Longitudinal study of the social network influences on the leadership and professional military development of cadets at the United States Air Force Academy
                         Packard, Gary Alan, Jr.; PhD
                         VOCATIONAL (0747)

                         This study investigated the influence of social networks on the leadership and professional military
                         development of cadets. It was proposed that leadership development is a social process involving the
                         growth of individuals as they move in a given direction toward a specified goal. At an institution such as
                         the United States Air Force Academy, the goal is the training and development of potential Air Force
                         leaders. This training takes place in an inherently social environment, yet studies on the relationship
                         between social influences and leadership development are virtually non-existent. Using a longitudinal
                         design over an academic year (August 1997 to May 1998), the study examined the differences in the
                         composition of cadet social groups and their influence on leadership development in two cadet
                         squadrons. Cadet peer groups, identified using Social Cognitive Map procedures (Cairns,
                         Gariépy, & Kinderman, 1990), were influential and stable components of the cadet
                         squadron social ecology. Cadets nominated as “being a good leader” by their peers were
                         not necessarily the same cadets holding positions of formal leadership. These “informal
                         leaders” performed better on academic and military performance measures than other cadets in
                         the squadron, were more respected than other cadets in the squadron, and were more central in the
                         squadron social network. An exploratory measurement model of leadership suggested that leadership is
                         best measured by both the formal position one holds, as well as, ratings of leadership effectiveness and
                         respect obtained from other cadets in the squadron. Hostile aggression was also related to the degree of
                         respect received from other squadron members and to measures of informal leadership. Cadets who had
                         high ratings of hostile aggression were less likely to receive peer nominations for being one of the
                         “most respected cadets” in the squadron. They were also less likely to be considered a
                         leader in the squadron. Combined, the results from this study suggest that social relationships within a
                         cadet squadron provide a rich and important context for leadership training. The characteristics of cadet
                         social groups have the potential to influence leadership development trajectories. Several suggestions
                         are provided to aid commanders in applying these findings.


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