Matching Items (2)

Filtering by

Clear all filters

151869-Thumbnail Image.png

The character to lead: a grounded theory ethnography of character in U.S. Army combat leaders

Description

After decades of dormancy, character is re-emerging as an important research topic among organizational leadership researchers in response to the need to better explain the source of certain exemplary and

After decades of dormancy, character is re-emerging as an important research topic among organizational leadership researchers in response to the need to better explain the source of certain exemplary and ethical leader performance (Hannah & Avolio, 2011; Leonard, 1997; Thompson & Riggio, 2010; Wright & Goodstein, 2007). However, efforts to operationalize character are criticized for their abstract and idealistic trait-based conceptualizations that fail to capture the reality of leadership and situational dynamics (Conger & Hollenbeck, 2010). The purpose of this study is to develop a more robust theoretical approach to character that is empirically grounded in the real life complexities of leadership. Combat provides the context for this study because the adversity of such an extreme context tends to make character a more salient and readily observable phenomenon than in more conventional organizational contexts (Wright & Quick, 2011; Hannah, Uhl-Bien, Avolio, & Cavarretta, 2009). I employed an ethnographic grounded theory design to gain a unique insider's perspective absent in many studies of leader character (Charmaz, 2009; Parry & Meindl, 2002). Data collection involved (1) physically embedding for six months with U.S. Army small unit infantry leaders operating in combat in Afghanistan; (2) participant observation in the full range of combat activities engaged in by these leaders; and (3) in-depth semi-structured interviews with key informants. An important contribution of this study is that the emergent concept of leader character is fully situated in the leader's social and environmental context represented by the leader's inner struggle to resist the adversity of combat and uphold the standards of leadership. In this dialectical framework, certain agentic resources important to resolving this inner struggle emerge as the locus of leader character. This agency-based concept of character is rooted in the internalization of the standards of leadership through identity-conferring normative commitments and entails particular motivational and volitional capacities. These produce a distinct mode of functioning--a strong form of personal moral agency--characterized by the leader's willingness to sacrifice in upholding standards in the face of adversity. This primacy of leader agency over adversity is the hallmark of leader character--what I call the character to lead.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2013

150782-Thumbnail Image.png

Finding character [electronic resource]: character and the challenge from situationism

Description

Recently, philosophers have charged that Aristotelian-based virtue theories are empirically inadequate because the conception of character in which they are grounded is largely unfounded by findings in psychology. These philosophers

Recently, philosophers have charged that Aristotelian-based virtue theories are empirically inadequate because the conception of character in which they are grounded is largely unfounded by findings in psychology. These philosophers argue in favor of situationism, the theory from social psychology that situational rather than dispositional differences among individuals are in large part responsible for human behavior. Situationists dispute the existence of traits that remain consistent across time and diverse situations and argue that features of situations can better explain and predict human behavior. After analyzing the psychological literature and historical cases put forth as evidence for situationism as well as the basic premises grounding arguments against situationism, I make some conclusions about the best responses to situationism. I agree with situationists that Aristotelian-based virtue and character are not quite empirically adequate but disagree that human behavior owes more to situational rather than dispositional determinants. Basing my theory on literature from social psychology, I argue instead that a concept of character grounded in social-cognitive theory is more psychologically realistic and can explain and predict human behavior and ground a character-based virtue theory. A social-cognitive conception of character would highlight the dynamic role between situations and individual psychological factors like beliefs, values, desires and the way that an individual perceives a situation. I sketch out a non-ideal theory of virtue based in a social-cognitive conception of character that is partially dependent on social networks for its maintenance and is fragmented, or contextualized to particular types of psychological situations. However, fragmented and socially dependent virtue is not an optimal type of virtue because it is vulnerable to situational features that place strong psychological pressures on agents to behave in various ways, including ways they would not have normally endorsed. I agree with Aristotelian virtue ethicists that argue that a type of practical wisdom can help to counter the often unwanted and dangerous influence of these strong situations but also maintain that some measure of moral luck is inevitably involved, even in the development of practical wisdom.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2012