Are good leaders moral leaders? The relationship between effective military operational leadership and morals
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This thesis presents selected works investigating the relation between leadership and morals. Given the multitude of moral challenges and the grave consequences of moral transgressions in military operations, we have chosen a military context to frame our research. Transformational leadership and the full range of leadership model (FRLM) are key constructs in this investigation, as this leadership concept has been shown to be related to operational effectiveness in military as well as other organizational contexts. However, the relationship between such leadership and morals has been questioned in leadership literature. The first study investigated whether officers’ self-importance of moral identity and their activation of moral justice schemas were related to effective leadership. The second study investigated whether sleep deprivation, which is a condition of high prevalence in military operations, affected leaders’ activation of moral justice schemas, and, consequently, their ability to make sound moral judgments. Lastly, the third study investigated the relationship between effective leadership and moral justice behavior in a situation of high moral intensity and temptation. The studies included samples from 72 to 168 officer cadets from the Norwegian Naval and Military Academies. The results from our first study showed that the ability to activate mature moral justice schemas (measured by the DIT-2 test) as well as self-importance of moral identity (measured by the SIMI-scale) is positively associated with transformational and transactional leadership (measured by the MLQ-5X), while a negative relation was found for passive-avoidant leadership. On the one hand, these results replicate previous findings that there is a positive relationship between activation of justice schemas and effective leadership behavior, and, on the other hand, they extend previous findings by showing an augmentation effect of self-importance of moral identity on justice schema activation in explaining leadership behavior. In our second study, using a counterbalanced design, our investigation tested officer cadets in rested and sleep-deprived condition in relation to their activation of moral justice schemas. The results showed that partial sleep deprivation caused strong impairment of leaders’ ability to activate mature moral justice schemas, to the benefit of a strong increase in activation of rules orientation. This indicates that the ability to lead well and act morally may be dramatically impaired in operations when leaders lack sleep. Finally, the last study investigated military leaders’ actual moral behavior in a demanding prisoner of war (POW) exercise, and the relationship between leadership behavior and such moral behavior. Here, we defined moral justice behavior as the ability to withhold information from enemy interrogators. After the exercise, we compared moral behavior with evaluations of leadership behavior conducted by peers on the basis of eight months of shared leadership training. The results showed that transformational and transactional leadership is positively related to moral justice behavior in a situation involving high moral intensity, temptation and hardship. In sum, the thesis provides support for the claim that transformational and transactional leadership in a military operational context is positively related to moral cognition and behavior. It further shows that, in the operational context, sleep-deprivation represents a major threat to mature moral justice reasoning and judgments.
Has partsPaper I: Military Psychology 18(S3), Olsen, O. K.; Eid, J.; Johnsen, B. H., Moral Behavior and Transformational Leadership in Norwegian Naval Cadets, pp. S37-S56. Copyright 2006 Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Full text not available due to publisher restrictions.
Paper II: Sleep 33(8), Olsen, O. K.; Pallesen, S.; Eid, J., The Impact of Partial Sleep Deprivation on Moral Reasoning in Military Officers, pp. 1086-1090. Full text not available due to publisher restrictions.
Paper III: Military Psychology 22(S1), Olsen, O. K.; Eid, J.; Larsson, G., Leadership and Ethical Justice Behavior in a High Moral Intensity Operational Context, pp. S137-S156. Copyright Taylor & Francis Group. Full text not available due to publisher restrictions.