textural descriptions and individual structural descriptions; these result in the final description of the meaning and essences of the experience (Moustakas, 1994).

Validity and Reliability

Validity and reliability are problematic in qualitative research (Richard & Morse, 2007). Validity in quantitative research refers to the valid instrument creation which ensures the accurate measurement of the variables (Patton, 2002). The researcher is the instrument in qualitative research; thus measurement becomes problematic. Credibility better describes qualitative validity of the instrument (Patton, 2002). Credibility or validity ensures the skills, competencies and rigor of the researcher. Another concern for validity remains the credibility of the interpretation of the data (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000).

Reliability in quantitative research refers to repeatability of the results if the study were replicated (Creswell, 2005). It is difficult to achieve reliability in qualitative studies. Denzin and Lincoln (2000) argued that reliability in the traditional sense of repeatability is pointless when referencing qualitative research. Patton (2002) suggests dependability provides a better description for reliability in a qualitative research study. Member checking provides a method to improve reliability in qualitative research (Simon, 2006). The transcribed interviews will provide validation for feedback. All 20 participants will get the opportunity to review their transcripts for accuracy and to suggest changes which will be incorporated into the final transcripts used for coding.

Ethical Considerations

Informed Consent

Walker (2007) explained that trust between the researcher and participants is essential throughout the interview process. Seidman (2006) describes the major components of an informed consent and the rights of the participants as follow:

  1. The right to know the purpose of the study and the use of the results (Seidman, 2006).
  2. The right to know how the study will be performed and how much time will be required to participate (Seidman, 2006).
  3. The right to confidentiality, anonymity and privacy (Seidman, 2006).
  4. The right to ask any question of the researcher at anytime in the process (Seidman, 2006).
  5. The right to withdraw without any negative recourse (Seidman, 2006).
  6. The right to refuse to answer any question and to review all answers (Seidman, 2006).
  7. The right to the researchers contacts information (Seidman, 2006).

The informed consent form to be used for this study meets each criterion.

The participants will read and sign the informed consent agreement prior to the commencement of the interview. A short narrative of the purpose of the study will be provided in the informed consent form. The informed consent agreement also indicates that the interview process will take from 60-90 minutes to complete, the interview will be digitally recorded or the digital response will be saved and the responses will be transcribed into a written document. The form includes the rights of the participants as a volunteer for the research. Signing the forms by the participants will begin the process of gaining trust and confidence between the participants and the researcher.


Critical to qualitative research, confidentiality ensures the participants that their personal information and interview results will be kept secure throughout the research period and beyond. Confidentiality means the participant’s name will not be identified or somehow associated with the collected interview transcripts along with any personal information (Seidman, 2006). The identity of the participants will be coded from the beginning, referring to participants as Participant 1 through Participant 20. This coding scheme will be uses on all interview results, later in the transcriptions and throughout the dissertation to ensure anonymity of all participants.

Upon completion of the research all participant information, agreements and digital recordings will be stored and secured in a locked file drawer and kept for a period of five years. All electronic files will be removed from any computers used in the research and saved to an external storage device which will also be stored in the same locked file drawer. At the end of five years all saved documentation and digital data, included the storage device itself, will be physically destroyed.


This researcher will use the qualitative phenomenological method and design to explore MISO officer leadership experience and perceptions of their leadership development. Phenomenology is the appropriate design for the purpose and research question of this study, and exploring the lived experiences and the perceptions of MISO officer will produce relevant leadership themes. The population for this research creates a representative sample of MISO officers from several leadership positions within the U.S. Army. The population and the sample will be appropriate for a qualitative study.

Data collection will be accomplished by conducting semi-structured interviews with 20 participants to search for emerging leadership development themes. The researcher will evaluate the efficacy of the interview questions and the interview techniques to ensure that the data is descriptive. Data analysis uses qualitative data interpretation to explore emergent themes, promote convergence into patterns and synthesize representations of meaning (Richards & Morse, 2007).


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Appendix A: Informed Consent Agreement

Doctoral Researcher: MAJ Scott F Russell.

Contact Information: phone number and e-mail address.

Dear Participant Name,

My name is MAJ Scott Russell and I am a student at Capella University working on a Doctor of Organizational Behavior degree. I am conducting a research study entitled “A Phenomenological Study Exploring Leadership Development of Military Leaders Conducting Military Information Support Operations in Combat.” The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological research study is to understand how the current leadership development practices in the U.S. Army are perceived by Military Information Operations (MISO) officers that have served in support of the Global War on Terror. My research seeks to add insight into the specific leader and leadership development needs of MISO officers in combat.

Your participation will involve an interview session focused on sharing your experiences and views of your leadership development over the course of your career up to this point. The interview will be approximately 60-90 minutes in length, digitally recorded, electronically stored, and transcribed into a written document. Although there may be no direct benefit to you, a possible benefit of your participation is increased insight into effective leadership development methods that may improve the leader and leadership development programs made available for future MISO officers.


I ________________________ have volunteered to participate in this research study. I understand that my participation is voluntary. I understand that as a participant in the study:

  1. I may decline to participate or withdraw from participation at any time without consequences. I understand that I may withdraw by informing the researcher verbally or in writing.
  2. My personal identity will be kept anonymous.
  3. The research data results will be used for publication.
  4. The researcher, MAJ Scott Russell, has thoroughly explained to me the parameters of the research study. All of my questions and concerns have been addressed. If I have future questions or research-related concerns, I, the participant, may contact the researcher.
  5. I permit the researcher, MAJ Scott Russell, to digitally record the interview. I understand that the information from the recorded interviews will be transcribed. The researcher will structure a coding process to ensure that anonymity of my information will be protected.
  6. In this research, there are no foreseeable risks to me.
  7. I understand that all data will be stored in a secure and locked area, the data will be held for a period of three years, and then destroyed.
  8. By signing this form, I acknowledge that I understand the nature of the study, the potential risks to me as a participant, and the means by which my identity will be kept confidential.
  9. My signature on this form also indicates that I am 18 years old or older and that I give my permission to serve voluntarily as a participant in the study described.

Signature of the participant _____________________________ Date _____________

Appendix B: Recruitment Letter/Email to Potential Research Subjects

Dear (Soldier/Potential Participant):

I am writing to let you know that a research study is being planned that may be of interest to you. It is possible that you may be eligible to participate in this study. Your eligibility can only be determined by the researcher of this study.

Please be aware that, even if you are eligible, your participation in this or any research study is completely voluntary. There will be no consequences to you whatever if you choose not to participate. If you do choose to participate, the study will involve answering a questionnaire and potential interview.

In order to determine your eligibility and your interest in participating, MAJ Scott Russell (researcher) will be calling or emailing you directly. You may choose not to speak with me or respond to this letter. If you do respond, any questions you have about the study will be answered.

If you would prefer not to be contacted at all, please call (269) 512-4304 or email [email protected] and provide your name, and the information that you would NOT like to be contacted about this research study.

Of course, if you have any questions for me, please contact me.